Monday, August 24, 2009

Accurate but Misleading

Plastered all over the Internet are the headlines of an AP article screaming “Millions face shrinking Social Security payments.”

Clearly that’s a headline that would strike concern in many of the retired folks living on a fixed income and just barely making ends meet. If you read the article however, what you discover is that the payments aren’t actually going down, but there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) this year because inflation has been negative.

Now the “shrinking” part comes in if you’re also enrolled in the Medicare Prescription Plan. The premiums there are expected to go up slightly and, since those premiums are normally deducted directly from the Social Security checks, the total amount after deductions would go down.

You will excuse me but this is what we call “Accurate but Misleading.” The amount of dispersible income in the check will decrease by the amount of the Medicare premium benefit but the Social Security payments themselves are not being reduced. By law they cannot be reduced.

I’m surprised at the AP. Normally their reporting is above reproach but this strikes me as sensationalism. Most people don’t make it past the headlines so now there are millions of people, including retired people, who think that Social Security payments are literally going down and they’re not.

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