SSA Cola Watch – August Report (Updated Monthly)

Background: Under current law Social Security determines whether there will be a COLA for the succeeding year and its amount in October each year by comparing the average CPI-W (Consumer Piece Index – Urban Wage Earners And Clerical Employees) for July through September of that same year to the average CPI-W for July through September of the last year which produced a COLA. I call this the “baseline .” This year, the baseline we are working from is the period from July through September, 2008, which generated a 5.8% COLA in 2009.
The Baseline CPI-W Amounts

July 2008 CPI-W: 216.304

August 2008 CPI-W: 215.247

September 2008 CPI-W: 214.935

2008 Average CPI-W: 215.495. This is shown as the bottom purple line on the graph below, and is the threshold we must exceed to receive any sort of COLA in 2012..

The Current CPI-W

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 0.1% in July 2011 to an index level of 222.686 (1982-84=100).

Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 4.1 percent before seasonal adjustment. The gasoline index rebounded from previous declines and rose sharply in July, accounting for about half of the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index. The food at home index accelerated in July and also contributed to the increase, as dairy and fruit indexes posted notable increases and five of the six major grocery store food groups rose.

The index for all items less food and energy increased as well, though the 0.15 percent increase was slightly smaller than the two previous months. The shelter index accelerated in July, and the apparel index again increased sharply. In contrast, the index for new vehicles was unchanged after a long string of increases. The index for household furnishings and operations was flat in July as well, and the recreation index declined slightly.

The 12 month change in the all items index remained at 4.1 percent for the third month in a row. The change in the index for all items less food and energy continued its upward trend, rising to 1.8 percent in July, with the shelter and apparel indexes contributing notably to the acceleration. The energy index has risen 20.0 percent over the past year.

You can see the entire report at Consumer Price Index Summary. The CPI-W figures are in Table 4, a link to which is at the bottom of the page.

Current CPI-W Amounts

December 2010 CPI-W: 215.262 (+ 0.24%)

January 2011 CPI-W: 216.400 (+ 0.53%)

February 2011 CPI-W: 217.535 (+ 0.52%)

March 2011 CPI-W: 220.024 (+1.14%)

April 2011 CPI-W: 221.743 (+0.78%)

May 2011 CPI-W: 222.924 (+1.01%)

June 2011 CPI-W: 222.522 (-0.2%)

July 2011 CPI-W: 222.686 (+0.07%)

There are 5 colored horizontal lines on the graph. The lowest one, at 215.495, is the baseline CPI-W, which has to be exceeded in July through September for there to be any COLA in 2012. The other lines, at 217.650, 219.805, 221.960, and 224.155 are the CPI-W amounts needed for COLAs of 1%, 2%, 3%, and 4% respectively. As of July, the CPI-W supports a COLA of about 3.34%. I expect that the CPI-W will continue its increase in August, but I do not expect the rate to increase much. We are slipping back into recession, and this tends to be deflationary. I do think that the COLA will exceed 3%, but by how much is yet to be determined.

Remember, this month and the next two are the three critical months. Everything up through June was predictive but not material. Now it’s crunch time. The average CPI-W amounts for July through September actually determine the following year’s COLA.

The August report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing the August 2011 CPI-W, is scheduled to be released Thursday, September 15. Please check back here the next day.


This information is also repeated essentially verbatim from preceding reports, and is repeated here as a reminder.

If we get a Social Security COLA in 2012, Medicare Part B premiums will increase by a significant amount.

Part B premiums have been kept at the 2009 amount, $96.40, in 2010 and 2011, for about 75% of beneficiaries who were eligible for Part B prior to January 2010. According to law, the Social Security check amount cannot be decreased, so beneficiaries entitled before January 2010 could not have their Medicare Part B premiums increased. The Trustees project that the 2012 Part B premium amount will be $111.40, based on the assumption that there will be a COLA in 2012. This is an increase of $15.00.

