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Senator's Denial of News Story Reflects Deep Resistance to "Chained-CPI" Social Security Cut

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, americans, corruption, culture, dishonesty, education, ethics, family, government, law, politics, rights, safety, society, Social Security )

- 1939 days ago -
Here's a "Washington insider" story that could affect every family in the country. Congressional newspaper The Hill reported Wednesday that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was considering using a special parliamentary maneuver to push a budget deal.

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Kit B (276)
Friday January 25, 2013, 6:56 pm
(Image: Social Security cards and cash: unknown)

Here’s a “Washington insider” story that could affect every family in the country. Congressional newspaper The Hill reported Wednesday that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was considering using a special parliamentary maneuver to push a budget deal.

But this wasn’t just another “inside baseball” story, the kind that fascinates policy wonks and bores all other living beings. This story included an explosive paragraph that seemed to suggest that Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, was interested in a deal that included the “chained-CPI” cut to Social Security benefits. It also included cryptic language about “Medicare reform,” words that are often used as Beltway code for raising the eligibility age or other drastic benefit reductions to that program.

While the “chained CPI” is often pitched as a “technical adjustment” or “a more accurate say to measure cost-of-living increases,” it’s neither. The formula is less accurate and less fair than today’s already-inadequate formula for calculating expenses for people on Social Security, and would result in a 3 percent benefit cut for the average senior citizen (considerably more for those who live longer).

After initial calls to Schumer’s office went unreturned, Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future (see disclaimer below) issued a statement that read in part: ”If Sen. Schumer’s proposal was accurately reported, the senator could not be more wrong … Sen. Schumer has previously been a strong opponent of cuts to Social Security. The Campaign for America’s Future reminds him and all Democrats that the chained CPI would mean an immediate cut to current Social Security benefits. These cuts are very unpopular with all Americans, and Democrats should be leading the fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, not helping Republicans accomplish their harmful goals.”

The skepticism in that statement was warranted, since Schumer signed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ letter opposing Social Security “deficit” cuts. Schumer also told the National Press Club last October that ”I don’t think raising the age will happen,” adding: “There’s a lot of opposition to it.”

But advocates for seniors and the disabled and well as progressive groups and individuals have grown accustomed to walkbacks and equivocation from Democrats like President Obama (see “folks won’t even notice ‘em”) on Social Security and Medicare. So the story was credible enough to touch a nerve with advocacy groups, independent activists, and progressive Democratic politicians.

In what seemed to be a reaction to the story, the Congressional Progressive Caucus issued a statement immediately afterward entitled “CPC Rejects Proposed Cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.” “Using the chained CPI to reduce cost of living adjustments is a benefit cut that middle class Americans cannot afford,” it read. “Whether pursued through the budget process or any other means, we will do everything in our power to oppose these cuts. The American public has been clear – they want us to defend and strengthen Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. We have stood with them throughout this process, and we continue to stand with them.”

Schumer staffers also reportedly made at least two off-the-record calls to progressive groups strongly denying the story. By this time Sen. Schumer had been the target of some negative comments from activists, as well as tweets like the one which read “@ChuckSchumer Chained CPI for#SocialSecurity is a benefit cut. We paid for your gov pension.” (The tweet, like many of those opposing the chained CPI, used the hashtag #noSocSecCuts.)

As it turns out, Schumer apparently never said it. At 6 p.m. Thursday evening The Hill modified its article to include a paragraph that read: “Schumer’s office does not support the idea of fast-tracking Medicare cuts or the chained-CPI formula for Social Security through a budget resolution, proposals that Republicans would likely support. A Schumer aide noted that a reconciliation package could not make cuts to Social Security.”

But activists, progressives, and independent groups remain on full alert. This denial is welcome, but it’s based on procedural rules and is not a statement of unequivocal opposition to these reductions. Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue can expect the fierce resistance to the chained CPI and all other benefit cuts to continue.

This is partly the story of a poorly-worded paragraph on a volatile topic. But it’s primarily an economic and political story, not a media one. The fiery response from House progressives and outside groups demonstrates that there is growing and organized resistance to the chained-CPI. The prompt clarification from Schumer’s office, as reported in The Hill, shows that an increasing awareness among leading Democrats that the idea is politically toxic.

