In a conference call with reporters today, Sen. Bernie Sanders alerted the American people to the Republican (and some Democrat support) plan to reduce the deficit by cutting veterans benefits.
The change that would bring about the cuts would be a switch in the calculation of COLAs for federal benefit programs like Social Security from the current system to a chained Consumer Price Index (CPI). On the surface, the change seems small. Business Insider explained the Chained CPI, “The C-CPI assumes that consumers are making different choices right now. Because of the economic down-turn, they’re substituting cheaper products for the ones they used to buy (say, going for the cheaper apple versus a more expensive peach at the supermarket, or buying cat food instead of ground beef). It presumes that consumers are effectively changing the real CPI number. Using the C-CPI, rates would re-calibrate every two years according to a reading of consumer spending. And since Social Security is linked to the CPI, it has the potential to reduce social security payments…Since spending on government programs (like social security) will be calculated based on C-CPI (as they are now on CPI), their cost will go down, and people’s benefits will be cut.”
In short, Republicans are trying to push through a benefit cut to veterans, the disabled, and seniors by disguising it as a tweak to the system. Sen, Sanders told reporters, “We do not honor our disabled veterans by cutting their benefits. In my view in this country means anything it means we keep the promises we make to the people who put their lives on the line to defend us.”
Sanders pointed out that under the CPI, a disabled veteran who starts receiving benefits at age 30 would see those benefits reduced by $1,300 a year by the time they reach age 45. This isn’t a one time cut. The cuts would build on each other and get deeper as the recipient ages. To put it another way, people who already have their earning potential limited by age or disability would see their only or main source of income erode over time. The vast majority of these individuals won’t have the ability to make up their lost income through work, so they will sink deeper into poverty.
The move to a Chained CPI is part of Simpson-Bowles and it is being championed by right wing billionaire/anti-Social Security zealot Pete Peterson.
Sen. Sanders said that 99% of Americans have no clue that a Chained CPI would lead to cuts for veterans and Social Security. The good news is that Sen. Sanders has picked up a powerful ally in this fight. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already warned Republicans and a few Senate Democrats not to mess with Social Security. Reid said Social Security should not be part of any deficit reduction plan.
Since the Republicans lost the election, they are going to try to kill earned benefits by seniors and veterans through back door cuts like the Chained CPI.
First, Senate Republicans voted against a job creation program for veterans, before sneaking out of town. After a break for the election, these same Republicans are getting set to return to Washington to resume their fiscal assault on veterans through more deceptive means.
As Sen. Sanders put it, we shouldn’t balance the deficit on the backs of people who lost an arm or a leg and risked their lives for their country. The people who serve our country too often come home with their lives forever changed by war. Our promise to them must be kept. We also made a promise to seniors and the disabled that the benefits that they have paid into, will be there for them.
There are better ways to cut the deficit than on the backs of the veterans, the disabled, and seniors. Romney and Ryan may have lost the election, but the idea that the rich should be asked to do nothing while the poorest among us gives more lives on the Republican congressional caucus.
Even though the election is over, the battle rages on. The fight to keep our promises has just begun. The victory that was achieved in the ballot box must be transformed into a defense and expansion of the values that are held dear.
Congratulations, on winning an election.
The corporate billionaires and plutocrats haven’t rested, so the people must come together once again to stop them.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association