The average Social Security beneficiary receives $1170.00 per month. Let’s say that we do get a 3% COLA in January, 2012. That would mean that the COLA to a beneficiary receiving the average amount would be an increase of $35.00. That beneficiary’s Part B Premium increase of $15.00 would be deducted from this, leaving a net increase of $20.00 per month.

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22 Responses to SSA Cola Watch – August Report (Updated Monthly)

  1. ooosillyme says:

    You forget to mention that those on rental assistance and Food Stamps will lose another $50 or so dollars per month with the lowering of how much assistance they get so the $35 dollars which becomes $15 dollars is then -$35 per month….how is this fair? Oh yes the poverty numbers used for that assistance is from the 1960’s……

    • revenuer says:

      You had two posts, so I thought I would reply to both of them here. You know don’t you that we agree with you and everything you say. We present the facts we have to work with but it doesn’t mean that we think they are fair or right or in the best interests of anyone.

      If it were up to us all of the areas you mention would be raised at the same time instead of letting the federal and state governments play turn the constituents into road kill. We would raise revenue from the very rich who currently pay little or nothing and give everyone who needs it adequate food, housing and health care. We would make sure that people had good, peaceful lives which did not reduce them to living near or below the poverty level and force them to live in fear. We do everything we can to bring about change for the better. We call government officials, we write them, we maintain and explain on this blog how things work so that you will all know.

      If you took both of your comments and forwarded them to the government they would know that there is one more informed, angry and intelligent individual pushing for changes they don’t want to make. We all need to push. About the only thing we have is numbers, knowledge and the ability to put it into our votes. I notice that you comment frequently. We appreciate your feedback very much and hope that you will continue to share it with us.

      • Adam says:

        One of the Biggest problems I see with the current system, is politicians on both sides of the aisle stealing from the Social Security Trust fund. I would like to see something done about that, or if we can not stop them from taking the money, at least make it so that what ever they take out they have to pay back, or face criminal charges. We can raise more revenue by closing old military bases that no longer have any strategic value to the United States and our national Security. Foreign Aid is also something that should be cut back, I do not think it is right that we are out there nation building when their is still Homelessness and Poverty here in America.

      • revenuer says:


        The “government is stealing social security trusts” is one of the oldest, kludgiest and most meaningless conservative memes. Where did you get this information from and did you research it in anyway before simply accepting it? Would you buy a used car this way? Potluck and I have answered this so often we have blisters on our fingers. I will answer it once more in comments and then the person asking will be directed to to read the blog, especially the Big Lies section to find the answer. If you are taking the trouble to come to the blog, you might as well read it.

        Now follow closely. Social Security Trusts are not a part of general revenue which the government can simply stick its hand into and grab. The trusts are self enclosed and funded by taxes paid for that purpose only. If the government has to use some of those funds they have to borrow them by purchasing Treasury Bonds which are dedicated to Social Security and which pay interest. When Social Security needs the money back, the bonds are sold with the same rate of interest that was in place when they were purchased. This is the last time this will be addressed in the comments until after the poster has read the blog. Otherwise it will be treated like other conservative memes and spammed. I don’t think lies should be repeated endlessly simply to scare people or to try to change reality into a paranoid wonderland. I am not saying that is what you are doing, but if you believe it without question it was done at some point and does not need to continue.

        Instead of closing only unused military based which has pretty much been done along with closing much needed military hospitals, why not simply stop the wars which the government insists on continuing to the detriment of all of us. They are using revenue which could be put to better and more humane uses and killing our children in the process for actions based mostly on the lies of Bush and Cheney which both have admitted telling simply to start the war in Iraq. So why are we still there?

        Finally we are in a recession caused by Bush and his tax cuts to the wealthy; tax cuts which began under Reagan and have continued ever since. You do not end a recession or stimulate economic growth or jobs by taking more money out of circulation. Read conservative deficit cuts. What you do is to stimulate more revenue by letting the Bush tax cuts lapse, increasing the amount which corporations pay to an amount that is reasonable and start penalizing corporations which outsource jobs by slapping a negative tax credit on them. Most of our jobs went to outsourcing. They did not magically disappear because of some conservative created deficit lie. The government is operating the economy like Hoover did and if it is not aggressively countered by raising more revenue we will have a Great Depression of our own.

