Did Sen. Schumer walk back support for a “Chained CPI” Social Security cut?

There’s an interesting set of stories around US Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the various debt ceiling–sequester negotiations going on at the moment. It appears that Schumer may have come out in favor of Chained CPI, then got the story walked back — or corrected. Richard Eskow, writing at Campaign for America’s Future (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Here’s a “Washington insider” story that could affect every family in the country. Congressional newspaper The Hill reported Wednesday that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was considering using a special parliamentary maneuver to push a budget deal. … This story included an explosive paragraph that seemed to suggest that Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, was interested in a deal that included the “chained-CPI” cut to Social Security benefits. It also included cryptic language about “Medicare reform,” words that are often used as Beltway code for raising the eligibility age or other drastic benefit reductions to that program.

Like a dog that’s always circling behind its prey looking for a way to jump in — I actually had a dog do that to me once in an open field — the Rubinites and billionaires who run the Democratic party are constantly eyeing cuts to the social programs, constantly looking for an opening to move in.

Chained CPI is one of the seven “benefit cuts” we wrote about earlier. Obama tried to get Chained CPI into the Obama-Boehner deal, until progressives and others pushed back enough to make him (and Hoyer and Pelosi, et al) delay those plans.

SSW_ChainedCPI_benefit-cutNow those benefit cuts appeared to be back on, via Schumer’s reported support. Eskow is right about The Hill’s reporting. Two-thirds of the way through the article, this appears:

The joint budget resolution could also call for Medicare reforms and using the chained CPI formula to curb the cost of Social Security benefits. These entitlement reforms combined with tax reform would give Republicans political cover to accept tax increases — or at least more cover than if tax increases were merely packaged as an offset to the sequester.

So game back on? Not so fast — the story doesn’t end there. That paragraph attracted a lot of attention, and Schumer’s office started getting calls. At CAF, Eskow reports:

initial calls to Schumer’s office went unreturned

So CAF and others started issuing statements strongly opposed. The House Progressives (the CPC, which we’ve written about) also piled on. Eskow still:

In what seemed to be a reaction to the story, the Congressional Progressive Caucus issued a statement immediately afterward entitled “CPC Rejects Proposed Cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.” “Using the chained CPI to reduce cost of living adjustments is a benefit cut that middle class Americans cannot afford,” it read.

I’ve faulted the CPC’s actions, but never their statements. Schumer was getting an earful, and his office knew something was up.

Schumer staffers also reportedly made at least two off-the-record calls to progressive groups strongly denying the story.  By this time Sen. Schumer had been the target of some negative comments from activists[.]

Finally there was a change to The Hill story. Here’s where Eskow speculates (kindly) about Schumer and what he may have said:

As it turns out, Schumer apparently never said it.  At 6 pm this evening The Hill modified its article to include a paragraph which read:

Schumer’s office does not support the idea of fast-tracking Medicare cuts or the chained-CPI formula for Social Security through a budget resolution, proposals that Republicans would likely support. A Schumer aide noted that a reconciliation package could not make cuts to Social Security.

But activists, progressives, and independent groups remain on full alert.  This denial is welcome, but it’s based on procedural rules and is not a statement of unequivocal opposition to these reductions.  Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue can expect the fierce resistance to the chained CPI and all other benefit cuts to continue.

If you click the link for The Hill’s article, you’ll see the added paragraph below the dangerous one (dangerous to Schumer, that is). Note that Eskow says Schumer “apparently” never said it.

Bottom line

Eskow’s takeaway is this:

This is partly the story of a poorly-worded paragraph on a volatile topic. But it’s primarily an economic and political story, not a media one. The fiery response from House progressives and outside groups demonstrates that there is growing and organized resistance to the chained-CPI.The prompt clarification from Schumer’s office, as reported in The Hill, shows that an increasing awareness among leading Democrats that the idea is politically toxic.

My takeaway is a little different. I’ll leave it for you to decide if The Hill got the Schumer position wrong, or if Schumer walked back from a suddenly dangerous position. With no proof in front of me, I tend to trust The Hill over Chuck Schumer.

Either way though, know that it’s coming. The billionaire-wing of the Democratic party (Obama and Schumer included) will only let go of cuts to the social insurance programs if we make them pay a price for thinking about it. Asking nicely because they sometimes talk nice about minorities and women won’t cut it.

They’ve wanted these cuts for a long time — since at least 2006 in Obama’s case — and they won’t stop until they’re stopped. It’s a core belief of the globalization free-trade crowd of which Robert Rubin and Bill Clinton are charter members that the newly impoverished (by billionaire-written trade rules) must now adapt to a changed and restricted world.

As Obama said in the speech:

“Too many of us [on the left] have been interested in defending programs the way they were written in 1938“


“Most of us are strong free-traders.”

There’s a reason those quotes go hand in hand; the trade rules suck wealth from us all; then hired and vetted politicians shepherd our adjustment to our new lack of resources — for the good of the nation, of course. (You don’t think Obama was vetted? He was rolled out in 2004 by the billionaire-financed free-trader Bill Clinton, vetted for his ideas by Rubin and others in 2006 as above, then financed by big money between 2006/7 and 2008. Count on it. Clinton knew what he was doing, whom he was promoting.)

You’ll find references, by the way, to that need of ours to “adapt to this changed world” threaded all through Obama Inaugural speech as well. A taste:

“when times change, so must we”
“outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our times”
“we must make the hard choices”

See what I mean? Those parts gave me chills, bad ones.

Yours in resistance,


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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