After an offer from President Obama to throw elders under the economic bus by changing the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are made from the current CPI-W to the chained CPI which would reduce increases, the fiscal cliff bill finally passed Tuesday night without that provision.
But not without scaring Social Security beneficiaries nearly into early graves, particularly those whose monthly income is in the hundreds of dollars – nowhere near adequate to feed, clothe and shelter oneself.
Republicans, who like to say that the deficit is all due to old people for being so greedy as to want to eat and be warm in winter, love the chained CPI.
Ruth Marcus, an Op-Ed columnist at the Washington Post, is typical of that belief. As she said in her best Marie Antoinette style on Christmas day, the current method overstates the inflation rate and [emphasis added]
”...fails to account for what economists call upper-level substitution bias, and what my mother would call plain common sense: If the price rises for a certain commodity in the basket of goods used to measure inflation, consumers will choose a cheaper alternative. In my house, when the price of beef soars, we substitute chicken.”
I could go on about all the things that are wrong with Marcus's point of view (and her “facts”), but Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars has already done an exemplary job of that.
Here's why I mention it: With the fiscal cliff having been averted, the next “emergency” for Congress is the debt ceiling, coming due in a couple of months. And now that the president himself has floated the chained-CPI idea, the Republicans feel even more confident about sticking it to old people, the poor and veterans:
“'We do expect [the chained CPI] to be part of the debt ceiling negotiations,' said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).”
There is no reason to disbelieve Senator Corker and we know now that we cannot depend on the president to bar the door against Social Security cuts. Plus, it is obvious that Vice President Joe Biden's August 2012 campaign promise is no longer in play:
“Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you,” Biden said at The Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart, Virginia,” there will be no changes in Social Security,” Biden said, per a pool report. “I flat guarantee you.”
So much for VP guarantees. And forget the old Republican talking point that any cuts to Social Security would not affect current beneficiaries. Chained CPI affects everyone from day one. Social Security Works
”...estimates that a person age 75 in the future will get a yearly benefit that’s $653 lower after ten years of chained CPI than that person would get under the current formula. An 85-year-old will have $1,139 less to live on. While this doesn’t seem like a princely sum to an investment banker, it is to the very old.”
As we've discussed here in the past, for people with $800 a month income, $54 less means going hungry some days.
This is wrong. It is deeply wrong to keep old people wondering month after month, year after year if, when or by how much their income will be cut. I'll have more to say about that cruelty in particular in a future post but for now, let's take a little breather before we need to fight these rich pols again.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Age