Tell Your Senators to Defend Social Security and Medicare by Supporting These Amendments

Richard Eskow

This week two Senate budget amendments could affect the future of everybody reading these words – presuming we live long enough to reach our retirement years.

That’s not an overstatement:  The Sanders-Harkin-Hirono Amendment would prevent the government from cutting Social Security benefits, an idea which both sides in the “Grand Bargain” negotiations seem to like far too much for comfort. The Stabenow Amendment would ban the privatization of the Medicare system through the Ryan/Republican “voucher” scheme.*

These amendments would protect everyone’s financial and physical health during our senior years, while also protecting disabled veterans and other disabled Americans.  For all of our sakes, tell your Senators to support them.

We won’t belabor the arguments against the “chained CPI,” since we and others have made that argument so many times. Here’s one of our write-ups about it. Here’s Dean Baker’s latest take n the subject, courtesy of the Roosevelt Institute. And here’s a write-up from Lawrence Mishel, head of the Economic Policy Institute. (The Strengthen Social Security campaign has even more info.)

The chained-CPI sales pitch often comes with an offer to increase benefits to “protect” the poorest of the elderly, as if it were moral to finance antipoverty programs by taking benefits away from struggling seniors. But, as Mishel points out, this contradicts the argument that the chained CPI is a “more accurate” way to measure inflation. If that were true we wouldn’t need to protect anyone.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren summed it up pretty well, as she is wont to do: “‘Chained CPI’ is just a fancy way to say ‘cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled, and orphans. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle-class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.”

Contrast Sen. Warren’s moral and rhetorical clarity with the White House’s decision to label the chained-CPI cut the “superlative CPI” measure – as if all those old people are drowning in unneeded cash.

As for the voucher idea, here’s an argument against it from Baker, who notes that it would force seniors to spend most of their income on medical care.

The GOP’s Ryan voucher plan eliminates Medicare as we know it. Here’s our “Alice in Voucherland” piece responding to the the hallucinogenic arguments that say it doesn’t. There’s a lot of double-talk in the looking-glass world of Medicare and Social Security, but here’s the bottom line:  One bill makes you larger and one bill makes you small.

Which gets us to these amendments, which will make your senior years “larger” – and safer.  Both could come up for a vote at any time. (In fact, Sanders was on the floor taking about the chained-CPI amendment today.)

They need your support. As Robert Reich says, the “pre-concessions” on Medicare and Social Security we’ve seen from the President and Leader Pelosi are “tantamount to accepting the most insidious and dishonest of all Republican claims: That for too long most Americans have been living beyond their means.”

These cuts would be a political blunder for Democrats, a policy failure for the government, and a personal disaster for millions of Americans. If you agree, phone or email your Senators and tell them to vote “yes” on the Stabenow and Sanders-Harkin-Hirono amendments.

*(UPDATE: The Stabenow amendment was introduced late last night and passed. The vote was 98-3.)

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