From remarks before the House Nov. 9 by Rep. Mike Lowry (D-Wash.): In recent days some of my colleagues have suggested that Social Security COLAs be limited or capped to help us achieve the $23 billion savings mandated by Gramm-Rudman. . . .
In the last few decades the percentage of poor older Americans has shrunk substantially. The payment of automatic COLAs . . . has played a role. It remains a sad fact, however, that poverty among the elderly is more widespread than among any other adult age group.
According to the Census Bureau some 3.5 million elderly Americans were poor in 1985. . . . In real-life terms that means to have had a weekly income below $99 -- or $125 for a couple.
Poverty among certain segments of the elderly population is particularly pronounced and deep rooted. . . . In 1985, 31.5 percent of elderly blacks were poor, nearly three times the percentage of older whites. While women constitute almost 59 percent of the nation's elderly, they account for 72.4 percent of the elderly poor, and elderly women have a poverty rate nearly double that of elderly men. . . .
In 1985, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that eliminating the COLA would push 420,000-470,000 individuals into poverty. . . .
A decision to eliminate or cap the Social Security COLA in 1988 will have much the same impact as when proposed in 1985. The American Association of Retired Persons . . . estimates an additional 272,500 individuals age 62 or older would fall below the poverty line if the COLA is withheld. . . .
These individuals depend on Social Security for their very survival, and to deny them the COLA or limit its size leaves them little hope of maintaining their already minimal standard of living.