No COLA - Bernanke gets Trumped?

Bruce Krasting's picture

Social Security announced that there will be no increase in benefit
levels for another year. The reason? Deflation. Based on the Cost of
Living index no increase in checks is justified. You might get an
argument on that from the 60+% of the beneficiaries whose primary source
of income is SS. This will impact the macro economic picture.

In the period 2000-2008 the average COLA increase was 3%. Because of the
big eco dump it has been zero for 2010 and now again for 2011.

SSA will pay ~$700b in benefits this year. 3% of that comes to $21b.
That is a pretty important number. Most of the SS checks are spent.
Little of it is saved, so this will impact consumption on a nearly 1 to 1
basis. $21b is 1/4% of our GDP (includes multiplier). Poof!

Does this matter? Sure it does. Economists who forecast growth will have
to knock down their numbers by at least ¼% as a result. There would
have been some multiplier affect from the extra spending, now there
won’t be any. Between the cummulative impact of two years of no
increases and the multiplier this could be a drag on GDP by 1/2% for
2011 versus what has been assumed.

We don’t know what Ben B will do in a few weeks, but we can sort of
guess about what is coming. It will be a longer-term commitment to
acquire Treasury bonds. The high-end estimates are about $100b per month
for a year. Something over a trillion in all. Using those kinds of
numbers, I have seen estimates that the impact will be a positive to GDP
to the tune of a lousy ½%.

So for those that have been believing that Bernanke has written the
economy a put, look again. You just got trumped, by of all things,
Social Security. Big Ben can’t row quick enough on this river. The water
against him is moving too fast.

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HungrySeagull's picture

Maybe, just maybe if the Seniors made a few phone calls to each of thier providers of cable, phone, satellite, internet etc etc etc all the way down through the bills they must pay each month and ask for different plans with a emphasis on cheaper plans that provide either a equivilant service for less or a alternative all together that may just eliminate one bill or two.

Maybe make a sideways reference as to thinking of dropping a service all together because it is getting too expensive or the content is trashy or other something or other.

If a Provider hears something like that they might refer said Senior to a "Loyalty Department or perhaps a Supervisor whose only task is to lower the billing to save the entire account.

Repeat this tatic all the way through your entire obligations with each biller for the entire month....

I am willing to wager by the end of the day calling, that Senior just might realize a total monthly savings from Grateful billers glad to retain the account that might be much greater than any Cola for some time to come.

In about 9 months down the road, make the same round of calls again to the bills that remain. Senior might find a better and lower rates for everything.

What am I talking about you say?

Well... Momma was mad because Verizon billed her 90- a month and rising. She went to Jitterbug. Jitterbug is much cheaper and does a better job for Momma now.

Verizon will have to do alot of contortions to get down as low as Jitterbug can only they cannot. They need that bloated income each month to feed the starving beast that only gets bigger and always more Ipads, black berrys and internet enabled phones of all kinds.



Momma was always smart you see. Much to learn.


Maybe just this year Momma dont need that COLA raise because she saved more than COLA just by reducing one bill. By firing Verizion and Hiring Jitterbug. Imagine how much more Momma can now save each month by calling the rest of the Billers to her home and family?




Think on that a bit. We dont need no stinking COLA now for Momma do we.

cranky-old-geezer's picture

What a neat way to screw seniors on social security.  Tie colas to GDP.  Economy can lay stagnant with prices rising on everything seniors need to live (except their home) and they get no cost of living increase.

Buttcathead's picture

I is hungry, but I is afford one meal a day. thank goodness. Buts the stow prices be going up.  I no's becuz I dew the shopping, not the butler.  This here Bernacke cat is man of the year?  wtf  That about like Obama gettin Noble Romans peace prize.  good grief  we is doomed.

tom's picture

Multiplier shmultiplier. What, are you turning into a New Keynesian on us, Bruce?

The canceled Cola is money that, if it were spent, would have been borrowed. About half of US federal borrowing is from abroad, which must be offset in the balance of payments with some other kind of outflow. Usually that's increased net imports, which is a drain on GDP.

As for the guy who says Social Security isn't in such bad shape, well, look at the trend. In the first 11 months of FY10, through August, it ran about a $2 billion deficit. That's compared to roughly $40b and $80b surpluses in FY09 and FY08 respectively. That's not including Federal Disability Insurance, which ran a $27b deficit in the first 11 months of FY10, though it's a smaller program. Disability's results are deteriorating by about $10b-$15b every year. Medicare deteriorating at a pace of about $50b a year. It's that ~$100b a year deterioration for Social Security, Disability and Medicare that keeps the deficit from falling even as stimulus tapers off.

yipcarl's picture

how about the cost of living adjustment on the level in which SS that is taxed?  They haven't changed since 1984.  If you are single and make over 25k, 50% of your social security taxed, if you make over 34k, 85% is taxed.  26 years no adjustment as if 25k is the same today as it was in 1985.  What a flippin joke.  That A hole Phil, from Phil's stock world probably thinks it's a good idea, the tard is socialist.

