Now raising intellectual capital
By John M. Berry
The White House’s knee-jerk reaction to the news that inflation was so low that Social Security beneficiaries won’t get a cost-of-living increase next year was a seriously bad omen for long-term control of federal spending.
The problem wasn’t the $13 billion cost of another one-time $250 payment to each retiree proposed by President Barack Obama. No, it was the utter disregard of the discipline inherent in indexing payments to changes in consumer prices.
Benefits were indexed in the 1970s precisely to stop politicians eager to curry political favor by providing large benefit increases on an ad hoc basis.
Shoveling out more checks to an important group of voters when the economy is as depressed as it is now would be a popular thing to do. Plenty of Democrats — as well as many of the Republicans who have been clamoring about soaring budget deficits — quickly endorsed the $250 payment even though prices weren’t just flat, they fell by 2 percent.