That demonstrates keen survival instincts, among other things. After two years of benefit-cutting hints from the White House, by 2010 the Democratic Party had squandered a 25-point lead in public confidence on the question “Who do you trust will do a better job handling Social Security?” At that point President Obama was trusted by only 26 percent of Americans to protect the program – a lower figure than George W. Bush! (Bush tried to privatize the program in 2005.)

Dems were able to restore much of that confidence, thanks both to the President’s eloquence and the radical ideas in the Ryan/Romney budget plan. But memories of this painful fall, and the resulting loss of the House of Representatives, has helped create a hair-trigger sensitivity toward the chained CPI among Congressional Dems – most of whom will, unlike the President, be running for office again. Advocacy groups clearly intend to remind them of that fact.

This story also shows that the fight to protect Social Security benefits is far from over, and that both public opinion and advocacy groups are playing an active role in the battle. It illustrates the dangers Democrats face when they don’t clearly distance themselves from the chained CPI, or from other cuts to Social Security or Medicare. They can expect increasing pressure to state their opposition to these cuts in unequivocal terms, as both Sen. Sanders and Rep. Hank Johnson have done, in the weeks and months to come.

(Disclaimer/conflict of interest note: I am a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future and work closely with Social Security Works, an advocacy organization for seniors, disabled, children, and all Americans who currently receive Social Security benefits or are likely to in the future. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much everybody.)

By: Richard Eskow | Campaign for America's Future |

Yvonne White (229)
Friday January 25, 2013, 7:03 pm
"...This is partly the story of a poorly-worded paragraph on a volatile topic. But it’s primarily an economic and political story, not a media one. The fiery response from House progressives and outside groups demonstrates that there is growing and organized resistance to the chained-CPI. The prompt clarification from Schumer’s office, as reported in The Hill, shows that an increasing awareness among leading Democrats that the idea is politically toxic..." They had Better buy a clue!;)


Yvonne White (229)
Friday January 25, 2013, 7:05 pm
Care2 has chained the Green Stars, or you would be swimming in them, Kit!..;)

JL A (281)
Friday January 25, 2013, 8:36 pm
I'm glad the story got revised--wish they could have got it right the first time.

Caitlin M (104)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 5:48 am
Did the article have to be so long before it said...'Never mind!' I'm glad to see that there is reported "growing and organized resistance to the chained-CPI" finally. After all the times the President and others (including the Republicans) have promised to the American people that the presently retired and near-retired won't be touched by the "reforms" to SS or Medicare, for anyone to espouse immediately the chained-CPI plan is the height of scurrilousness...never mind just plain dishonest. I'm distressed that this plan was even mentioned by the President as a possibility. I hope since his second term has begun that he won't go along with the idea. It is very good to know that there's been sufficient response from the public to discourage this possibility. We've got to make sure our representatives know how we feel by calling/emailing/writing them. Then, if they don't vote as we want them to, we must kick them out of office!!! We must not be afraid that seniority is so valuable that we accept very poor behavior from our reps in Congress. Perhaps it's time to kick them all out (except perhaps Bernie Sanders and a FEW others) and start over. Thanks, Kit, for bringing us some good news and a reminder of how important it is to make our wishes known.

Daniel Partlow (179)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 6:09 am
Bad enough the repugs arte out to get us, now some sneaky underhanded demos are at it too. They are so anxious to cut our benefits (ones we've paid to all our working lives!!!) why don't they give themselves a big pay cut instead. And give back some of the money they are stealing from us for nuthin!!!

Barbara K (60)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 6:25 am
There would be nothing to gain by using SS as a pawn for the budget. It is money that workers pay in to a Special SS Fund. It does not go to the general fund and the money is invested in US Bonds. The Rs want us to think they can cut it. How? It is money that comes out of the SS Fund, not the general fund. I don't believe they have jurisdiction over the SS fund, that by the way is in no danger whatever. The Rs spread their lies to think it is gone, but that is not the truth. It could be even better by removing the cap and have us pay into it all year every year instead of a set amount per year. Thanks, my friend, for the post.