Leo Kolivakis's picture

Does mutiplier effect hold for those receiving SS? Just saying...

walküre's picture

This is bad for Vegas and stocks.

Less SS money for the casinos in NV and on Wall Street.

Now if the AARP membership fees go up.. double whammy!

Also, short Pfizer. LOL

minus dog's picture

The price of nearly all staple items is going through the roof, and sales/coupons have dropped off dramatically.  More than a few basic items have doubled or tripled in the last 2 years.  Shortages in some item or other are not uncommon.  I've seen this from one end of the country to the other.   

I don't give a flying fuck about the price of steak or lobster, and I'm quite convinced from some of the posts I see on here that some ZH commenters really have no understanding of what prices are doing for the little guy.

We will have COLA games, and probably outright cuts in the future.  Neither will keep SS from failing.

yipcarl's picture

Well I give a flying fuck about your data.  Where the fuck is it?  What's going up?  In your mind maybe pal, most everything is going down except for commodities for NOW.

HungrySeagull's picture

All of the check is spent. Electric bill, water bill, food, gas, and whatever else these Seniors have to deal with.

The stuff you dont need has crashed in pricing because no one is buying and the stuff you need like milk, eggs and cereals etc are rising steadly.

On one side I am feasting on the things that were previously too expensive just a few years ago and on the other I see people counting every penny in the walmart. And there are the ones that have carts filled with chips and dip towing 5 kids with 6 dozen little juice bottles through the cigerette check out line. And everyone of the family is already overweight.

I will say something else though.

About 2 in 5 shoppers who buy food in the grocery store near me (Who cannot afford the gas or a car to get to the big walmart a dozen miles away) have a WIC card or check which requires a wait until the supervisor can swipe his own card and approve the transaction. Everyone waits.

It is getting faster to go to walmart, buy a whole load drive home than it is to go to the local store for a bit of milk or something else.


If Bennie rolls over in bed and passes gas or marble in the form of dollars in his bloated fantasy vault filled with imaginary money... imagine the boost that can be given to those on Social Security without the Nation feeling it in the pocketbook.

Gone are the days where we had maniac wedensdays at the local post office or bank because of social security checks. Now we have midnight gatherings at the walmart or utilities running about the neighborhood frantically metering the numbers to quickly runt he bills for next month auto draft.

gman1253's picture

Actually SS is not in as bad a shape as it's made out to be ...IF... they would not take the taxes coming in for  SS & use them for other things.

yipcarl's picture

Is that so?  Where are your numbers?  Kind of lame to make that statement without numbers to back it up right?

tom's picture

Sorry to retirees, but at this point any kind of austerity is good news. Eliminating SS Colas is of course way too puny to stop the 10% deficits train from crashing into the wall of default within a few years. But if there were a lot more being done like this, the good old US of A might just have a fighting chance.

The retiring boomer bulge is coming much faster than markets are anticipating. The result is a deficit that won't go down despite the tapering off of stimulus.

still kicking's picture

I attended a luncheon hosted by ex deputy director of Human Health Services, Ben Sasse, last month.  He claimed that the only way to keep SS and Medicare afloat after 2014 was to either raise taxes to about triple where they are now or raise the qualifying age to 82.  Tell me how we aren't f#cked.

covert's picture

what deflation? price of tobacco and accessories has increased by about 33%!.


SteveNYC's picture

Bernanke's lowest and most vile act, even more vile than debasement of the currency to date, is ROBBING interest payments from the elderly and from savers to give to the banks.

Old people who put a few bucks together and were drawing interest to keep them going in retirement are being fucked over so badly, I'm shocked they haven't gone ballistic on Ben's ass.

This is a fuckin travesty that the actual "capital" of our country can be harvested to feed pig bankers. Ben needs to go, bad.

chopper read's picture

fiat money, fractional reserve lending, central money planning?  what could go wrong?

Edmon Plume's picture

Ya' know, the Bamster said we'd have to tighten our belts.  You'll just have to adjust your portion size of wagyu beef, errr, I mean cube steak.

Cpl Hicks's picture

Cube steak?

The starving masses will be lucky to get beans and weenies.


Milestones's picture

You will note of course that federal employees, specifically our Congressmen, get automatic increses in pay-inflation or no.

Get used to smaller rations of more expensive cat food.

Is's wonderful-marvelous, that you should care for me!! Not exactly what Cole Porter had in mind.    Milestones

UninterestedObserver's picture

Yeah I loved reading that the average postal worker makes $83000 per year - WTF !!!!!

Internet Tough Guy's picture

Didn't they kick the seniors a one-time payment last year? Congress is good for that.

