Matt Sedensky, Associated Press Writer
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Seniors prepared to cut back on everything from food to charitable donations to whiskey as word spread Monday that they will have to wait until at least 2012 to see their Social Security checks increase.
The government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through a second straight year without an increase in monthly benefits. This year was the first without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation started in 1975.
"I think it's disgusting," said Paul McNeil, 69, a retired state worker from Warwick, R.I., who said his food and utility costs have gone up, but his income has not. He lamented decisions by lawmakers that he said do not favor seniors.
"They've got this idea that they've got to save money and basically they want to take it out of the people that will give them the least resistance," he said.
Cost-of-living adjustments are automatically set by a measure adopted by Congress in the 1970s that orders raises based on the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation. Social Security benefits will remain unchanged as long as consumer prices remain below the level they were at in 2008, the last time a COLA was awarded.
Still, seniors like McNeil said they'll be thinking about the issue when they go to vote, and experts said the news comes at a bad time for Democrats already facing potentially big losses in November. Seniors are the most loyal of voters, and their support is especially important during midterm elections, when turnout is generally lower.
"If you're the ruling party, this is not the sort of thing you want to have happening two weeks before an election," said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
At St. Andrews Estates North, a Boca Raton retirement community, seniors largely took the news in stride, saying they don't blame Washington for the lack of an increase. Most are also collecting pensions or other income, but even so, they prepared to tighten their belts.
Bette Baldwin won't be able to travel or help her children as much. Dorcas Eppright will give less to charity. Jack Dawson will buy cheap whiskey instead of his beloved Canadian Club.