Why Chained CPI is a “catfood proposal”

As we reported, Chained CPI is a benefit cut to Social Security, and Obama has offered it to Boehner as his half of the mutual sacred-lamb sacrifice. (What does Social Security have to with the deficit? Nothing. But Social Security is the pony Pete Peterson wants for Christmas, and Obama wants to give it to him.)

Obama has offered Chained CPI; what does that mean?

First, a reaction from 50,000 feet. Nancy Altman from SocialSecurityWorks (my emphasis and paragraphing throughout):

“This is a cut affecting every single beneficiary — widows, orphans, people with disabilities and many others.  It is a cut which hurts the most those who are most vulnerable: the oldest of the old, those disabled at the youngest ages, and the poorest of the poor.

Perhaps fittingly, this will be done during the holiday season, when the American people are distracted,” Nancy Altman, the founding co-director of the advocacy group Social Security Works said in a statement.

She didn’t mention veterans, but she could have. And Joan McCarter at DailyKos:

Christmas comes early for Boehner

Merry Christmas, Mr. Boehner. Your stocking just got stuffed with concessions on tax rate increases, increased spending cuts, and a Democratic president doing what no other Democrat has ever done, cutting Social Security benefits. And it’s still not enough for you.

Even though it came from a president who just won a huge election with a mandate on those very things: a hard line in the sand on ending tax breaks for the top two percent, and protecting all of the middle class, including seniors.

In other words, clear post-election “treachery” from Obama — but not treachery enough for Boehner. He wants a saddle on that pony. (Got a saddle, Mr. Obama? The Pete Peterson Ranch probably has a spare you can borrow.)

The numbers on Chained CPI, how much damage it will do

And now to the details. Here’s one look at what Obama is offering to do to you:

As part of deficit-reduction negotiations, some policy makers have proposed switching to the chained consumer price index (CPI) to calculate the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and other programs.

The chained CPI would lower the annual COLA, reducing the value of Social Security benefits more and more over time. It is not a more accurate measure of inflation for the elderly – and it would be especially harmful to women, because on average they live longer than men, rely more on income from Social Security, and are already more likely to be poor.

And here’s some drill-down from the folks at StrengthenSocialSecurity.org:

[Chained CPI] would do real damage by changing the formula used to calculate the COLA. Here’s what you need to know about it:

  • It’s a benefit cut. It’s not some minor technical change to the COLA. It’s a real cut to the benefits you have earned every year into the future.
  • It cuts benefits more with every passing year. After 10 years, your benefits would be cut by about $500 a year for the average retiree. After 20 years, your benefits would be cut by about $1,000 a year.
  • It hits today’s Social Security beneficiaries. Politicians like to say that their cuts to Social Security will not affect those getting benefits today. Wrong! Switching to the chained-CPI would hit all current beneficiaries.
  • We need a higher COLA, not a lower one. The current COLA is not large enough–it does not adequately account for large health care cost increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities.

That page has three telling charts. The first shows benefit cuts directly attributable to Chained CPI relative to the current COLA:

SSW_ChainedCPI_benefit-cut

The second shows how much food that means not eating, the “catfood” quotient. Each of those missing meals has Friskies written all over it:

SSW_ChainedCPI_weeks-food-lost

And finally, here’s what a genuine “senior-friendly” COLA would look like, compared to both the current COLA (already inadequate) and the Chained CPI proposal. Measure from the top blue line to the bottom red line — that’s your real lost benefit.

SSW_ChainedCPI_COLA-comps

That’s what Obama wants to take out of seniors’ hides. And when he says he’s wants to protect the poorest from the Catfood CPI damage, he means he wants the middle-class to take even more of a hit.

What’s the schedule?

The schedule for all this is tight. This is from Senator Reid:

Reid: Senate likely coming back the day after Christmas

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) warned Monday that the Senate is likely to be in session the day after Christmas as Congress and the White House work to avert the forthcoming “fiscal cliff.”“It appears at this stage – we’ll see if anything changes – but it appears we’re going to be coming back the day after Christmas,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon as lawmakers returned to Washington.

During his remarks, Reid cited three must-dos to complete before Christmas: A deal to avert the fiscal cliff, the need to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and to pass the$60 billion supplemental spending request to provide federal aid to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut communities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

And here’s from Boehner:

In this final week before Christmas, Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner must come to some accord by Tuesday [today] to get some measure through Congress before lawmakers depart, some Republicans say. In the House, Mr. Boehner has a three-day rule requiring that many days before a vote so members can familiarize themselves with legislation. The rule can be waived, but that would require a majority vote from the full House.

If the sides fail to reach an agreement, they would likely have to call lawmakers back to the Capitol in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which could pose additional challenges. After Dec. 31, absent some bipartisan action, taxes would go up for every taxpayer with the expiration that day of the Bush-era tax rates, and tens of billions of across-the-board cuts would be made in domestic and military programs, potentially causing a recession, economists say.

The tightness of the time is our friend. Be active; use it.

Bottom line

I’ll give you two. One, make this toxic. Senate, House, and White House phone numbers are available at the link. Put every office-holding Democrat on the hook for the consequences. Tell each one:

A vote for this from you and I’ll support a primary the next time you run.

Two, remember this betrayal. Even if (when) we roll this back, Obama (Betrayer of Hope & Change) has shown his hand. There’s much more where this comes from, and we need to show him in his true colors. This isn’t retaliatory; it’s tactical. He’s image-sensitive and legacy-hungry. That’s our bargaining chip for the next four years.

