After it was revealed that over $22 million was paid out to dead and incarcerated Social Security recipients and that benefits will not be increased in 2011, the program reemerges as a question ahead of key midterm elections.
The reports of more than $22 million in stimulus checks delivered by the Social Security Administration to deceased and incarcerated individuals have highlighted the ongoing concerns of fiscal mismanagement in the hands of the U.S. government. More than 89,000 recipients of the $250 stimulus checks fit the description of either the dead or the imprisoned.
Now, just ahead of midterm elections, it was revealed that Social Security's Cost of Living Allowance - or COLA - would not be increased, denying recipients an upward inflationary adjustment for the second year in a row. The timing of the announcement is detrimental for Democratic candidates, as elderly voters tend to be a vocal and mobilized force in American politics.
"If you're the ruling party, this is not the sort of thing you want to have happening two weeks before an election," Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration, told the Associated Press.
The COLA announcement will affect 58 million Americans and represents only the second time there has not been an increase since the automatic inflationary measure was established in 1975. 2010 represented the first year without an increase - both flat years under President Obama and the Democratic congressional establishment.
With the flat year-on-year announcement, the Social Security debate was reignited anew - with Democratic charges that Republicans want to “yank the safety net out from under our seniors” and Republicans looking to adhere their message to fiscal responsibility.
“We intend to deal with the real question of long-term fiscal sustainability of those programs and hence our economy,” Republican Eric Cantor said, according to MarketWatch.
A Senate committee has been holding hearings on the Social Security question, and a series of politically ugly options have made it onto the table.
“We are facing a future where no one other than the rich will have an opportunity for a safe and secure retirement,” Democratic Senator Tom Harkin said, according to Infozine. “People that work hard for their entire lives will find themselves teetering on the brink of poverty, unable to pay the basic costs of living.”