Author: Nancy Altman Published: 10/14/2022 Social Security Works
Need help with rising costs? Social Security’s COLA is here to help. Today, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that next year’s Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is 8.7 percent. Starting in January, Social Security’s monthly benefits will go up by over $140 a month. That will help millions of retirees, people with disabilities, veterans, widows, children, and so many others afford food, medicine, and housing.
Social Security’s annual COLA is one of the system’s best features, one that is unique. Unlike traditional pensions and other retirement income sponsored by private employers, Social Security is designed to keep up with inflation. That protects Americans’ hard-earned benefits from eroding over time.
Yet Republican politicians have called the COLA too generous, and fought to make it harder for Social Security benefits to keep up with costs. Democrats have fought for a more generous COLA that better reflects the costs seniors face. Donate $7 to protect our COLA!
The COLA is especially important for people in their 80s, 90s, and beyond who have been receiving benefits for decades and likely have spent down other assets. This particularly affects women, who have longer life expectancies on average1 and experience disproportionate levels of poverty in old age.2
This year’s COLA is especially good news for Social Security beneficiaries because Medicare premiums will decrease next year.3 That means that the Social Security benefits of those on Medicare will go further. Beneficiaries will keep their COLA increase instead of losing much of it to higher Medicare premiums, as has happened in past years.
The COLA announcement underlines Social Security’s importance as the most efficient, secure, fair, universal, and portable form of retirement income. Social Security has stood strong for over 87 years, through periods of national crisis, rising prices, and societal upheaval. In all those years, it has never missed a payment.
Now, Republican politicians are threatening to take that certainty away from the American people. Earlier this year, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) released a plan to require Congress to reauthorize all government programs, including Social Security and Medicare, every five years.4 Even that didn’t go far enough for Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who responded with his own plan to make Social Security and Medicare “discretionary spending” — putting them on the chopping block every single year!5
Republican hostility to Social Security is not limited to the Senate. The Republican Study Committee (RSC), which counts nearly 75 percent of House Republicans as members, released6 a budget plan that includes multiple cuts to Social Security — including raising the retirement age to 70! If that weren’t bad enough, it decimates middle class benefits, radically transforming the program so that it would no longer be insurance replacing wages in the event of disability, death or old age. Like Scott and Johnson’s plans, this is a proposal barely hiding deep hostility toward our Social Security system.
Not only do Republicans want to cut Social Security, they also want to raise seniors’ expenses. Every House and Senate Republican voted against the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA will give Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices on key prescription drugs, while capping out of pocket drug costs for seniors at a maximum of $2,000 a year.7
The Republicans are truly waging a war on seniors and women. Fortunately, President Biden and the Democrats in Congress are committed to protecting seniors and women by expanding Social Security’s earned benefits.
Democrats recognize that as important as the Social Security COLA is, it is not a benefit increase. The COLA simply prevents Social Security benefits from eroding as a result of rising prices. That invaluable feature doesn’t change the fact that benefits are inadequately low. That is why Democrats support expanding benefits with no cuts, while requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.8
Republican politicians want to cut, privatize, and undermine Social Security, because it is what their wealthiest donors want. But their voters disagree. Poll after poll shows that Democrats, Republicans, and independents are united in support of expanding, not cutting, Social Security.9
Nancy AltmanSocial Security Works