This week, one Member of Congress introduced legislation that could make the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) a more accurate measure of inflation. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw support grow for two key bills.
Lawmaker Sponsors Honesty in CPI Reporting Act
This week, Congressman Walter Jones (NC-3) introduced the Honesty in Consumer Price Index (CPI) Reporting Act (H.R. 3500), a bill that aims to make Social Security COLAs more fair and accurate for beneficiaries. It would accomplish this by requiring the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to report the CPI using the methodology that was employed back in 1980, around the time when COLAs first became automatic.
Since 1980, the BLS has manipulated the CPI several times so that it no longer measures price inflation. Rather, it measures an ever-changing “market basket” of goods that is adjusted as prices drop and increase. It assumes that shoppers will purchase chicken when steak becomes too expensive, or apples instead of oranges when their prices drop. This has resulted in a more slowly growing COLA for Social Security beneficiaries. Instead of allowing seniors to keep up with rising costs, today’s COLA requires them to constantly adjust to lower standards of living.
If the COLA were calculated using the methodology used in 1990, this year’s COLA would not be 1.7 percent – it would be 5.2 percent. And if the COLA were calculated using the 1980 methodology, this year’s COLA would be 9.4 percent. As a result of the CPI’s manipulation over the past three decades, Social Security beneficiaries have lost over 20 percent of their purchasing power, according to our research. Next year’s projected zero COLA will put them even further behind.
TSCL feels strongly that Social Security beneficiaries are entitled to transparency and honesty from the federal government, and we believe that Congressman Jones’s H.R. 3500 would go a long way in ensuring that. We enthusiastically support the Honesty in CPI Reporting Act, and we look forward to working with Congressman Jones in the coming months to help build support for it.
Two Key Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, four new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 973), bringing the total up to 120. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Larry Bucshon (IN-8), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), and Norma Torres (CA-35).
If signed into law, H.R. 973 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) – two federal provisions that unfairly reduce or eliminate the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.
In addition, one new cosponsor – Rep. Grace Meng (NY-6) – signed on to the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 1391), bringing the total up to sixty-nine.
The 2100 Act, if signed into law, would increase Social Security benefits by 2 percent, cut taxes for over 11 million seniors, increase the minimum benefit to 125 percent of the poverty line, and make COLAs more fair and accurate. It would also take measures to increase the solvency of the trust fund beyond the next seventy-five years, through the year 2100.
TSCL supports H.R. 973 and H.R. 1391 since both would modernize the Social Security program in a responsible way. We were pleased to see them gain critical support this week.