  2. Jack says:

    Just checking the value for a 4% increase and is seems to me it should be 224.115 not 224.155.

  3. Linda says:

    Shouldn’t the baseline be 215.495 instead of 215.435?

    • ssapotluck says:

      Yes it most certainly should. Thank you for your catch. My typing is a little poor just now due to a fading (but not rapidly enough) arthritis flareup in my fingers and wrists.

  4. steve says:

    Its too bad that means outside of Soc. Sec. isn’t considered. My wife and I get $1491 combined per month. Our friends get about $3000 combined + 2 pensions worth a combined $3200 per month. I’d trade their $6200 for our $1491 any time. Is there no way to factor other retirement income into the mix. Thanks very much, i’m glad i found this site.

    • ssapotluck says:

      If any portion of your friends’ income is from Social Security, 85% of it is taxable. Of course, 100% the pensions themselves are also taxable. Non of your SSA is taxable.

      Means-testing of Social Security is an issue which comes up a lot. I assume the next time the Congress rouses itself from its hyperpartisan wrangling and considers minor Social Security reforms, means-testing will probably be one of the items they look at. I would guess that they would place the threshold higher than $77,000, so your friends wouldn’t be affected. Also, means-testing would not be easy for SSA to do. It would need access to tax return information and creation of a set of rules for applying means testing to the other income. Which income is counted and which is excluded? What amounts are used? How are couples treated? It is complicated. Another form means-testing would take would be to make the initial computation even less favorable for high income workers than it is now, which would quite simple to implement.

    • AF Retired says:

      Why should other incomes be a player? I paid into SS and deserve my full entitlement. I also served 20 years in the military (two wars) and I deserve that retirement. I put another 20 years into civil service and deserve that retirement. The VA determined I was disabled from the war and deserve that monthly payment. Don’t penalize me because you don’t make as much or didn’t put yourself in a better position. I am quite sure I earned every penny I receive. We are equal in the eyes of Social Security and that is the way it should be.

      • ssapotluck says:

        Thank you for your service to this country.

        I am not quite sure what you are referring to. There generally is no offset against SSA benefits by either military retirement pay or veterans compensation. Social Security has covered Military basic pay since 1957. In 1968, Congress realized that military basic pay was very low and did not reflect the value of food, shelter, and other benefits. They passed a law which added an extra amount to the actual basic pay amount received by the military member, which was called “deemed military wages.” (DMWs.)” The amounts have changed over the years — currently (since 1978) the rule is that DMWs of $100 are added for each full $300 of posted annual military basic pay. DMWs can’t exceed $1,200 per calendar year.

        Civil Service is more problematic. If you were under CSRS, you had to buy CSRS coverage of military service by paying an amount into CSRS before retirement. I believe the amount is 7% of your military pay. Civil servants who were covered under CSRS did not pay into Social Security, and were subject to a provision dating back to the Carter administration called “government pension offset” (GPO.) GPO reduces the amount of spouses and surviving spouses benefits by an amount equal to 2/3 of the CSRS pension, which almost always wipes out any eligibility for these benefits. There is another provision called “windfall elimination provision” (WEP). People who are eligible for pensions based on work not covered by Social Security (such as CSRS) receive a much less favorable computation when determining the amount of their Social Security. This provision is too complicated to explain here, but SSA has published a Factsheet Windfall Elimination Provision which explains this provision quite well.

        As a CSRS annuitant myself, I am also subject to GPO and WEP. I agree with you entirely that these provisions are unfair, and that everyone who paid into Social Security should have his benefits treated the same way.

        If I missed the point of your comment, please feel free to write back.

  5. revenuer says:

    AF Retired,

    Thanks for your comments, but I am not going to be putting them up as they are. You have mentioned another poster and named the other poster whom you disagree with. This is known as “calling out” on most forums and it is not permitted. Calling out means that one poster is singled out by another for comment and it tends to cause other posters to pile on as well. This can be a humiliating and upsetting experience if you have ever been at the wrong end of it.