Finally, keep this in mind:

The second term hasn’t even started and he’s showed his hand. Thank you, sir. I really appreciate that.

Onward,

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • MichaelS

    Just called Gillibrand’s office,. one of our so-called staunch supporters of Social Security and adamant opponent of cuts in the program. Spoke with an aide who told me Sen. Gillibrand has said she will do everything in her power to stop cuts to Social Security. I asked if that meant she would filibuster any cuts, and the aide said there was no plan to do so at this time. I pointed out that her answer meant the Senator was NOT going to do everything in her power to stop the cuts, since filibustering is indeed in her power. She then said the senator was waiting to see what this meant for the fiscal cliff — which means, of course, she’ll cave if the alternative is to go over the cliff. I told her it’s better to go over than cave in on this, was told she would “pass my comments on.”

    …Not even willing to filibuster, hold the Senate floor for C-Span, and explain what the chained CPI will do to seniors. Start counting the betrayals now.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I want to say, “Unbelievable” Pelosi behind slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicare! She’s one rich old senior, who won’t join the millions of elders she will help into poverty.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It’s BAAAACCCCCKKKK!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    pppfffft

  • Kim_Kaufman

    Here’s another betrayal as Nancy tells us she’s got the Dems on board:
    Nancy Pelosi Predicts ‘Democrats Will Stick With The President’ On Fiscal
    Cliff Deal
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/nancy-pelosi-fiscal-cliff_n_2324042.html

  • NCMan

    OK, someone please explain to me how any “savings” in Social Security can have any effect on the deficit or the debt at all. Social Security is self-funding independent program that isn’t part of the budget. Any money you “save” stays inside the program and cannot be used to lower the deficit or the debt. All it will do is extend the life of the program, which could be better extended by eliminating the FICA cap. And still, if the life of the program were NOT EXTENDED and it were not able to pay 100% of its obligations, IT IS ILLEGAL for the program to take money from the general fund in order to cover any of its future shortfalls that may or may not occur. Social Security BY LAW can only get its funding through the FICA tax. This is the reason why it has NO EFFECT on the budget, the deficit or the debt. Period. End of story.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    For that matter, let’s play eleventy-dimensional chess, like the O-Bots keep saying Obama does.

    If you have a Republican Representative or Senator, call them anyway. Tell them that (1) you do not want any cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and (2) that they should refuse any deal offered by this president.

    Let them assume you’re a Republican. Hell, tell them it’s because you’d rather the fiscal cliff than what the Dems are offering. If you really want to be devious and you know you’re talking to a ‘Bagger GOPer, repeat a few Fox News talking points. Job-killing taxes, socialism, deficits, whatevah. Then when you’re done, pour yourself a large tumbler of Tequila and knock it straight back, because you will have earned it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Coleman/100001217693049 Thomas Coleman

    “Don’t think I am that rude if I tell you that it’s cat food
    Not even fit for a horse!”

  • FunMe

    And stabbed in the back.

  • FunMe

    Over at HP, their story states that the Democrats will “stand with the President”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/nancy-pelosi-fiscal-cliff_n_2324042.html

    “Nancy Pelosi Predicts ‘Democrats Will Stick With The President’ On Fiscal Cliff Deal”
    Obama and Pelosi doing the work for the republiiCONs. Again, why did we re-elect them?

  • Sweetie

    I wonder if we can reserve spots in the free speech zones in advance?

  • nicho

    I’ll settle for a second party. Right now, we have one party — the Corporate Party — with two rights wings, Republican and Democratic. They both have the same goal, destroy the middle class. They’re just taking slightly different routes.

  • Naja pallida

    I guess some people just like being thrown under the bus.

  • condew

    Even without inflation, savers are really being hurt by low interest rates. If you are preparing for retirement, or saving for any long-term goal, it’s that difference between what a CD will earn and what inflation will take away. Nothing minus nothing is nothing.

  • nicho

    I hope someone is planning massive demonstrations for Jan 21 to show this bastard just what a traitor he is.

  • Mike Meyer

    THIRD PARTY, FOLKS. Maybe WE can get COMMONSENSE back in OUR government once The Sellout America Republicrats are gone.

  • nicho

    So, are you saying that because Romney would be worse, Obama gets a free pass on everything? Bullshit. He’s an enemy of the middle class.

  • condew

    If it weren’t that the savings will go to reduce the taxes of the wealthy and maintain a military that is as big as the rest of the world combined; if it were real necessity, but it’s not.

  • condew

    The problem with “I told you so” is that it is only used be people with no better ideas. It’s just whining and crying and stamping your feet. How would a Romney win have been better? How would any of those noble, self-righteous 3rd party candidates have gotten elected? It’s so easy to carp from the sidelines when your candidate will never be asked to follow thru and do what they promised.

  • samizdat

    But…he’s less evil, don’t you understand? Republican Congress, Realpolitik, looking forward, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good…blah, blah, blah…

  • samizdat

    Holy crap, you’re a complete idiot, aren’t you?

    And considering how much abuse you and your ill-conceived and ignorant comments receive here, you’re a masochist, too.

  • Mighty

    As I figured already. There will no longer be such a thing as retirement. You just get to keep working until you die. Which because health care sucks and medicare is likely to be thrown under the bus as well won’t be all that long.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    G.T. H.

  • GaiusPublius

    Ah, guest1, you’re back. You may not have noticed, but we don’t have inflation.

    GP

  • guest1

    Inflation is the price we pay for the huge deficit, you cant have it both ways

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