Trump tariffs poised to impoverish seniors, retirees in SWFL and nationwide

RetiredSand and surf may soon be all that’s affordable for SWFL’s seniors.

May 16, 2019 by David Silverberg

Tariffs of 25 percent imposed by President Donald Trump on 5,000 different Chinese goods will likely raise consumer prices across the board, with especially devastating impacts on people with fixed incomes like senior citizens and retirees.

This is likely to be particularly painful in Southwest Florida with its high proportion of fixed-income residents.

According to the US Census Bureau, of Lee County’s 754,610 residents (as of July 1, 2018), 28 percent were 65 years old or older, thus likely to be on a fixed income. Of Collier County’s 378,488 residents in the same period, 31.5 percent were 65 years old or older.

Trump’s escalation of his trade war with China, China’s retaliation and the current impasse in negotiations will likely result in higher prices on all goods, including groceries. A wide variety of goods are affected and product categories include raw materials for manufacturers, cars, electronics (vacuums, televisions), large appliances (washers, driers, air conditioners), clocks and watches, furniture and bedding, glassware and ceramics, precious jewelry and head gear.

Brett Biggs, Walmart’s chief financial officer, warned that consumers would feel the pain. “As we have said before, our goal is to be the low-price leader,” he said on CNBC today.  “We want to manage margins with customers and shareholders in mind. We have mitigation strategies that have been in place for months. But increased tariffs will increase prices for customers.”

Grocery items affected include fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats, pasta and breads.

“As is so often the case, the weak will only get weaker as a result of the higher prices that these tariffs will bring. Lower-income Americans, small businesses and retailers already stressed will feel the pain most,” wrote Pamela Danziger, retail reporter for Forbes.

While Social Security may see a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment next year, it may not cover the cost of goods if they rise too high. The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for senior citizens and Social Security recipients, found in a report released on Monday, May 13, that despite cost of living increases since the year 2000, Social Security benefits have actually lost 33 percent of their buying power since then.

“One would think that a higher cost-of-living adjustment in 2019, combined with relatively low inflation, would lead to an improvement of buying power in Social Security benefits,” Mary Johnson, a Social Security policy analyst for the League and the study’s author explained in a statement accompanying the report.  “But any improvement was offset by spiking costs of essentials, including out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs.”

Those expenditures will likely soon include anything manufactured or imported from China.

Liberty lives in light

© 2019 by David Silverberg

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