If you wanted to help the economy and you had $14 billion to bestow on any group of people, which group would you choose:
a) Teenagers and young adults, who have an 18 percent unemployment rate.
b) All the middle-age long-term jobless who, for various reasons, are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
c) The taxpayers of the future (by using the $14 billion to pay down the deficit).
d) The group that has survived the Great Recession probably better than any other, with stronger income growth, fewer job cuts and little loss of health insurance.
The Obama administration has chosen option d — people in their 60s and beyond.
The president has proposed sending a $250 check to every Social Security recipient, which sounds pretty good at first. The checks would be part of his admirable efforts to stimulate the economy, and older Americans are clearly a sympathetic group. Next year, they are scheduled to receive no cost-of-living increase in their Social Security benefits.
Yet that is largely because they received an artificially high 5.8 percent increase this year. For this reason and others, economists are generally recoiling at the proposal.