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There Must be a Better Way to Compromise Than By Bringing Fiscal Harm to Seniors


I don’t know why progressives are all verklempt over President Obama defying many in his own party and shafting the really old folks out of about a grand a year (at a very advanced age) in a Social Security inflation adjustment called chained CPI (Consumer Price Index). It’s nothing new. The president has been dangling that carrot in front of Speaker Boehner for months and the idea, itself, goes back several years. Back in mid-December, Press Secretary Jay Carney said “Let’s be clear. This is something the Republicans have asked for, and as part of an effort to find common ground with the Republicans, the president has agreed to put this in his proposal.” Other government programs will also be affected. Senator Sherrod Brown called the idea “terrible.”

So the right-wingers have dug their way into entitlements. If approved this proposal is just the beginning of unraveling great sections of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. As far as the specifics of the latest plan, they’re pretty simple. Instead of basing cost of living adjustments (COLA) on urban and clerical worker wages (CPI-W) for social security recipients, pencil pushers will base COLA’s on the far more restrictive option of the chained CPI essentially predicated on prices and consumer consumption. Benefits will go down. So 85-year-olds will get less per SS check with the switch adding up to a total loss of $1,000 per year. AARP estimates that a 92-year-old would lose 8% of his or her benefits. Minimal Medicare spending cuts are also in the offing, mostly in payments to pharmas and providers not to mention a modest tax increase for the middle-class over time.

I don’t know what the full details of Obama’s chained CPI nonsense are going to be at the April 10th unveiling, but if they’re anything like his December offering, things get confusing. This is because your benefits revert back to the old CIP-W measuring stick after 20 years on SS. I assume that’s full social security, so you’d only be in your mid-80’s when you get back what shouldn’t have been taken away in the first place. Since the latest (2012) CIA figures on life-expectancy peg men at 76, women at 81 and a combined average of 78, the impact of that largess will pretty much be moot. We’ll see what direction the plan takes within the week.

The far-right has finally dragooned the president into a huge propaganda point for 2014 and beyond. The House will vote down this God-awful idea at first opportunity because of inclusions of unacceptable revenue-raising clauses and some other expenditures that make the president look good. But the right got one thing they wanted for 2014; a political talking point that Democratic candidates will be hard pressed to refute. A Republican candidate for the House slithers into a Town Hall meeting and hammers home the point that “Yes, the Democrats, in lock step behind their uncaring president, actually proposed taking away a percentage of hard-earned social security benefits; an entitlement you or your loved ones earned over many decades of hard work. So deserving Americans who love their country and their God and worked their tails off to preserve our liberty and freedom are seeing a president and his party turn their backs on them.”

“It’s like robbing your grandpa of $1,000 a year at gunpoint. Obama’s proposal is disgusting and doesn’t belong in the moral civics of our great country (wild hoots, whistles and applause).”

There you go. The Republican doesn’t need to bother with one more sentence. He/she can now plunge into the crowd and mingle to comments like, “God bless you. God brought you to us just in the nick of time.” Final election day tally; God’s chosen 64%; hapless Democrat 36%. Do you really think this helps Stephen Colbert’s sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch in her run against Mark Sanford in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District?

Democrats can effectively counter with a dramatic increase in veteran’s benefits aimed at tackling the very serious backlog problem. Obama wants to plug $63.5 billion into vets medical care and assorted research and technology according to the AP. An estimated 600,000 disability claims (70% of the total) have been awaiting action for more than 125 days. There are also tax credit sweeteners for employers hiring unemployed vets.

Mental health services and pre-school education will also see budget increases.

The vote in the Colbert Busch race will be the canary in the coal mine for the impact of Obama’s monumentally ill-advised CPI proposal vs the positives of his vet and mental health actions. Local issues will certainly play into the final result as well. The chain-CPI could be possibly be the tipping point in losing a race she had an outside chance to win. I should emphasis that in the world of punditry, there are sincere predictions that you hope, with all your heart, to lose. This is one of them. I would love to see Colbert Busch take measure of Sanford. My head, especially in light of the latest Obama plan to be released less than a month distant from the Colbert Busch/Sanford election, tells me differently.

Speaking of the Palmetto state, the power player’s anointed State Democratic Party Chairman, Jaime Harrison, who is running unopposed at the May 4 state convention, is a lobbyist for the Podesta Group. I wrote about their deep Republican and multinational connections recently. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta, is a full-on supporter of changing the CPI-W to the chained CPI, joining right-wing brethren at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

And the beat goes on.

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