Government math cheats on Social Security


To the Editor:

I have been following the NSA, Edward Snowden, and phone “tapping” news with some interest. Now that we have the appeals court saying it must be OK if it provides information to prevent problems from happening, I am looking forward to the ability of having the phone conversations of Rhode Island politicians tapped and made available. Others I’ll enjoy knowing about include union leaders and membership, and other government employees. As none of these people deal in anything remotely to do with national security, all conversations should be fair game. I can hardly wait!

On a completely different topic, have those of you on Social Security checked your mail lately? I got a notice that I was going to get a 1.5 percent increase. Unfortunately, when I do the calculations, the number turns out not to be 1.5 percent. The figures in black and white from Social Security actually turn out to be 1.47 percent for me and 1.45 percent for my spouse. Now since I’m on Social Security, I’m obviously old, and I’m thinking maybe there’s a new math that’s been invented. I’m particularly interested in how this new federal government math works because tax time is coming and if there have been changes in how math works, I want to know before filing out my 1040!

This “math” reminds me of a classic data processing crime committed way back in the 1970s. A computer programmer was actually found to be taking the rounded down values in bank transactions and sending the amounts to his/her bank account. For example, if the math produced a value of $1.764, the $1.76 would go to the actual account and $0.004 would go to the programmer. Four thousandths of a dollar doesn’t seem like much until you process a billion transactions or so. Try it.

So now, let’s go back to the new federal government Social Security math. In my case, the difference is about $.70 per month and $.60 for my spouse. That’s $1.30 per month or $15.60 per year. Yes, $16 per year isn’t going to break me – but there are plenty of people I know, on Social Security, where $16 could make a difference. More importantly, why is my government publicly cheating me? 

I’d love to hear what our representatives say about this. And yes, why can’t I use this new math on my 1040? WARNING, you must know all of your last year’s values to understand how 1.5 percent is not 1.5 percent.

Doug Ray



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