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Progressive Leaders Stand Against Social Security Cuts

Yesterday, I posted that progressive leaders in Congress are saying “No Deal” to “fiscal cliff’ deals that cut Social Security benefits while cutting the wealthy yet another break on taxes. Today, that list is growing, as more progressive join what’s beginning to look like a political intervention focused on reversing Obama’s particular form of presidential OCD: Obsessive Capitulation Disorder.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.), speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars event, expressed his commitment to opposing Social Security cuts, and explained how “chained CPI” would impact America’s veterans.

A change in how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated could mean that veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In addition to disabled veterans, more than 55 million retirees, widows, orphans and disabled Americans could be affected by the switch to a so-called chained CPI, or consumer price index. According to the Social Security Administration, the change would result in $112 billion in reduced Social Security benefits over 10 years. The typical Social Security recipient who retires at age 65 would get $653 less a year at age 75 and would get $1,139 less a year at age 85 than under current law.

Sanders is urging the president to “keep the promise” made during the election.

Sanders noted that the White House as recently as three weeks ago said that Social Security was off the table in the year-end deficit talks. “I want him to keep that promise,” Sanders said. “I hope the president stays strong.”

Rep Elijah Cummings (D, Md. 7) issued a statement yesterday, declaring his opposition to “any more toward chained CPI.”

I stand with my fellow CPC members in strongly opposing any move toward chained CPI that would greatly reduce the long-term benefits of every single Social Security recipient and their families. These are our family members, our friends and neighbors who worked hard, played by the rules, and paid their fair share.  Now the government must uphold its end of the deal and protect their Social Security benefits.

It is fundamentally unfair to ask our most vulnerable citizens – our elderly and our poor – to shoulder the burden for our country; it is morally wrong and unacceptable.  We must do better.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D, N.Y. 8) has issued a statement denouncing GOP efforts to cut Social Security benefits.

“Social Security is one of the bedrocks of our middle class society and is an essential safety net for millions of American seniors and their families. Millions and millions of Americans rely on Social Security benefits for medical care, food, housing, and other essentials. We cannot allow a move toward chained CPI that would result, over time, in substantial cuts in benefits.

“We must not force our senior citizens to dig further into their savings to fill the hole left by unnecessary and irresponsible cuts to Social Security. It is unconscionable for Republicans to ask seniors and others who can least afford it to sacrifice even more in order to continue giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. I do not support any deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.”

Rep. Jim McDermott (D, Wash. 7) has issued a statement firmly opposing cuts to Social Security benefits via the chained CPI.

“Everyone has a grandparent, a friend or a neighbor who relies on the Social Security benefits they earned to pay for medical care, food and housing. A move towards chained CPI would be a long-term benefit cut for every single person who receives a Social Security check.

“The current average earned benefit for a 65 year old on Social Security is $17,134. Using chained CPI will result in a $6,000 loss for retirees in the first fifteen years of retirement and adds up to a $16,000 loss over twenty-five years. This change would be devastating to beneficiaries, especially widowed women, more than a third of whom rely on the program for 90% of their income and use every single dollar of the Social Security checks they’ve earned. This would require the most vulnerable Americans to dig further into their savings to fill the hole left by unnecessary and irresponsible cuts to Social Security.

Rep. David Cicilline (D, R.I. 1) has firmly state that he will vote against any sort of cuts to Social Security.

“After a lifetime of hard work, our seniors deserve to know that Social Security will be there to allow them to enjoy their retirement years with economic security and peace of mind. By law, Social Security cannot contribute to the federal deficit. While we need to address its future solvency, cuts to Social Security benefits should not be a part of ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations.

I will vote against any agreement that imposes cuts to already modest Social Security benefits and does not ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. As we continue to approach the January 1st financial deadline, I urge our leaders to take Social Security off the table during negotiations and find a solution that works for the middle class.”

Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Keith Ellison (D, Minn. 5) reiterated his commitment to opposing Social Security cuts via the chained CPI in an interview on The Young Turks last night.

ELLISON: Well the first thing that we can do is to let them know that we will not be voting for any cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. We’ve already fired off a whole number of missives on that exact point, we’re making our position very clear, we’re organizing caucus members, we’ve got a letter with 102 people on it, saying that we will not vote for anything that cuts Social Security, communicating that to our leadership and the White House. We’re firm on that. We’re talking internally to make sure the people are going to stay strong. And that’s what we’re doing, we’re letting folks know where we stand so they can go back and recalculate and come up with something else. Because we’re not going to solve these fiscal problems of the backs of the seniors, of the disabled, of the survivors.

Included in that “we” Rep. Ellison spoke of are 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which released the following statement:

Members of the Progressive Caucus are standing up against a proposal to cut Social Security benefits by changing the way we calculate inflation.

These congressional progressives understand the same thing that Ronald Reagan understood: that “Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit.” They understand what President Obama himself understands: that he has already conceded way more than is warranted, and that making concessions to an opposition that’s uninterested in compromise is pointless.

Progressives in Congress understand what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seems to have suddenly forgotten:that “chained CPI” is a cut to Social Security benefits. They understand that a “fiscal cliff” deal that spares the wealthy, raises taxes on the poor, and includes unnecessary and unwise Social Security cuts that increases poverty for Black and Latino elderly, and harm  people with disabilities, children, and low-income working-age adults — both now and after they retire.

Progressive in Congress understand why Democrats must break with Obama on Social Security cuts: for the good of the country, the Democratic party, and Obama’s own presidency.

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