Progressive, Labor Leaders United Against Social Security Chained CPI

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka pressed their opposition to President Obama’s proposed chained-CPI change to Social Security benefits at a Thursday afternoon news conference, denouncing it as a cut in benefits for those who need the social safety net the most.

Fifteen members of Congress, as well as around 45 supporters and members of the press, gathered on the southeast Capitol lawn. ““We are here to represent is the tens of millions of Americans who are saying that at a time we have more wealth and income inequality in this country than in any time since the 1920s, do not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“Social Security did not cause nor did it add to the deficit in any way. Chained CPI is some economist’s fancy way of weakening Social Security’s most important protections. This protects the purchasing power of seniors, it prevents seniors from losing economic ground each and every year,” said Trumka.

Among those who joined Sanders and Trumka were Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; and the Leadership Conference on Civil Right’s Nancy Zirkin.

As I wrote on Tuesday, the chained CPI is a change in the cost-of-living allowance that would change how much Social Security recipients receive drastically. It would cut nearly $700 for a 75-year-old retiree and more than $1,600 for a 95-year-old retiree per year. While supporters of the chained CPI measure say that it is a more accurate way to determine costs of living, in actuality it is not representative of many of the items that the elderly purchase. It is also tantamount to a middle-class tax hike, with 70 percent of the increased taxes that come with the bill hitting those in the middle class.

“Working Americans and retirees shouldn’t be treated like bargaining chips or told to pick up the tab for corporate tax loopholes,” Grijalva said.

“When we are losing a hundred billion every year in taxes because corporations are stashing profits overseas, there are ways to deal with deficit reduction that are fair,” Sanders said. “I don’t know what kind of country we live in when we think we are going to balance the budget on the backs of the men and women who have lost their arms and legs and their eyesight defending this country. We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of the disabled.”

“They talk about cutting entitlement. Social Security is not an entitlement, it is an earned benefit; people pay into it their whole lives,” Harkin said. “How about cutting the tax break entitlements on corporations? That’s how we can save some real money. The people that this hurts the most are the last that ought to be hit by changes.”

“In an effort to compromise with Republicans, the President’s budget contains a wrongheaded provision that extracts revenues from middle class pocketbooks instead of wealthy corporate interests,” Zirkin said.

“Instead of supporting policies that harm seniors, let’s get back to the real problems facing this country—creating 21st century jobs in America, confronting climate change and growing income inequality, and making sure seniors have an adequate retirement on which to live,” said Ellison. “Let’s oppose the chained CPI.”

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