Courting Seniors, Cont'd
By Ben Pershing
For all the change President Obama said he would bring to Washington, there is one law of politics that remains reliably constant -- seniors vote.
That's why so much of the rhetoric from both sides of the health-care debate has been aimed at the elderly. And that's why the official pronouncement that Social Security recipients won't receive a cost of living increase for the first time since 1975 set off paroxysms in the capital. Faced with the news, Obama is "encouraging Congress to provide a one-time payment of $250 to help seniors and disabled Americans weather the recession," the Washington Post writes. As has been demonstrated more than once in the last decade, a plan to simply mail voters a check is very difficult to oppose. So even though seniors got a COLA of nearly six percent last year, they already got an extra check not long ago from the stimulus package, and there was essentially no inflation this year, it's hard to imagine Republicans and budget hawks putting up much of a fight.
Perhaps because they feel confident the plan will pass, administration officials didn't make a suggestion Wednesday on how to pay its price tag of $13-14 billion. Some Democrats have proposed funding the checks with an extra payroll tax on the wealthy. "Republicans say they have a proposal to supplement the Social Security payment next year with unused stimulus funds," the Wall Street Journal reports. The context here is particularly important, because rumblings have begun in some corridors of the Capitol for a second stimulus package. "Although the White House characterized the $250 as an 'economic recovery payment,' officials insisted it was not the first step toward a second stimulus program," the Los Angeles Times writes, as the administration is perhaps too busy trying to argue the effectiveness of the first stimulus to assemble and promote a second one. Brad DeLong argues that Congress can and should pass another stimulus package, spending "$100 billion next month, and continuing with an additional $100 billion every month thereafter."
Posted at 8:25 AM ET on Oct 15, 2009
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