Amy Goldstein and Neil Irwin have the unenviable task of describing this as anything other than the political pandering that it is:
President Obama on Wednesday attempted to preempt the announcement that Social Security recipients will not see an increase in their benefit checks for the first time in three decades, pressing Congress for a one-time payment of $250 to help seniors and disabled Americans weather the recession.
So why is it that retirees are having trouble weathering the recession -- because they were fired from jobs from which they had already retired or because they had trouble paying the prices that haven't gone up relative to their Social Security benefits?
Other elected officials quoted in the article would like to justify these payments as another $13 billion of stimulus payments to help sustain the nascent economic recovery. My views on the right way to do stimulus are explained here, but in the interest of helping the political discourse, I'll make one suggestion. If these payments are made, they should then be deducted from Social Security benefits the next time the cost of living adjustment is positive. You get the near-term infusion of cash without the longer-term increase in debt.