'Brace' for No Change: AP Frets Steady Social Security Payments Mean Seniors Forced to Buy 'Cheap Whiskey'

The consumer price index is holding steady, so that means no "cost of living adjustment" upward in Social Security payments in 2011, prompting the Associated Press to distribute on Monday night a lengthy dispatch reciting complaints from seniors about the supposedly intolerable situation: "Senior citizens brace for Social Security freeze." Without mentioning how recipients received a very generous 5.8 percent hike in 2009, Florida-based AP reporter Matt Sedensky ominously led:

Seniors prepared to cut back on everything from food to charitable donations to whiskey as word spread Monday that they will have to wait until at least 2012 to see their Social Security checks increase.

If no change means cutting back on food, imagine the media's hyperbole over victims if anyone ever suggests reducing payments in any federal program. That's what the Tea Party will be up against.

As for the threat to the ability of our nation's seniors to imbibe whisky, Sedensky stopped by "St. Andrews Estates North, a Boca Raton retirement community," where "Bette Baldwin won't be able to travel or help her children as much. Dorcas Eppright will give less to charity. Jack Dawson will buy cheap whiskey instead of his beloved Canadian Club." Another year without an increase in payments while costs hold even and Dawson will be forced to eat dog food!

After the lead paragraph quoted above, the story continued with a litany of complaints:

...The government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through a second straight year without an increase in monthly benefits. This year was the first without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation started in 1975.

"I think it's disgusting," said Paul McNeil, 69, a retired state worker from Warwick, R.I., who said his food and utility costs have gone up, but his income has not. He lamented decisions by lawmakers that he said do not favor seniors.

"They've got this idea that they've got to save money and basically they want to take it out of the people that will give them the least resistance," he said....

At St. Andrews Estates North, a Boca Raton retirement community, seniors largely took the news in stride, saying they don't blame Washington for the lack of an increase. Most are also collecting pensions or other income, but even so, they prepared to tighten their belts.

Bette Baldwin won't be able to travel or help her children as much. Dorcas Eppright will give less to charity. Jack Dawson will buy cheap whiskey instead of his beloved Canadian Club.

"For people who have worked their whole life and tried to scrimp and save and try to provide for themselves," said Baldwin, a 63-year-old retired teacher, "it's difficult to see that support system might not sustain you."

Baldwin and her husband mapped out their retirements, carefully calculating their income based on their pensions and Social Security checks. Trouble is, they expected an annual cost-of-living increase.

"When we cut back, we're cutting back on niceties," Baldwin said. "But there are other people that don't have anything to cut back on. They're cutting back on food and shelter."...

At the Phoenix Knits yarn shop in Phoenix, 73-year-old owner Pat McCartney said she already worries about paying for utilities, groceries and gas. Not having the increase makes her worry even more.

"If I have any major expense, I don't know what I'll do," McCartney said while helping customers with their knitting. "I live on Social Security."

In Kansas City, Mo., Georgia Hollman, 80, said Social Security is her sole source of income. She would have liked a bigger check, but said she's grateful for what she gets.

"There isn't nothing I can do about it but live with it," she said. "Whatever they give us is what we have to take. I'm thankful we get that little bit."...

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.