Time to Pour Cold Water on the Chained CPI!

Last week, the Senate voted to block use of the chained CPI, a cost-of-living adjustment that would result in reductions in Social Security benefits. The rest of us can - and should - keep the no-cuts momentum going in D.C. by weighing in with our elected leaders. 

Why keep the momentum going? Because despite the facts that: 1) 32 percent of Americans are poor or low-income, and 2) a clear majority of Americans oppose Social Security cuts, it is not at all clear that Social Security will emerge unscathed (sans cuts) from this year’s budget process. Consider that:

  • The Senate vote was a nonbinding voice vote.
  • Though over 100 House Dems sent a letter (12/12) to President Obama, saying  they were “deeply   opposed” to the chained CPI to cut benefits, what they meant   by “deeply opposed” is not clear: When Representatives Alan Grayson (D-FLA)  and Mark Takano (D-CA) circulated a letter (2/13) stating, we will vote against any …cut to … Social Security benefits – including … cutting the cost of living adjustments,” only 31 House Democrats signed it.
  • As for Republicans in the House and Senate, we know what they want – to shrink Social Security so much that they can drown it in the bath tub.  
  • Mainstream press coverage of this issue appears to be sloppy, biased (pro-cuts), or both. (Example #1:  Repeated references to Social Security as an entitlement program that is driving up the national debt, when in reality it is an earned benefits program prohibited by law from contributing one cent to the debt.  Example 2: The scant mainstream media coverage of Friday’s vote.)
  • President Obama has repeatedly signaled his willingness to make cuts to Social Security.

What is clear: We can expect more warnings from politicians, pundits, and the mainstream press about looming, unspecified threats to our children if we don't make immediate cuts. More claims that it's up to the adults in the room to come to the table… that the only adults in the room are those willing to put all options on the table … that only the adults will make cuts in the spirit of bipartisan shared sacrifice … and that they’ll do it now because we can't keep kicking the can down the road.

I don’t agree with these claims (being “adult” means we must compromise Social Security benefits). We who oppose cuts must be the adults in the room – yes. But we must come to the table, take the water pitcher, turn it upside down, and pour cold water all over every budget option that imposes cuts to benefits. By "pouring cold water," I mean telling both Congress and President Obama in no uncertain terms what Social Security means to us/the people we serve. We can do this by meeting with our representatives and senators, attending town hall events (and speaking up), making phone calls, sending emails, writing letters to the editor, organizing demonstrations - take your pick. But we must act now - and urge others in our communities to follow suit. 

Ghandi was right: Now, more than ever, we must be the adults we wish to see in the room.