Of course, President Obama never said he would leave Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security untouched, so it’s not a surprise he’s endorsing chained CPI or that he’s making overatures to Tea Partiers about trimming the deficit over the next 3 years. What is surprising is that the president seems to be giving up so much ground after winning re-election on refusing to sacrifice the Big 3 to deficit hawks. The Republicans were the ones who put up a big debt clock during the 2012 convention.
Even the latest poll shows 64% of Americans think job creation is more important than cutting the deficit. But today, the president emphasized deficit reduction and endorsed changes to Social Security that will trickle down to veterans benefits and food stamps. This stance is not what got the president re-elected, and it probably won’t win over the Republicans (who said “no” to the proposed budget even before the president announced it) anyway.
Yes, the Social Security reform known as chained CPI would help cut the deficit, but it might do it on the backs of the elderly, vets and working families. At its core, chained CPI is just a kinder, gentler cost -of-living adjustment and as the AARP points out, chained CPI would take less out of everyone’s Social Security payments over the long-term. Here’s the AARP’s hypothetical:
Look at it this way: The COLA for this year was 1.7 percent. If your monthly Social Security check was $1,250 last year, it increased to $1,271.25 this year.
With the chained CPI, you would be getting $1,267.50 — or $3.75 less a month and $45 less a year. Again, that might not seem like a big reduction, but if the COLA is the same next year, the difference increases to $7.61 a month and $91.32 for the year.
If you live to age 92, the AARP says you could be losing a full month of income every year. Experts who dig into these numbers, like the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, say chained CPI is fine if Congress passes nuanced protections for the very old and very poor. When was the last time Republicans approved any nuanced protections for the poor? Do you think Rep. Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell will carefully and thoughtfully consider changes to Social Security when it could reduce the deficit (which their party keeps talking about) in the short-term?
President Obama is demonstrating he can compromise by offering chained CPI and asking Congress to include protections for the elderly and the poor. But what’s keeping Republicans from taking the president up on his offer and passing the core cuts without considering the most vulnerable Americans in the process? It’s time for Democrats to stand their ground no matter how much the deficit savings thrill a small group of Tea Party Republicans.