Captain Willard's picture

I think it was $250 "one-timer" for the "donut hole" in the prescription drug plan.

But the Lord giveth, and he hath taken away.....

It's all smoke and mirrors anyway. Our incomes haven't increased in 10 years and private sector employment hasn't grown in 10 years, but nominal and real GDP supposedly have grown.

It's all Newspeak.

virgilcaine's picture

Can't wait for this mkt to tank already.  There's a lot of air in that bubble.

Dr. No's picture

I think that is good. Real gov cost cutting. Everyone on this board wishes the gov taxed less and spent less. Looks like they are spending less.

Dr. No's picture

Someone junked me.  What a poser.  I think the zero COLA is a step in the inevitable direction.  So people didnt get a COLA adjustment this year and last.... Guess what?  people will be getting a CUT in the comming years.  Have you not seen the SS balance sheet?  If you calculator is like mine, there are not enough digits to show how deep in the red SS and medicare are.  No COLA... Should be happy they are getting something.  I'm a generatation X.  I will be getting ZERO.  How does that fit into your COLA?

RockyRacoon's picture

Don't you understand that there is no inflation?  (Just messin' with ya...)

Look at this graph as proof:

Here is the full article:


On average, our basic food costs have increased by an incredible 48% over the last year (measured by wheat, corn, oats, and canola prices). From the price at the pump to heating your stove, energy costs are up 23% on average (heating oil, gasoline, natural gas). A little protein at dinner is now 39% higher (beef and pork), and your morning cup of coffee with a little sugar has risen by 36% since last October.

still kicking's picture

You and I at least have the benefit of seeing the truth well enough in advance to prepare, the old timers don't.  They were sold a lie I don't think we should blame them for not knowing any better.

Internet Tough Guy's picture

I'm with you. Also, if seniors start starving maybe they will question why government doesn't accurately report inflation numbers. Maybe they will question all the other shady scams perpetrated by the Fed and gov. Maybe.

chopper read's picture

folks respond to pain. now they've got some.

Bob's picture


Reading too quickly . . . thought the proposition I was responding to was the gov/banksters starving!

Jeese. Take a break, Bob.

Bob's picture

I wouldn't want them to starve--I think traditional prison food would be just fine.  Bread and water. 

Bagbalm's picture

I'm old and on Social Security. But I'm not feeble and helpless. When it goes total Mad Max and gets down to bread and water I have a rifle and will be looking foreward to slow roasted Bob BBQ.

Bob's picture

Alright, I'll bring chicken! 

Hey, I shot myself on that one. 

espirit's picture

I junked you "Bob".

Bob's picture

Thank you!  I woulda done the same without comment. 


Reading too quickly . . . thought the proposition I was responding to was the gov/banksters starving!

Jeese. Take a break, Bob.

When I saw my error, for some reason the system would not allow me to edit it.  

still kicking's picture

I have to give you some grief on your response here, if we are talking about the banksters then I would be willing to feed them dog piss and dirt, and save the bread and water for decent folks, but that's just me.

UninterestedObserver's picture

Or we can just feed the bankers to the old people...soylent green - "it's bankers!"

cbxer55's picture

On this site, once someone replies to your post, it becomes uneditable. :-(

chopper read's picture

face it, Bob.  you hate little old ladies. 

Printfaster's picture

Things are not quite that way.

Assume that granny could have taken out her social security in gold instead of government promises to pay in some lock box.

Well, granny got her gold stolen from her so that you would not have to pay her anything, in terms of gold that is.  Average social security payment is about one ounce of gold per month.  Granny probably "bought" thousands of ounces at $35 to $45/ounce, none of which she will ever see.

The magic of government.  Poverty for all.


Cpl Hicks's picture

You misunderstand how SS works. Granny never bought anything. Her wages were taxed and she got a promise of something called a future benefit. She never owned a thing; no monthly statement, no claims to any asset whatsoever.

UninterestedObserver's picture

LOL why was that comment junked?

They don't call it Social Security TAX for a reason

Dr. No's picture

There is a junker trolling these boards who lives in dream land.

chopper read's picture

we need MORE BIG GOVERNMENT to oversee this Big Government. 

razorthin's picture

Oh sure - to what end?  To justify another huge round of wealth transfer.  Let granny have her hot meal.

Bob's picture

The 60% of SSI recipients who have no other source of income are "entitlement" parasites. 

Meanwhile, Wall Street bonuses coming for this year:

THIS IS 8% OF M1!!

razorthin's picture

I don't disagree, Bob.  My point is that in the context of the current entitlement reality, the orcs are scamming the poor with petty theft while they move on to the grand larceny of further fiat debasement.  Most of us here know that the overarching truth is that a government that maintains its balancesheet and the integrity of its currency obviates the need for social justice (e.g., SS and the like).