With President Obama’s budget due early next month, many progressives in and out of congress are already vehemently pushing against one potential line in the document. Social Security cuts, in the form of “chained CPI”, have been included in Obama’s budget several times in the past, and are expected to show up on the new one as well. Chained CPI would change how the government calculates inflation, which would cause a slower rate of growth in Social Security benefits. Opponents of the policy say that the elderly already face a different sort of inflation, one which is driven largely by spending on out-of-pocket health care. Last years chained CPI proposal would take almost $10K in cumulative benefits from an average 85-year-old on Social Security. Progressives think that benefits for the elderly need to be expanded, not cut.
Sixteen senators asked the president not to include the cuts in his budget, while progressive activists are aggressively urging progressives to protest to the White House against chained CPI. This year, progressives have already dealt with the $8.6 billion cut in food stamps as well as Congress’s failure to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. With the economic downturn, liberals are adamant that they can’t accept budget cuts to Social Security as well.
Many say that a strategic element is in play here, with Obama willing to make chained CPI a concession in exchange for increased tax revenue to use on spending. Progressives see it differently- in an election year during which immigration reform will be the main issue, the chances of Congress passing measures of entitlements and new spending are slim to none.
By including chained CPI year after year, progressives think Democrats may be mainstreaming the idea of making pre-concessions, making eventual benefit reductions inevitable.
Kenneth G. Marks has been practicing personal injury law since he was admitted to the California Bar in 1981. www.KmarksLaw.com