Crowdsourcing the TGB Elder Community
Age, Weight and Leaky Pipes

Chained CPI and the Super Committee

category_bug_politics.gif A person could lose her mind over the past three months paying too much attention to what is said in the media about the the super committee's work on deficit reduction – something I have, unfortunately, been doing so anything you read in this post is suspect.

Nevertheless, it seems important for this blog to at least give a try to keeping you up to date.

The biggest problem in knowing anything is that the meetings of the 12 members have been held in secret and what has been published – even from usually trustworthy sources – are deliberate leaks and trial balloons or guesses and fairy tales.

Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday in regard to potential job proposals in the final agreement, "I don’t really know because I’m not in the room."

At the same time, Pelosi told reporters that the deficit reduction committee must wrap up its work by Friday because although the deadline is Wednesday 23 November, "effectively the rest of us are gone after [Friday]."

And the Congressional Budget Office says it must have the proposal by Monday to have time to score it for the Wednesday deadline.

So it's down to the wire now and aside from predictions that the committee will fail to reach an agreement, the most consistent leak/guess/whatever is that the committee will propose changing the mechanism for calculating the Social Security COLA from the CPI-W used now to the chained CPI.

Of course, that is terrible for Social Security recipients and it would apply not just to future beneficiaries 10 or 15 years down the road (which all politicians seem to believe – erroneously - makes it acceptable to the rest of us), but to you and me – all current beneficiaries too.

The chained CPI harms the lowest level beneficiaries the most as Social Security expert Nancy Altman explained last July:

"Over the next 10 years alone, the chained CPI would take $112 billion directly out of the pockets of beneficiaries, with cuts growing larger each year and pushing many of the oldest old — primarily women — into poverty.

"The COLA cut would reduce benefits by 3.7 percent after 10 years, 6.5 percent after 20 years and 9.2 percent after 30 years. For a typical senior who retires at age 65, their Social Security benefits would be $1,000 less by the time they are 85—on a benefit of just $16,000 a year.

"That’s a big loss of income that may be affordable for politicians in Washington but not for most people across the country.

"Adopting the chained CPI goes in the wrong direction. Most people who depend on Social Security devote a much larger share of their income to health care, and these costs are increasing at a much higher rate than other living costs. They need a more accurate formula that reflects these higher costs, which would result in a cost-of-living increase, not a cut."

Although Ms. Altman is correct about the need for an increase beyond an annual COLA, I don't expect Congress will ever do so but if members had anything except their own and their corporate benefactors' interests in mind, they would at least maintain the status quo especially in light of persistent and repeated poll numbers.

In a recent Politico Battleground Poll, this question was asked:

"Tell me if you would favor or oppose changing the way in which increases in Social Security benefits are calculated in order to lower program costs and lower future benefits."

56 percent somewhat or strongly oppose. 38 percent somewhat or strongly favor.

Just FYI, here is another question from the same poll that affects elders:

"Tell me if you would favor or oppose making hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid through increasing beneficiary costs."

76 percent somewhat or strongly oppose. 19 percent somewhat or strongly favor.

And the public supports "increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations" 66-31 percent with a majority, 52 percent, strongly supporting such increases.

Even with polling numbers like these, if the super committee does reach an agreement I fully expect it will be good for the top one percent and terrible for the rest of us. Why? Because Democrat or Republican, that's what Congress members do whether or not there is an Occupy movement, 99 percent demonstrations and a zillion such polls as this one.

In response to one of the many leaks from the super committee, New York Times economist Paul Krugman wrote on his blog:

"I thought I had worked out all the worst-case scenarios for the supercommittee (there was never a best-case). But this is even worse than my worst imagining: a deal to undermine key social insurance programs in return for a promise that Congress will come up with a plan for raising revenue at some future date.

"If you think that promise has any credibility whatsoever – if you have any doubts that the end result would be to gut Social Security and actually cut taxes for the wealthy – I have this Nigerian bank account that can be yours if you send me $100,000 in expenses.