    We all have opinions and concerns. These are dark and unsettled times which remind me of my father’s descriptions of his life during the Great Depression before I was born. There is also a feeling of disquiet for me, because some of the ideas being thrown at us by government remind me of attempts to create a fascist state on the Mussolini corporatist model. This is frightening and brings out concerns which people state that they hardly know how to express. They need a safe place to vent and state their concerns and ideas and this is how I want them to feel about our blog. This includes you.

    All we ask is that if you disagree with another poster disagree with the opinion and don’t make it a censure of the individual. Frame your disagreement reasonably in such a way that you are not going to create a situation where another poster feels flamed or attacked. Give others the same consideration that you would wish for yourself and that we would insist that others extend to you. This is all in the comment moderation section, stated in a different way perhaps but with the same meaning. Please be sure to read it.

    Also, remember that comments and emails really have no tone of voice. You can’t see who you are talking to. There is no facial expression or quick exchange of ideas so it is easy for people to read things into it that the writer may not mean. That is why a lot of people pepper their comments with emoticons. I don’t think we have that many, and as a snaggle toothed old woman I feel like a dork using them,

    For all of our posters though, we do ask that they be as specific as they can with explanations. We get posts where we can’t tell what the poster means and find ourselves asking for clarification often. Give others consideration whether you agree with them or not and please do not mention specific individuals, analyze other posters or make your disagreements personal.

    Thank you very much, and please keep coming back.

  6. AF Retired says:

    Thanks…I understand. New to this online blogging world.

    • revenuer says:

      Hello AF,

      You are entirely welcome. I would like to thank you for getting back to us. We were worried that we would upset you. Our readers and posters are the life’s blood of our blog. You give us ideas, tell us what you like and don’t like and what you would like to see. We appreciate all of you and want you to feel good about coming here.

      You are catching on to the blogging world very quickly and we both enjoy your posts very much.

  7. What happened to the posting in regards to the August figures due by the 16th of the month; now past due?

  8. THOMAS C. DEVITT says:


  9. Robert Dolan says:

    What I will never understand. Why does there have to be a Democratic and a Republican party anyway. Why can’t we just elected who we feel will do the best job for us and for our country. All they do is argue and disagree with to try and prove that they are right or better than the other party. Why would it be so hard for our Government Officials to just open their minds, not fight against one another, and just vote on what is best for us and our country. The American people need help in this country, not things taken away from them, like their social security, increases in their medicare, and the outrageous prices of a gallon of gasoline the ridiculous prices of Health Insurance. Instead of our Government helping everyone in this world, trying to be a Big Brother, help the American People first who built this great country, and if their is any thing left over then help the rest of the world. We go over to Irag and Afganistan, bomb their cities then we give them Billions of Dollars to rebuild their cities, does that make sense. You may think that I am wrong in my thoughts, but our Government should bring God back into this country, He is the only one, the only God, who can fix our country, because our elected officials have really messed this country up. I pray to God to fix it, He is the only one who can.

    • revenuer says:


      We have a two party system to try to insure that voters have a spectrum of different views and ideas to choose from. One party systems tend to produce dictatorships because everyone is expected to adhere to one philosophy and one party line. Some examples of countries with one party systems are Italy under Mussolini, Germany under Hitler and Russia under Stalin. In those countries everyone was expected to be a corporatist, a Nazi or a Communist. There was no choice at all and no need to vote. You did as you were told, and thought what you were told to think. There have been many other dictatorships throughout history and all over the world today. I chose those three because they are the ones most likely to stick in the minds of people who are reading this.

      You don’t have to register to be either a Democrat or a Republican. You can register as an Independent without stating or choosing a party affiliation. There are also the Greens. A third party which has been trying to establish itself for many years. No matter what your registration you can vote for any candidate you choose though you should try to vote your own interests. Without disagreement or discussion it would be difficult to articulate problems, try to find a solution, and solve them. This is something voters need to do, and they need to try a lot harder than we have been. The government as it exists now is a corporatist government and that needs to stop before the country as we know it is destroyed. If you feel strongly about a one party system we will have to agree to disagree as neither Potluck nor I want to turn this into an endless argument forum. Your opinion is stated, duly noted and responded to. I think the magic words you used which confounded your own argument were “Big Brother.” If you have never read “1984” I recommend it to you. It is one man’s vision of a one party system and a lot of hit hits uncomfortably close to what is happening now.

