Chained CPI is not just bait; Obama actually “prefers” it

That’s right. Barack “Grand Cuts” Obama really “prefers” to cut Social Security benefits via switching to “Chained CPI” — which reduces the cost-of-living allowance year after year after year — and he wants to do it on its merits, not just as some carrot he’s dangling before Republicans.

This information comes just this week, again via Gene Sperling, one of Obama chief economic advisers, in a chat on Reddit. Thanks to Digby, we hear this from Sperling  (my emphasis and paragraphing):

The cost of living question relates to how the government measures inflation. Today, we use a measure of inflation called the “CPI” or consumer price index. An alternative would be to switch to what is known as the superlative or “chained” CPI. [Note the reframing in the alternative term “superlative CPI” — if it’s “superlative” it must be better.]

The superlative CPI makes two technical corrections to the standard CPI: it accounts for consumers’ ability to substitute between goods in response to changes in relative prices and accounts for biases arising from small samples. Most experts agree [note: they do not agree] that the Superlative CPI provides a more accurate measure of the average change in the cost of living than the standard CPI.

The President would prefer to have this adjustment in the context of a larger Social Security reform, but he has said to Speaker Boehner that if it is part of a larger agreement that would include tax reform that would raise revenue by cutting loopholes and expenditures from the most well off, that he would be willing to agree to it because in divided government, if we’re going to make progress, we have to be willing to compromise.

Here’s the Reddit link, if you have an account.

See my interspersed notes above for the trickiness of the first two statements. Chained CPI is a benefit cut, and even Simpson-Bowles shill and Obama economics surrogate Alice Rivlin (that’s her in the clown costume) agrees. In addition, a great many experts also agree that benefits need to be increased, not cut, since we’re staring down the barrel of at least five more years of demand-driven recession (my call on that), made worse by austerity measures such as this one. If we get the austerity Obama wants, make that 10 years of recession.

How do we know that Obama and Sperling are dancing around the idea that his proposals will hurt people? In the very next sentence Sperling says:

Don’t worry, Chained CPI is not a problem, and we know how to fix it.

OK, that’s my fun paraphrase. What he actually wrote to Reddit was:

One important note: any agreement to make this change to the CPI must include a dedication of a portion of the savings to protections for low-income Americans, certain veterans, and older Social Security beneficiaries. Our current offer which reduces the deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years includes those protections.

Why do low-income Americans, veterans, and the elderly need to “protection” from something that’s desirable, “preferable,” and nothing more than an “more accurate measure”?

Digby answers this way:

You know, I have never understood the logic that says changing to this new cost of living formula more accurately reflects the real cost of living, but don’t worry we will fix the part where it hurts the poor, veterans and really old people. The “real” cost of living should be the real cost of living, no? If it isn’t a cut, why would these people be hurt?

The fact is that Social Security is already inadequate for millions and millions of people, and not just the poorest of the poor and veterans. … For reasons that I cannot completely understand, they want to make it worse. There’s just no other way to think about this.

The hubris of this administration seems boundless at this point. Obama just digs himself deeper and deeper into the “I’m determined to cut benefits” coffin-shaped hole. For example, when Senate Democrats put up a fuss earlier this week, he dug in.

Let him; let him dig deep. This is not about personalities; it’s about the signature social programs of the Democratic Party, the last bastion many citizens have between them and poverty. The less tricky Obama is, the more blunt and determined he becomes, the easier to make him seem what he is — a traitor to the ideals of the party whose name he soils.

As I’ve said many times over, their hubris is our friend, and thank god for that.

Obama to meet with Senate Republicans to sell benefit cuts

As you may know, Obama’s been on a Charm Tour lately selling everyone who counts (not you, just the Bigs) on his Grand Cuts idea. Earlier this week it was Senate Dems (that went well). Today he meets with Senate Republicans. Guess what’s on the lunch menu for their oh-so-upscale gathering — Maine lobster and Catfood (the fancy Friskies kind):


Just so you know. Someone is going to eat well, and someone else is not.

Just say No to Cuts, Mr. and Ms. Congressperson. And if he asks you, just say No to Mr. “Grand Cuts” Obama as well. No friend of yours would ask you to risk your job like this.


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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