“The worst of it is that Democrats might actually go for it.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Cow Tipping


This continues to convince me that the emphasis has to be on getting rid of Democrats in name only which is what the Tea Party recognized for 2010 and did to gain control of the House with a group of people who didn't believe in government and would do whatever they could to stymie any chance it could accomplish anything. They succeeded. Now what do we do about that? We better aim to replace any of the Democrats who really undermine chances for things like single payer health care. If they are in our state, we should be working to find others to run for their office who share the views of the progressive community. I don't care how long 'our' guy/gal has been in there. If they aren't doing the job, they should be replaced in the primary. We can't vote Republican given what they are doing but we can work to get better choices in our own party. Good old boys/girls need to be gone. It's not enough to have a Democratic president if the House and Senate are filled with those who don't buy into Progressive platforms and will work for them. Obama never had 60 votes even when it looked like he did because of Democrats who wouldn't vote with him. We either do this or continue to see chaos and stalemate. We're selling ourselves down the river by staying with the same old same old.

Help elect progressive candidates. Ilya Sheyman, a candidate in Wisconsin, could use your support and I am sure there are others. He is only 25 years old, but really cares for the downtrodden.

Until we get the money out of politics we will always have venal representatives beholden to special interests. And special interests are never for the people. The list of the damage they do is endless.

It is so depressing that I am reaching a point where I want to tune out.

It was a mystery to me why Obama thinks that a "secret committee" will do any better than others at reducing our deficit/expenditures.
I don't have a solution either. "However as I tried 'thinking outside of the box,' a few ideas occurred to me:
Our congress was initiated as a part-time functioning body. How about returning to a 6-month function, reducing the cost of congress salaries and all of the ancillary salaries of aides, secretaries, etc.
Shut the building down (or at least parts of it). Think of the heat, air-conditioning, maintenance workers, etc savings. Leave the government workers in place year-round that perform the functions and benefits that the laws already enacted provide for the population.
When the law-makers return, with a 6-month deadline to change or introduce new bills, develop and provide a new budget, etc, they might begin to work together more effectively knowing that there time is limited. They might have less time to "investigate" only necessary congressional hearings.
Recently I read a historical book about the life of Thomas Paine. The most striking descriptions in the book, were about the 'Politics' that were going on when our government was formed. It seems not much has changed over the years, only gotten larger as our world has gotten smaller.

Well, just a few thoughts....

The "kick the can down the road" mentality disgusts me the most. With people who openly disagree with me, at least I know they have some kind of principles I can grapple with. I distrust the politicians equally with the mega-corporations.

Truly, it's long past time for Washington (no matter the "party") to think in terms of what's best for Americans; whether we be elders or babes in arms. However, I'm with brbrsin2 and Jo; the more things change, the more they stay the same--most politicians and mega-corporations seem to have long ago ceased to care for any but themselves!

There must be a sound proof wall that 's surrounding the D.C. Beltway based on what the people are clamoring for and the total non-response from Congress.

USAction/TrueMajority are starting to send out e-mails to plan an Occupy the Capital protest the week of December the 5th. It would be nice if there were a healthy turn out at this.

Why should anyone spend time even thinking about something over which they have no control? Let us wait until we know "the answer" - then we may have a discussion.

Once Baucus was appointed to represent the Ds on the super committee, the fate of SS was sealed if the two factions came to an agreement. The best we can hope for is that they don't come to an agreement and that the gopers renege on the fallback agreement.

One ray of hope, though: whatever comes out of the committee will have to pass the Senate and House, so perhaps it's not too early to start haranguing your local representatives.

The most disturbing and depressing thing about all this talk of cuts is that it's the Democrats who are doing the talking. Who among us ever imagined that our benefits would be threatened from the Democratic side of the aisle?

With a 9% approval rating, we now have a "Rogue Congress" and it must be stopped before it wreaks total havoc on the rights and needs of American citizens. The passing of HR 822 is a clear example of how completely demented our elected officials have become.
The real question is how can we impeach them? Elections don't really work anymore.

The comments to this entry are closed.