Fact Check: White House Eliminates Misleading Social Security Tweets


President Joe Biden continues to tout the size of next year’s increase in Social Security payments.

But his boasting leaves out the critical context: Biden doesn’t explain that the reason the 2023 hike will be unusually large is that the inflation rate was unusually high. Nor was that context included in a misleading post from the White House Twitter account on Tuesday – a post the White House deleted Wednesday after being widely criticized and Twitter fact-checked it.

Additionally, during a speech in Florida on Tuesday, Biden falsely claimed that the 2023 hike in Social Security payments will be the first hike in 10 years. In fact, there has been an increase in each year of the Trump administration and the first two years of the Biden administration.

Biden has repeatedly noted in recent weeks that Social Security payments will increase dramatically in 2023. He called for the increase as he recited his successes as president.

“Under our control, for the first time in 10 years, seniors will receive the largest increase in their Social Security checks they’ve gotten,” Biden said in a speech last week at a Democratic fundraiser.

The White House Twitter account, which has more than eight million followers, was even more direct in crediting Biden for the increase. his now deleted The tweet on Tuesday read: “Seniors are getting the largest increase in their social security checks in 10 years thanks to the leadership of President Biden.”

It is true that the increase of 2023 – 8.7% – is the largest in recent years, actually the largest since 1981. But it is not due to any positive results from Biden.

Facts first: The increase in social security payments in 2023 is the largest in recent years because the inflation rate was the largest in years. Under a law passed in the 1970sSocial security payments it must be increased by the same percentage in which a certain extent of consumer prices has risen.

The increase is known as the cost of living adjustment or COLA. Why will there be an 8.7% cost of living adjustment in 2023? Because average prices in the third quarter of 2022, measured by the consumer price index for urban workers and office workers (CPI-W), increased by 8.7% compared to average prices in the third quarter of 2021.

Asked about the White House claim that “President Biden’s leadership” is responsible for the increase, Gary Engelhardt, a Syracuse University economics professor studying Social Security, replied, “This statement is incorrect.”

“Social Security COLA is required by law (and has been for decades) and is tied to the rate of rise in the consumer price index (ie inflation). President Biden has no control over either of them. From a political point of view, it is a decidedly positive turn on an issue (inflation) that plagues its approval ratings, ”Engelhardt said in an email Wednesday.

Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare analyst at The Senior Citizens League, a advocacy group, also denied the White House request.

“If inflation rises, seniors will receive more in their social security checks the following year to protect the purchasing power of their benefits. The fact that Biden took credit in this way sounds a lot like himself. trying to make lemonade from the lemon of inflation, ”Johnson said in an email Wednesday.

A second economics professor studying retirement security, Teresa Ghilarducci of The New School, said in an email that the White House tweet is “mostly true” – as the Medicare Part B awards, which come deducted from people’s Social Security payments each month if re-enrolled in both programs, they will decrease next year, giving seniors a larger “NET Social Security allowance” than they would otherwise have. Ghilarducci said the Biden administration’s efforts to lower drug prices may have played a role in the decline in Medicare premiums.

Regardless of why Medicare premiums have fallen, we respectfully say that “mostly true” is too generous. The increase in the cost of living of Social Security that has nothing to do with Biden’s results will increase monthly payments by an average of $ 146, while the monthly reduction in the standard Medicare premium, whatever its causes, will be $ 5.20.

In other words, the vast majority of reasons seniors will receive more monthly money in 2023 is because of inflation, not success in keeping drug prices in check.

Asked during a briefing on Wednesday about why the tweet was deleted, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “Look, the tweet wasn’t complete. Usually, when we post a tweet, we post it. with the context. And it didn’t have that context. ”

Biden has pointed out in recent weeks that 2023 will be the first time in a decade that Social Security payments will increase at the same time as Medicare premiums decline.

Jean-Pierre identified this as “some context” that the tweet was missing.

In his Florida speech on Tuesday, Biden once again said Medicare costs for people are falling in 2023 for the first time in more than a decade. That’s correct, although the decline follows a much larger peak under Biden in 2022. (That 2022 increase was driven in significant part by the need to plan to pay for a recently approved Alzheimer’s drug; because the manufacturer ended up cutting the price of the drug, and because Medicare limited coverage, Medicare could return the savings to Americans in 2023.)

But then Biden made a separate statement about Social Security alone: ​​”And under my control, for the first time in 10 years, seniors are getting an increase in their Social Security checks.”

Facts first: Biden’s claim that this is the first time in 10 years that seniors receive an increase in their Social Security checks is false. Inflation has resulted in an increase in social security payments every year from 2017 onwards: 0.3% in 2017, 2.0% in 2018, 2.8% in 2019, 1.6% in 2020, 1.3% in 2021 and 5.9% in 2022.

The context around Biden’s Tuesday remark suggests he may have missed his usual 2023 drama joke, being the first time in a decade that social security payments to seniors have been increasing. at the same time as their Medicare payments are falling. Regardless of his intentions, though, this was a presidential address just a week before election day, and he said something that was clearly wrong.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.