Mike M (40)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 9:12 am
The bunch in DC just want their masters to pat their little heads and give them special treats for destroying US system

. (0)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 9:48 am
Okay, vet your stories before you print them please Mr. & Mrs. Media. Then again there might just be a smoldering fire waiting to burst forth. The top echelons in both parties after all do serve the same masters. Each uses different methods to divide and conquer the nation so that the elites who control the six Mega Corporations and their global subsidiaries may fulfill their plan of a two tier demographic situation. They are not satisfied with 90% of all the global wealth and resources. They want to reinstitute the divine right of kings ruling over a world of indentured wage serfs/slaves. Yes, it may just be an unfounded conspiracy but the more I read and watch history unfold the more I begin to understand. Then again maybe I'm just an old fool.

Sheryl G (363)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 9:58 am
A society that takes from it's Elders is a sick society. The Elders have been the workers and contributors of the society all their lives, now they deserve to finish their years in peace and comfort. Many have only Social Security to depend upon as their sole income and most of those are women who have a smaller Social Security check as they took time out to raise families and care for their Elders. This once more falls more heavily on women and falls heavily on all of both sexes who are at their most vunerable time in life.

Bernie Sanders, who founded the Senate's Defend Social Security Caucus and currently serves as its chairman, has launched a petition and is leading a national coalition of various interest groups whose mission is to reject legislative efforts to scale back benefits for seniors.

"Contrary to some claims, Social Security is not the cause of our nation's deficit problem. Not only does the program operate independently, but it is prohibited from borrowing," part of the letter reads. "Even though Social Security operates in a fiscally responsible manner, some still advocate deep benefit cuts and seem convinced that Social Security hands out lavish welfare checks. But Social Security is not welfare. Seniors earned their benefits by working hard and paying into the system." said, Bernie Sanders

To sign the petition mentioned in my commment:
Stop Dismantling Social Security and Medicare


Kit B (276)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 11:06 am

I'm not so sure that this should be seen as correction of a mistake. I decided to use this because, it just might be a very good idea to keep our eyes and ears fixed on the Senate and House. That anyone, even Schumer might say one thing while doing another should not surprise any one that pays attention to the machinations in Washington DC.

Nancy M (197)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 11:49 am
Personally I have never cared for him. Kit- you may be correct about that.

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 2:27 pm
Noted. Thanks, Kit. Yes, once they know we have our multitude of eyes on them, they like to "clarify" comments and statements.
Thanks to Dandelion for the petition link....signed.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 3:49 pm
Same ole, same ole and the song remains the same.

Margery Coffey (8)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 4:28 pm
This is just another reason why Americans that want democracy have to watch their so-called representatives in both houses of Congress and when they do something nasty and underhanded, shout it to the hill tops. Make them face their crimes against humanity.

Colleen L (3)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 8:23 pm
It amazes me on how much they want to continue to take away and play with our minds regarding something that they have promised hard working people all of their life. Just because these politician's don't have to worrry about any of it, because they are guarenteed their sources paid medical and pension pay for the rest of their liferime. They make me so angry with these games. I wish for some reason their pension program would be cut, just to see how much they'd all cry!! Thanks Dandelion for the petition link, I signed it. Thanks Kit

Jaime A (52)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 9:12 pm

Terrie W (798)
Sunday January 27, 2013, 4:15 pm
Signed and shared the petition. Trust on one in DC. Watch and listen to them all the time. They only way to bend them to OUR will is to petition and call and email and text and write on their FB pages. If enough of us do that all the time, they know they cannot do certain things without not having a cushy job in 2014/2016.

marie C (163)
Sunday January 27, 2013, 5:40 pm
Surprised I was able to sign Dandelions petition My secret is using ip code 12345 from UK somehow it goes through for anyone else from UK who wants to sign
Thanks for posting Kit

Sheryl G (363)
Sunday January 27, 2013, 5:52 pm
You cannot currently send a star to marie because you have done so within the last week.
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