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Warren wants to strengthen Social Security, not cut it

While a number of lawmakers and President Obama have suggested cuts to Social Security, Elizabeth Warren says the country should do the opposite.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during a Senate Banking Committee confirmation in Washington, Nov. 14, 2013.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during a Senate Banking Committee confirmation in Washington, Nov. 14, 2013.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Elizabeth Warren argued for the need to strengthen Social Security benefits, now that cuts to the program seem more likely.

“With tens of millions of people more financially stressed as they approach retirement, with more and more people left out of the private retirement security system, and with the economic security of our families unraveling, Social Security is rapidly becoming the only lifeline that millions of seniors have to keep their heads above water,” Warren said. “And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.”

Warren rejected the proposals for adopting chained CPI as a way to measure inflation, which a number of politicians including President Obama have put forward in recent months. Chained CPI fails to keep up with rising costs for seniors, Warren argued, especially as savings and pensions are drying up: “It’s just a fancy way of saying 'cut benefits.'”

The Massachusetts senator’s alternative is CPI-E, a different way to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for the elderly. CPI-E has become popular suggestion among Democrats, a number of whom Warren mentioned in her Senate speech: Sens. Harkin, Begich and Sanders.

The CPI-E measure is meant to be elderly-specific; it does this in large part by factoring in how large a role health care plays in a senior’s life. 

“The call to cut Social Security has an uglier side to it, too,” Warren said. “The Washington Post framed the choice as more children in poverty versus more seniors in poverty. The suggestion that we have become a country where those living in poverty fight each other for a handful of crumbs tossed off the tables of the very wealthy is fundamentally wrong.”

As the right’s insistence on spending cuts and entitlement reform gets louder, Democrats are hoping progressive star Warren can move the conversation left.