Last Friday, the Social Security Administration announced that seniors would not receive a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for the second straight year. That means that Social Security retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities will not receive an increase in their monthly benefits.
Though I am deeply troubled by this announcement and believe seniors deserve a COLA, it is important to note that the COLA is not subject to a vote by Congress or the President; it is based on an automatic formula established in the 1970s and based on inflation as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Obviously, there are problems with this formula. For instance, the BLS weighs younger and urban workers much more heavily in its formula and does not take into account the additional burdens seniors face from rising health care and energy costs. That's why I co-sponsored legislation that would create a new formula specifically for seniors when calculating COLAs.
I also co-sponsored legislation to provide seniors a one-time, $250 payment in the event that no COLA is awarded this year (for fiscal year 2011). This legislation, if considered, would be fully paid for. Once it became clear last week that there would once again be no adjustment this year, House leadership announced there would be a vote on this legislation when we return to session in November.
I look forward to reading the specifics of this proposal and making sure it is something that is paid for in a responsible way. It is clear, however, that seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities are disproportionately hurt in a tough economy, such as the one we're in now. Many rely on these benefits and factor in these cost-of-living-adjustments in their already tight budgets.
Without question, these are tough economic times. But we can't use this economy as an excuse to reduce benefits to our seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities.
Drilling Moratorium Ended
Last week, the Department of the Interior announced that it would be lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, which was put in place after the Deepwater Horizon platform explosion in the spring. This is welcome news for the Gulf Coast and for domestic energy production.
When the moratorium was initially announced, I believed it was necessary as long as a safety review could be completed quickly and efficiently. It appears as if the Department of Interior has done that, and in the process, set forth new guidelines for safely drilling in the Gulf. In the coming weeks and months, it will be important to ensure that the new safety requirements work for both the oil producers and offshore workers.
Regardless of your thoughts on offshore drilling, it is clear that oil will be part of our energy portfolio for the foreseeable future. I believe we should access this oil from domestic sources rather than rely on foreign countries that don't always have our best interest in mind. However, we must continue to ensure that accidents like Deepwater Horizon do not occur in the future and that our energy workers are in the safest environments possible.