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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Retribution Fabrication

Q: Did Congress raise its own pay for 2010 while voting to deny an increase for Social Security recipients?

A: No. A chain e-mail calling for "retribution" in the fall elections makes false claims and uses fabricated figures.


There is an e-mail circulating with the following "facts" that I was wondering about:

Subject: Retribution is less than 1 year away

Take a look at this and just remember elections in Nov. 2010.

U.S. House & Senate have voted themselves $4,700 and $5,300 raises.
1. They voted to not give you a S.S. Cost of living raise in 2010 and 2011.
2. Your Medicaid premiums will go up $285.60 for the 2-years and
You will not get the 3% COLA: $660/yr. Your total 2-yr loss and cost is
-$1,600 or -$3,200 for husband and wife.
3. Over 2-yrs they each get $10,000
4. Do you feel SCREWED?
5. Will they have your cost of drugs – doctor fees – local taxes – food, etc., increase?
NO WAY . They have a raise and better benefits. Why care about you? You never did anything about it in the past. You obviously are too stupid or don’t care.
6. Do you really think that Nancy, Harry, Chris, Charlie, Barnie, et al, care about you? SEND THE MESSAGE–  You’re FIRED.

It is ok to forward this to your sphere of influence if you are finally tired of the abuse.
Maybe it’s time for the……..
Amendment 28

"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States."

Let’s get this passed around, folks – these people in Washington have brought this upon themselves!!! It’s time for retribution. Let’s take back America.


This rant is timely: It is hitting e-mail inboxes just as the first Social Security checks of 2010 are being prepared. But it’s not accurate. It combines two false claims we’ve addressed before, adds some made-up figures and tosses in an appeal to defeat all members of Congress who are up for reelection in the fall.

We take no position on whether any House or Senate member deserves reelection or defeat, but the fact is they are all being falsely accused by whoever wrote this.

  • No raise: House and Senate members have not voted to give themselves raises. The $4,700 and $5,300 figures are made up out of whole cloth. The true figure is $0. As we reported last year, Congress voted to freeze its own pay for 2010. Any pay raise for 2011 will take place automatically under existing law, unless Congress votes to freeze its pay again before then.

    Update, May 17, 2010: There will be no House or Senate raise for 2011 either. Congress passed, and the President signed, H.R. 5146, which eliminates the automatic adjustment in pay for Members of Congress that would have taken place in 2011.

  • No vote: Congress did not vote to deny a Social Security cost-of-living increase this year, or next. The lack of a COLA results from the fact that the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) declined (mostly as a result of volatile oil prices), as we explained in detail last September. Congress does not vote on annual Social Security benefit levels. They have been set by a formula set in law since 1975.
  • No $285.40 premium increase: The message claims that "your Medicaid premiums will go up $285.60" over two years, but that’s nonsense. Medicaid is a state-federal program for low-income persons, and premiums (where they exist) are set by states, not Congress.The author confuses this program with Medicare, the program that covers persons over age 65. And the fact is, most Medicare premiums haven’t gone up this year at all. For 73 percent of seniors, the basic Medicare Part B premium remains at $96.40 per month.And for all but a few of the rest, the increase will be $14.10 per month. Over two years that comes to $338.40, not $285.40. For details, see the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announcement of Oct. 16.

The message makes reference to a “3% COLA” that would amount to “$660/yr.” That may be a reference to a bill introduced in September by Republican Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina to grant an "emergency" 3 percent Social Security increase for 2010. That bill did not attract any cosponsors or come to a vote in the Ways and Means Committee, however. And Jones estimated that the average increase would amount to $35 per month, which doesn’t come close to $660 over a full year. That number, we conclude, is pulled from thin air, just like the claim that Congress voted itself a $10,000 pay raise spread over two years.

— Brooks Jackson


"The History of COLA," U.S. Social Security Administration. undated Web page. Accessed 11 Sep 2009.

"Social Security Announces 5.8 Percent Benefit Increase for 2009" press release. U.S. Social Security Administration. 16 Oct 2008.

"Cost-of-Living Adjustment Must Be Greater Than Zero," U.S. Social Security Administration. Web page accessed 11 Sep 2009.

"Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs; A SUMMARY OF THE 2009 ANNUAL REPORTS; Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees," U.S. Social Security Administration. 12 May 2009.

Barry, Patricia "Part B Premiums in 2010: Frozen for Many, Higher for Some: No Social Security cost-of-living increase next year means higher costs for some beneficiaries and states." AARP Bulletin Today 7 May 2009.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS ANNOUNCES MEDICARE PREMIUMS, DEDUCTIBLES FOR 2010. 16 Oct 2009.

Omnibus Appropriation Act. Public Law 111-8, 111 Mar 2009.