Four score and two years ago (sorry Abe), our forefathers in Congress created the great Social Security program. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (in 1935 for those of you who arenít good at math), it was designed to give workers an income after retirement.
But today instead of greatness, the tiny Social Security income increase based on inflation we will get in January is a cruel fraud perpetrated by the government on retirees and the elderly. Thatís because for most people increases in Medicare Part B and Part D insurance premiums will negate all of the Social Security increase.
I just got my annual benefits letter from Social Security this month. It says I will get $24 a month gross more next year than currently due to an inflation adjustment, which would make it a break-even in actual spending money with what I received this year. However, after the Medicare premium increases my Social Security net check will be $3.40 a month less than currently.
This is true for most retirees, many of whom are on fixed incomes and canít afford less money coming in. In my case, my Medicare Part B insurance premium for doctor visits will go from $109 a month to $133 a month. And my Part D prescription drug Medicare premium will increase to $20.40 a month from the current $17.
For retirees, especially those who are low income, every dollar counts. We canít afford to have less money coming in from a government program that we paid into for 50 years or so.
Congress needs to fix this ASAP so people donít get less net in Social Security than they are getting currently. But instead of that the Republicans are talking about taking the ax to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid next year.
On top of this, my rent will go up on Jan. 1 by $27 a month. Even some food prices are now rising. I have noticed recently that Walmart has been sneaking in prices increases on certain foods; Campbellís soup, for example, went up at my store. I suspect they do this every year to offset the sales they have at Christmas on toys. Grocery stores are doing the same and they donít sell toys. The other day, I bought a box of frozen fish fillets at Stater Bros. grocery store for $5.49. Last month the same store had them for $4.99.
And the Federal Reserve this month increased interest rates. That will eventually mean higher interest rates for car loans, mortgages, bank loans and the like, and it will trickle down, or is it up, to the prices of consumer goods.
No one in Congress from either party gives a damn, or do I have to say darn here; they are just interested in their jobs. But the Republicans are the most evil of the bunch. They just cut taxes for the rich and big business, which will increase the national debt, and next year they say they will try to pay for it with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
I paid into Social Security and Medicare for decades from my wages and not only donít I want them cut, but I want Congress, at least any Democrats who still have any guts, if there are any left, to propose fixing this fiasco in our Social Security inflation boost that is being wiped out by the Medicare insurance increases.
Itís not just the Medicare insurance premiums. The Medicare annual deductible, which we have to pay before Medicare kicks in and pays anything, went up significantly last January to $183 from $166 the year before and $147 the prior year. That it will stay the same in 2018 is no consolation, as itís already high. And if we ever get hospitalized as an in-patient (pray to God we donít for both our healthís sake and our pocketbook) there is an annual Medicare Part A deductible now of a whopping $1,316 that is going to $1,340 for 2018. Most regular folks canít afford that.
Do I hear a hue and a cry from Congress? No, I didnít think so. Not even from the Democrats. I think all politicians have at least one foot in hell already, but Republicans are in with both feet. Thatís you, President Donald Trump, you Speaker Paul Ryan, you Sen. Marco Rubio, you Sen. Mitch McConnell and you all the other politicians who side with the rich and big business over regular folks.
And any of you who are Bernie Sanders supporters and think of him as a saint, I will remind you that if he hadnít run against Hillary Clinton last year in the Democratic primary (and Sanders isnít even a Democrat) we wouldnít be in this bind today and Hillary would be president, not the evil, or is it crazy, Trump.
Now, I wouldnít promote Hillary for sainthood and I think she is a tool of Wall Street, but at least she doesnít have a foot in hell. Maybe a toe or two like Bernie. Purgatory is for people like them. I had hopes for John McCain with his vote to save Obamacare, but then he didnít have the guts to oppose the GOP tax plan.
Where are the politicians we can respect like our Founding Fathers, Abe Lincoln and FDR? Thatís too much to hope for these days.
These are the times that try oneís soul. Thomas Paine said ďmenís souls,Ē but that was in the days before political correctness. He would be raising the clarion call today about the Republicans and Trump.
To paraphrase Patrick Henry, give me my Social Security increase or give me death.
Well, I wouldnít go that far for $24 a month, but you get the idea.
Les Gapay is a freelance writer and retired journalist living in the Palm Springs, Calif., area. He has been a reporter for The Daily Inter Lake, the Missoulian, The Wall Street Journal, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Congressional Quarterly.