      I don’t believe in War. I don’t believe the wars of Bush and Obama have done anything but harm and they have drained a lot of our financial life’s blood out of the economy. What is worse is that they have killed and maimed thousands of people. Both our soldiers and the citizens of the countries we are occupying. They have to stop.

      You are entitled to your thoughts, Robert, but I believe in a separation of church and state. The Founders of this country came here to escape religious persecution from England which had a state religion which everyone was expected to adhere to. This was ironic because soon our first colonists were oppressing others who followed because they had different religious points of view. This continued until England put a stop to it and set aside an area of tolerance for people who wanted to worship and think their own way. Later our founders were careful to provide for the separation of church and state in the constitution, which was exactly the right decision. One of the things which makes it so difficult to function in this country now is the religious bigots on the right who keep trying to force their religious beliefs on the rest of us. To quote a phrase I heard a while back, “This is my country, not your church.” That is a compelling thought which no one should forget.

      People’s choices of religion and spirituality are deeply personal to them and deeply held. Some believe in a particular church, some simply believe in God, some are agnostic and some are atheists. None of them are wrong. I am a Quaker. We are not evangelical and we believe that everyone has their own truth. We learn from what they believe and respect what they believe. All different thoughts and beliefs are equally important and compelling. All people are equal regardless of race, sex or gender orientation. We are all here to learn from each other and to help each other, not to try and force people to believe any particular way. Quakers believe that if people need our beliefs they will find us. We believe that people can embrace our value system and attend other churches at the same time. We even have atheist Quakers who find our beliefs compelling but who do not believe in God. They are welcome too.

      We have to solve our own problems, Robert, no matter how we do or do not worship God. We were given free will to choose our actions and it is time that we chose to take responsibility for our political lives. I again suggest strongly that you write to your representatives, senators and to the White House. Tell them what you think and what you want. No matter what you tell me, I can’t speak for you. I would not want to. Tell the people who can bring about change to do it. I think that is your responsibility. I think it is everyone’s responsibility. If you never speak up it is like a complicity of silence.

      • Robert Dolan says:

        Thank you for your reply. I agree with you to a point. Are we all one people, we are all equal. I remember a time that we would pray in school, say the pledge of allegience and be allowed to express our thoughts. Our children and our grandchildren are not allowed to even mention God in our schools. A lot of american people are really struggling with everything today. We all have the same rights. Are we not One Nation under God. God has been taken out of our country, and our country is being destroyed because of it. I believe everyone should have their own opinions and no one should be told what to do, we were all created by God and He has given us all the ability to make our own choices. It is our responsibility to make our choices, but it is also our responsibility to live with the choices we make. I am just expressing my opinions on what I believe. I want to see this great country grow, I am proud of this country and I always will be, but I am not proud of the way it is being run by our government elected officials. We as a country need help, and yes we all have to do our part. I send letters to my Senators, and Congressmen and state my opinions, and they send replies back, but in their replies, they avoid answering the questions, they always seem to go around them. Like I stated before, are we all not One Nation under God, then bring Him back iinto this great nation of ours, and all of us will be better off because of it. God Bless. Robert.

      • revenuer says:


        Thanks for your reply. Please keep talking to your elected officials. I know they never really answer questions. I have one who does and he has helped us a lot with some things that only the government could help with. As to the rest I do not think they are long on conscience or empathy. People who seek power generally are not. The reason for contacting them is to remind them that they could lose power. That they care about and sometimes it helps.

        Since you are religious and I don’t think it will offend you, I will ask God to hold you in the light. It is a Quaker prayer which assumes that God already knows what you need and will help you. Peace to you as well.

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