Sunday, January 3, 2010


"No one can earn a million dollars honestly." - William Jennings Bryan
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I tried enlisting one of our cats to help me figure out this problem. You can see that she eventually just gave up. I haven't had any luck in solving this one, either. Maybe you can help?
Being retired and dependent on Social Security payments for a lot of my income, I have always looked forward to the start of the new year as a time when I get a yearly raise. (And so have a number of my friends looked forward to their raises.)
Well, I got my notification a few weeks back that there would be absolutely no increase in my lowly paid income from Uncle Sam. (Yeah, yeah, I know I paid into it all through my working life but that has nothing to do with the mathematics of it. Nor does the fact that I seem to be paying a lot more for the same things I was buying last year.) It seems that any and all increases are based on a magical thing labelled Cost Of Living. (I thought that the COLA was based on the harsh realities of living day to day. 'Taint. It's based on a mystical, magical, mathematical formula full of dungeons and dragons and things that go bump in the night. (Like nothing you've ever seen before.) Just believe me: No one ever got rich on Social Security.
A few years ago I discovered that there seems to be more than one COLA. There's one that covers Social Security retirees and apparently one that covers government employees. For example, one year I received a 1.2% increase due to the COLA. While in that same year government employees got a 2.1% increase in their COLA. Yeah, I thought it was a clerical error, too. A transposition. So I wrote my Senators and asked about it. Neither of them could bother to answer me. I called and gave my phone number when the person answering the phone said they'd have to talk to the Senator in one case, and they'd have to look up the answer in the other case. Never did hear from either of them. Well, that's not quite true. I got a form letter thanking me for writing them and informing me that they would get back to me. I'm sure glad I didn't hold my breath waiting.
But this lack of an increase this year, I was informed, was not a clerical error. It was because America did not have an increase in its cost of living in 2009. And it looked as if there wouldn't be an increase in 2010 either. They have some really great computers in the government, I guess. I mean, they seem to be capable of figuring out the future for us.
So I asked the cats to help me calculate my cost of living. You can see what happened. They gave up and decided a snooze was a better use of their time. No answer from them.
But I have figured out why "our" government didn't think there was a rise in the COL. It's simple, you see. First off, we were paying $4 a gallon for gas during part of the year. We're paying less than that now. (Of course, we are paying more than we paid a year ago. But I don't think that counts in the government's view.)
Secondly, haven't you noticed, like most all of us have, that the manufacturers of our foodstuffs have taken to putting less in our packages, cans, cartons or containers that we buy our food in and take home to consume? We sure have in our household. But, for whatever reason, the Administration says that isn't a price increase in the unit price. I'm sure their economists have a new word for it, but I'm gosh darned if I know what they use. I know what a friend of mine uses, though: "It's a screwing," he remarked the other day. He also told me that the government employees at the VA hospital here have gotten a raise. He wondered if it was a general sort of raise for good work, or if it was a government COLA raise. My cats slept through that question, too. Wish I could sleep like they do.
But if any of you can explain this to me, I will be sure to pass it on to everyone I know.