For the first time since 1975, Social Security recipients will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment. This is because the Consumer Price Index (which Social Security increases are linked to) actually fell by 2.1 percent. Hence, by law, no Social Security increase.
In theory, but nothing is simple in Washington, where pandering has been raised to an art form.
Fearing a backlash from senior citizens - a voting block no politician wishes to cross - the Obama administration has rushed out a proposal to cut $250 checks to all 57 million beneficiaries who stand to see payments frozen at this year's levels.
The cost of doling out the added money would be $13 billion - money that the government would simply tack on to the already enormous national debt. However, it is this sort of irresponsible government spending that has driven the national debt to soar to nearly $12 trillion.
Proponents of the payouts could argue the amount is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive stimulus program passed this year or the infamous bailouts to banks and auto companies. And they'd be right, of course. The amount is not huge, but it's not pocket change, either.
One of the problems with government handouts is that once you start doling out cash (by merely printing money - a dangerous long-term economic practice), it's difficult to ever say ''no'' to any constituency.
But here is a clear example in which ''no'' is the sensible answer. Social Security benefits were tied to the CPI for a good reason - to allow benefits to keep pace with inflation. With an absence of inflation - likely a one-year phenomenon - it's entirely appropriate to freeze benefits.
To do otherwise is to admit that we are selling out America's future taxpayers merely to placate today's voters.
THE HERALD-PALLADIUM (St. Joseph)