Save Social Security – Now and Always

With reports the President is poised to force a deal that would cut Social Security benefits through the chained CPI, it may be the time for the Left to show its power as effectively as the Tea Party. The GOP may have saved us with their usual stubbornness, but it’s not clear how long that will hold.

Some statements from Social Security Works and allies:

“Washington politicians need to understand that the so-called chained-CPI is a cruel cut, falling hardest on the oldest of the old, those disabled at the youngest ages and the poorest of the poor. The cut is the value of a week’s worth of food each and every month for the typical 80 year old widow; nearly two weeks each month, if she survives to age 95. A cruel cut so that the richest two percent do not have to pay an extra three pennies of taxes on dollars of income in excess of $250,000. Politicians can talk about exemptions and bump-ups to soften the blow to the most vulnerable, but no one should be fooled by that lipstick on a pig, the choice is stark: substantial reductions in the incomes of widows, orphans, veterans, the poor or slightly higher taxes for Wall Street CEOs. “

Nancy Altman, founding co-director, Social Security Works

“President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Leader Pelosi can call their proposed changes to the COLA whatever they want — a “tweak,” a “technical” fix, or, as Speaker Pelosi just claimed, a way to “strengthen” Social Security. But the American people will not be fooled. They know it is a cut for veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities. And they know it violates promises made just a few months ago that the Social Security benefits of today’s seniors and people with disabilities would not be cut.”

Eric Kingson Co-chair, Strengthen Social Security Coalition

As President Obama reportedly is poised to bow to outrageous Republican demands to balance the federal budget on the backs of middle-class and lower-income families, NOW urges Congress to reject this unjust path.

The president is reported to be willing to support cruel cuts in Social Security benefits in the form of a “Chained CPI,” a more stingy formula for calculating cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits (the COLA), in order to avoid going over the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Using the Chained CPI to calculate the Social Security COLA would reduce the value of benefits by about 0.3 percent each year. That doesn’t look like a lot, but it really adds up over time. According to the National Women’s Law Center, by the time a woman reaches 80, the cut in the value of her benefits would be equivalent to the cost of a week’s worth of groceries each month. By 95, it’s about two weeks.

Adding insult to injury, the Chained CPI is a less accurate measure of the actual inflation faced by retirees because it ignores their higher health care expenses.

The Chained CPI particularly hurts women because they live longer than men on average and, after a lifetime of unequal pay, have less savings for retirement and rely more heavily on Social Security to make ends meet.

The hope that conceding to extremists on the Chained CPI will somehow protect against demands for cuts in Medicare and Medicaid is dangerously unwise. Even though Republicans are threatening to use the debt ceiling to get their way, we know from experience that giving in to hostage takers doesn’t make us safer or better off — it just emboldens them for the next round.

The Chained CPI is a bad deal for women. NOW calls on all in Congress who campaigned on promises of protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to honor your promise and reject this deal.

Statement of National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill

“Millions of seniors would suffer cuts in Social Security from a plan under consideration in on-going budget talks in Washington. The Alliance for Retired Americans strongly opposes this badly-flawed proposal to change how inflation is measured in determining Social Security Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLA).

“Looking past the policy jargon and false claims about ‘technical corrections,’ the hard truth is that seniors would lose some of the Social Security benefits they have earned, paid for, and need to get by each month. For example, under what is coldly labeled as the “chained CPI,” a worker retiring in 2011 at age 65 would lose over $6,000 over 15 years.

“The faulty logic of this proposed change assumes that under a lower COLA consumers could simply choose a cheaper substitute for an intended purchase. However, for seniors health care costs consume a vast amount of their income. These costs cannot simply be substituted with a cheaper version. For example, a senior cannot try to save money by opting for a double bypass surgery instead of a triple bypass.

“Not only is this a terribly harmful policy choice, but it has no place in the budget talks. Social Security has not added one penny to our budget deficit. We cannot ask workers and retirees to pay the price for a problem they did not create.

“We must reject the chained-CPI. And we must change our badly-flawed tax system, one that regularly puts Social Security at risk to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy. It’s long past time that we stop asking those with the least to sacrifice the most.”