Depending on the newsletters you subscribe to, perhaps you too have been swamped with email this week from Democratic and Progressive organizations.
There is a good reason: two days ago President Barack Obama, in fiscal cliff negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, sold out elders by offering - offering without being asked, not forced in any way - to change how Social Security cost-of-living increases (COLAs) are calculated by switching to the chained CPI which reduces the the amount of the increase.
Good god. Does he think elders out here are getting rich? The average Social Security benefit is about $1230 dollars a month. That's little enough but remember, it's average. Millions of the old, disabled and military veterans live on less – so little, in fact, that even a $10 reduction in their monthly check means they will skip more meals than they already do.
This is not a “tweak” as the president has said; it is a cut and it affects the poorest elders most of all.
Politicians make enough money that they have no idea $10 a month could make a real difference to anybody. Someone needs to tell them but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't believe it – including the president.
One way the Village talks about inflation and Social Security is to state that elders have higher health care costs than younger adults. That's often true which begs the question, why is the president offering to cut old people's income?
And what no one ever mentions is that everything else costs more every year too and the COLA always, always falls short. Personal example:
Next year, my Social Security benefit increases by about $32 a month. But I just finished calculating what my monthly nut will be for 2013, the fixed expenses that I can do nothing to change: homeowners association dues, power, health coverage including Medicare Part B ($5 increase for most of us), Medicare Supplemental and Medicare drugs, telephone, etc. My monthly expenses will go up by slightly above $100.
That's right, about three times what my income rise is. And that has been so, usually a somewhat smaller amount, every year since I signed up for Social Security in 2006.
Like every previous year, I am wondering how soon it will be that I cannot easily absorb the increase in expenses anymore and still eat.
I say that but it is not imminent; I am in infinitely better financial shape than the elders who, frighteningly, live on $700, $800, $900 a month. Even now they cannot eat without the many services provided by local government and non-profit organizations that work hard to help. But it is never enough.
And now, the president wants to cut a few dollars from these elders' income so that they “share the burden” with plutocrats who have been getting million dollar payoffs year after year after year with outsized salaries and special income tax rates useful only for high earners.
As every honest person knows, Social Security has nothing to do with the budget or the fiscal cliff. Nothing. There are plenty of other ways to save money in the federal budget and Richard Eskow at the Campaign for America's Future has eight of them. Take a look.
I know I ask a lot of you and I worry all the time when I ask you to write or call your representatives that I sound like Chicken Little. But geez – these #$%^& people in Washington will just not lay off the poor and the old.
In addition to the president, now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has decided to stick it to old people: “I consider it a strengthening of Social Security,” she said yesterday of the chained CPI.
So I'm asking you again. Please call today. Please. Tell the White House and your senators and representative that the chained CPI in unfair and unacceptable.
And here is a script for you from Bold Progressives:
Hi, my name is [NAME] and I'm calling from [TOWN, STATE]. During the election, Democrats like Representative [NAME] promised to protect Social Security benefits.
As a constituent, I want [NAME] to keep [HIS/HER] promise and publicly oppose any White House deal to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. That includes cutting cost of living adjustments.
Can you tell Rep. [NAME] that I want [HIM/HER] to oppose the president's proposed benefit cuts?
Thank you. And can you please tell your press secretary that I called and asked Rep. [NAME] to make a public statement opposing benefit cuts?
Please, please call today, not just for us but for everyone who pays into Social Security now. For our children. For our grandchildren. Let's overwhelm the White House and Congress with our voices.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Is It Time to Go?