Chained CPI would mean a shift in the way inflation and cost of living increases are factored into yearly growth in Social Security and disability benefits. Chained CPI would enact a measurement of inflation that has increased at 0.3 percentage points less than the current measure annually, lowering benefits for all Social Security recipients incrementally. To make matters worse, even current methods to calculate inflation do not factor in rising medical costs, on which the elderly spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes.
West, along with another rally member, hand-delivered the petitions to the senators’ representatives above Daley Plaza at 230 S. Dearborn Street. A staffer in Senator Kirk’s office accepted the documents without allowing for further discussion. In Durbin’s office, however, West spoke with a representative whom she described as highly receptive and who assured her Durbin does not support any cuts to Social Security.
Once downstairs, her report was met was immediate skepticism from Welch and others in the group who said that the administration and senators who support the chained CPI do not refer to that action as a cut in order to sidestep the term’s stigma through semantics.
“I had been feeling very hopeful about the conversation, and then when we went downstairs and heard potentially it was doublespeak, I felt deflated,” West said. “I don’t even know how we’re having that conversation; I’m completely blindsided. The idea that a democratic president would undermine the foundational democratic policy that his party was founded on has completely deflated me.”
Connie Bacon was ready for doublespeak, or potentially, complete dismissal when her colleagues ascended to deliver the lengthy documents. She’s been on Social Security since a bike accident in 2008 forced her to leave a position she’d held for 13 years as an adjunct professor at a liberal arts college. With medical bills (and old student loans) totaling three times her salary, Bacon checked into a homeless shelter in 2010. She said her shame was crippling.
“My demographic is especially good at hiding,” Bacon told Truthout on Daley Plaza. “If a former or potential employer were to see me exposed as ‘long-term unemployed,’ or living in a shelter, or having to access my Social Security Insurance, I would be at risk of losing a potential job or a reference. The stigma is that real, that damaging, that internalized. It’s a very efficient silencer.”
Bacon was left in dire financial straights – having to pay $30,000 out of pocket for physical therapy and other costs related to her injury, which anyone riding a bike in a big city could just as easily have sustained. Before the accident she worked at an after-school art program and made campaign signs during the president’s campaign for reelection with the kids.
“I wish I had those posters to send to him now,” Bacon said solemnly.
Disability beneficiaries like Bacon typically start receiving Social Security benefits much earlier than do average Americans, rendering this population particularly vulnerable to chained CPI cuts, which metastasize over time. Many Americans depend on Social Security coverage for medical insurance and to pay the rent, and paid taxes all their working lives to safeguard that option.
Military personnel have urged Congress to allow for the retirement of fleets of useless C-5A transport planes. These jets are too expensive to use but require regular maintenance whether or not they ever make it airborne.
According to Associated Press interviews with military officials, the Navy and Air Force are spending approximately $5 billion to drive these aircraft around bases to make sure the tires aren’t rotting.
What’s more, the Navy planned to retire seven Navy cruisers earlier this year, which would have amounted to $4.3 billion in savings, but Congress insists on keeping the ships sea-ready and has added money to the military budget to pay for it, all the while threatening a presently solvent social safety net on which millions rely.
Pollack said it is irresponsible to threaten Social Security because too many Americans rely on those benefits for retirement. The older recipients get, the more they’d lose, and they’d still be faced with increased medical costs and shrinking savings.
“[Social Security] is the absolute foundation of most Americans’ retirement; they’re dependent,” Pollack told Truthout in a phone interview. “We have to fix it, but we have to fix it in a way that does not reduce people’s retirement security when we know that everything else in the American economy is reducing it.”
Pollack added that lifting the cap on taxable income from $113, 700 would be a tenable fix and would avoid adding to pressures on the poor, elderly, and those currently receiving disability.
Meanwhile, the president’s budget includes $350 billion in cuts to Medicare, $19 billion dollars from Medicaid, and tens of millions from the heating assistance program for low-income Americans (the last cut is a potential cause of health complications).