by Barbara B. Kennelly, NCPSSM President/CEO
and Social Security Advisory Board Member

The rush to pass a stimulus package is not reason enough to ignore the millions of American seniors who can help make this stimulus effort a success. We congratulate the Senate Finance Committee for understanding this and working quickly to craft a package that considers all needy Americans, young and old alike. If timely, targeted and temporary really is the goal of this stimulus package, then seniors should not be left out. The Committee is scheduled to meet at 2:30 Wednesday to take up their version of a stimulus proposal.

Older Americans living on a fixed income feel the pressure of high prices and the slowing economy as acutely as anyone, yet the White House-negotiated stimulus package ignores almost half of our nation’s 65-plus population. Many of these seniors are in the direst need and most likely to spend any additional income on necessary resources such as medicine, utilities, food and clothing.

Even so, the Bush Administration acts as if including seniors in this package is a gift rather that what it really is, good economic sense and the perfect example of their stated goals (timely, targeted and temporary).

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Americans over 65 are responsible for 14% of all consumer spending. Seniors are also among the demographic groups most likely to spend any stimulus benefit they receive. The most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey by the Bureau of Economic Analysis says the average household headed by someone over age 65 spent 92% of their annual income, which is higher than any other demographic group with the exception of those under age 25. Seniors spend what they earn, especially as prices continue to rise, because they live on a fixed income.

But it won’t be that simple, of course. The administration is already making it clear it does not want seniors included in this proposal. White House spokesman Tony Fratto called it "political gamesmanship) and we expect to hear more of the same in the President’s State of the Union address tonight.

So much for those 3 T’s.