ACTION ALERT - Tell the President: No Deal That Cuts Benefits
Tell the President: No Deal That Cuts Benefits
Republicans are demanding that the price of any deal is cruel
cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
They are holding the most vulnerable people in America hostage
for any agreement to go forward. There are two words to say to
that: No Deal.
Bumping Up To Premium Catfood
December 18, 2012
Campaign for America's Future
Greg Sargent is reporting that the White House says they will
make sure that the Chained CPI sell-out won't hurt the most
vulnerable seniors. I don't know if they are basing this on
the Simpson-Bowles formula, but if they are, it's bullshit:
As part of deficit-reduction negotiations, some policy
makers have proposed switching to the chained consumer
price index (CPI) to calculate the cost-of-living
adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and other programs.
The chained CPI would lower the annual COLA, reducing the
value of Social Security benefits more and more over time.
It is not a more accurate measure of inflation for the
elderly - and it would be especially harmful to women,
because on average they live longer than men, rely more on
income from Social Security, and are already more likely
to be poor.
Recognizing that the chained CPI targets the oldest,
poorest Americans, some deficit-reduction plans propose an
increase in Social Security benefits for long-term
beneficiaries in an attempt to mitigate the cuts from the
chained CPI. This analysis examines how effective the "20-
year benefit bump-up" proposed in the Bowles-Simpson
Fiscal Commission report would be in protecting the
typical single elderly woman - a woman with an initial
benefit of $1,100 per month, the median benefit for single
women 65 and older - and other vulnerable beneficiaries
from the impact of the chained CPI.
* The cut from the chained CPI would reduce her
monthly benefits by an amount equal to the cost of one
week's worth of food each month at age 80. She would
still have two years to wait before receiving any help
from the bump-up.
* The Bowles-Simpson bump-up would restore her monthly
benefits to current law levels for only two years -
and then benefits would fall behind again.
* By age 95, the cut in her benefits would equal the
cost of three days' worth of food each month.
Graph - Effect of Chained CPI and 20-year Bump-up on Social
Security Monthly Benefit of the Typical Single Elderly Woman
Take a look at those dollar amounts. Is there any good reason
we are even thinking about cutting benefits instead of raising
them? On what planet does anyone think that people who have
that kind of money don't need every last cent just to keep a
meager meal on the table.
Here's a little contrast for you: Graph - Uneven Prosperity
Durbin is out there saying this is too heavy a lift for the
Democrats. Pray he's right. Or better yet, call your Senator
of either party and tell him or her that you are adamantly
opposed to cutting Social Security benefits. It's shocking
that you should have to do it, but considering the language of
the last campaign it shouldn't be surprising:
LEHRER: All right? All right. This is segment three, the
economy. Entitlements. First - first answer goes to you,
two minutes, Mr. President. Do you see a major difference
between the two of you on Social Security?
OBAMA: You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we've
got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is
structurally sound. It's going to have to be tweaked the
way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker - Democratic
Speaker Tip O'Neill. But it is - the basic structure is
Here's what I wrote about that the day after that debate:
Now they are talking about "tweaking" the way benefits are
calculated, which will probably hit the baby boomers,
mostly women, who manage to live the longest, the hardest.
Of course, if they don't fix that once they see the misery
they've caused among the oldest and most vulnerable part
of the population, the oldest Americans of the next
generation will suffer just as much.
These "tweaks" always look unexceptional on paper. But if
you are one of the millions of people who are looking at a
very meager income in your elder years, barely enough to
survive really, a "tweak" becomes a life-threatening blow.
The problem with this entire conversation is that Social
Security is already inadequate. It's barely enough to keep
the elderly out of grinding poverty and compared to other
industrialized nations it's a joke. Benefits need to be
raised not cut. But the grand success of the relentless
fear mongering from deficit fetishists like Alan Greenspan
and Pete Peterson over the years is that the entire
conversation revolves around the idea that the system is
so unstable that the only possible "compromise" is to
agree to "tweak" benefits and pare them back over time -
until the system loses its essential value to the American
people and they can finally turn it into an investment
The president says he's ready to "tweak." And we know that
Mitt Romney can hardly wait to take a meat ax to it. If he
were to win, I'm guessing the conservative Democrats in
congress would rush to jump on his bandwagon. (They
certainly always have before.) So, it would appear that
your best chance is to vote for progressives who will
stand up to either Romney or Obama when it comes to Social
And we got some in. Unfortunately, they aren't in the congress
yet. On the other hand, you can still call your congressional
Rep and Senator of either party and tell them that you do not
want cuts to Social Security. There may be enough fear of the
rickety third rail left out there to stop this.
[Digby is the pseudonym of liberal political blogger Heather
Parton from Santa Monica, California who founded the blog
Hullabaloo. She has been called one of the "leading and most
admired commentators" of the progressive blogosphere.]
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