Senior citizens, disabled people, and veterans have four things in common:

  1. we feel empathy for them;
  2. they are politically powerful constituencies;
  3. their government benefits are indexed to inflation through an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA); and
  4. the President wants Congress to write them a $250 check.

Inflation was low enough over the past year that there is no automatic formula-driven COLA for next year. The dollar amount on Social Security checks, disability checks, and veterans’ benefit checks will not change next year. And yet the President proposes to write an additional $250 check to each of these more than 50 million Americans, for a total taxpayer cost of about $14-15 B.

On Friday the White House released a Statement by the Press Secretary which said in part:

Many seniors are struggling in the face of the economic downturn, having seen their savings fall. … The President will renew his call for a $250 Economic Recovery Payment to our seniors this year, as well as to veterans and people with disabilities.

I’d like to ask about other Americans, may of whom are struggling but who are not as well organized or as politically powerful as these groups.

Q1: What about a poor mom working two jobs? What about a 20-year old who can’t find a job? What about a recently laid off 58-year old factory worker who is underwater on his mortgage? They are struggling too. Why does the President think that 50+ million seniors, disabled people, and veterans are struggling more than millions of others like these people?

Q2: What about the two-income family of four making $80K or $120K? Why is it fair to make them pay higher taxes (now or in the future) to write a check to someone else when the cost of living did not increase?

The political justification for this policy is clear. The policy rationale is not.

(photo credit: Steven Martin)