[EDITORIAL NOTE: The first in an occasional series of letters from Crabby Old Lady to the president about issues of interest to elders.]
Crabby Old Lady wonders if you have any idea how panicked she gets every time you mention chained CPI. Here's what your spokesman, Jay Charney, said last Friday at the daily press briefing that made her knees buckle: [the emphasis is Crabby's]:
”[The president] has put forward a technical change as part of a big deal - and it’s on the table - that he put forward to the Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House, by the way, walked away from that deal...
“But as part of that deal, the technical change in the so-called CPI is possible in his own offer as part of a big deal.”
Oh, Mr. President, this is no minor technical change. It takes money out of current Social Security beneficiaries' pockets. Did you get that part? CURRENT beneficiaries' – retired people no longer working who have no way to make up the difference.
Not even Simpson/Bowles, Pete Peterson and Paul Ryan – people whose most fervid dream is to kill Social Security - have gone that far (and Crabby has no doubt they are happy to let you take the flak for it instead of them).
Further, with House Speaker John Boehner so far rejecting your chained CPI offer, you, sir, have become the biggest threat to old people in America.
Mr. President, is it possible you do not understand what chained CPI is or how it will affect elders for the rest of our lives?
Crabby Old Lady suspects you may not because the alternative is for her to believe you think it's a good idea for millions of old people who barely get by now to live on even less money in the future.
Because it would panic Crabby even more than the phrase “chained cpi” does to think the second explanation is true, she has here for you a short video from Representative Keith Eliison showing, in language and graphics a fifth grader can understand, what chained CPI is:
Does that make it more clear for you, Mr. President? Chained CPI means a lot of old people will skip meals and medication that they barely afford now.
You and your man, Jay Carney, talk a lot about “shared sacrifice” but how much more can elders give? Let Crabby cite you some facts:
ITEM: Social Security is a closed system. It is not possible for it to contribute to the deficit. Not one penny. You're a smart guy; you must know that. Right? If so, how could you include Social Security in any kind of budget package? If not, I am ashamed of you.
Oh, and by the way, Social security is not – as you keep calling it – an “entitlement.” Americans pay for it out of their paychecks every week of every year of every decade they are employed. It is not welfare. So please start calling Social Security what it is, an earned benefit.
ITEM: Now. The average Social Security payment is $1230 a month. Do you know that? And don't forget that $100 comes off the top of that benefit for Medicare Part B so it's really only $1130 per month – not even $300 a week for rent/mortgage, utilities, food, medical expenses and everything else.
And that's average, that $1100. A lot of old people have less.
ITEM: For one-quarter of elder beneficiaries (24 percent), Social Security is their sole source of income.
ITEM: For 36 percent of elder beneficiaries, Social Security is more than 90 percent of their income.
ITEM: Even higher percentages of minorites rely on Social Security for all or most of their income. Here is a chart about that from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
ITEM: Many current Social Security beneficiaries were thrown out of work when the economy collapsed five years ago and have never worked again. That means they did not pay into Social Security during that time which has lowered their benefit. Forever.
ITEM: For many of those layed-off, elder workers, their only way to survive was to take early Social Security as soon as they were eligible at age 62, another decrease in their benefit. Forever.
ITEM: Like workers of all ages, most elder workers who managed to find jobs since the collapse are earning half and even less of their previous salaries. Again, less money into their SSA accounts and therefore, lower benefits. Forever.
ITEM: The financial collapse decimated older workers' and elders' savings – there have been estimates of $2 trillion lost just for elders.
Crabby Old Lady was one of them – 40 percent of her small nest egg gone never to be seen again because Crabby (and millions of other elders) don't trust high-yield investments not to tank again. Safer savings alternatives no longer pay any interest at all.
ITEM: Some of the people who want to cut Social Security tell old people to get a job. Any job. Huh? Pay attention, Mr. President: There's this little problem people like to pretend doesn't exist called age discrimination.
Yes, it's illegal in the workplace but no one enforces the law and anyone older than 50 knows that look on the face a hiring manager who, while being vaguely polite, has no intention of hiring an “old person.”
ITEM: Further, there is no way to know how many old people lost their homes to those criminal banks your administration has not prosecuted. Maybe a 35-year-old will be able to buy a home again some day for their old age, but no old person can.
So, Mr. share-the-burden President, elders are already drained dry. We have lost our jobs, our savings, our homes and our Social Security benefits have already been slashed by the recession.
And now you want us to give even more via chained CPI? Oof – it feels like a sucker punch in the gut to 71-year-old Crabby every time she says the phrase.
Mr. President, old folks have no more to give.
If all this doesn't convince you, maybe the fact that pretty much every person in America disagrees with you will.
Here's a chart of a poll from Pew taken just last month showing that 87 percent (!) of Americans believe Social Security should either be increased or stay the same. Only 10 percent want to reduce it.
Mr. President, nobody ever got rich on Social Security but a whole lot of people who earned this benefit would be poorer with chained CPI. You need to withdraw this terrible idea and fight with all your executive power against any Social Security cut proposals from others. It's the only right thing to do.
Crabby Old Lady
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: Who Could It Have Been?