On Sunday night, House Speaker John Boehner made clear he would like to make a simple trade with President Obama. He asked the president to extend tax cuts on income between $250,000 and $1 million a year—a tax bonanza of nearly $400 billion over 10 years, about half of which would go to millionaires.
And how will we pay for this very expensive gift to the least needy among us? By cutting $122 billion in Social Security benefits from the neediest, including elderly seniors and people with disabilities who depend on the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (the COLA) to keep inflation from eating away their benefits as they age and incur health care expenses. Moreover, this COLA cut affects current as well as future beneficiaries. Yesterday, press accounts said that President Obama offered to accept this cut to Social Security as part of a larger deal, which Boehner then rejected on Tuesday evening, saying he was going to take his “Plan B,” more tax cuts for the rich, to the House floor. The AFL-CIO is calling on members of Congress and the president to oppose Boehner’s cuts to Social Security and his Plan B. Here’s why: Boehner wants to cut the COLA through a technical change to the way the COLA is calculated, called the Chained Consumer Price Index or “chained” CPI. This index underestimates inflation for seniors and people with disabilities, according to 250 economists.
Call the White House at 202-456-1111; tell President Obama you oppose the “chained” CPI.
Making the change will cut Social Security benefits by $122 billion, but it’s worse than that. The way “chained” CPI cuts Social Security is by cutting the COLA—eroding the real value of the benefits received by the oldest Americans. If you live to be 77, it’s a 3% cut; if you live to 87, it’s a 6% cut; and if you live into your 90s, it’s even higher. And the thing about people who live to be very old is that they generally exhaust their savings and can’t work. They are usually women and are the most vulnerable.
So that’s what Boehner and the House Republicans are about. Benefit cuts for the most vulnerable to pay for more tax cuts for the most comfortable.
We voted for a different kind of government in November, one that is about the principle that we are all in this together. It’s time for members of Congress to stand up and defend Social Security against Boehner’s attack, and it’s time President Obama pulled this bad idea off the table.
Damon Silvers is the policy director and special counsel for the AFL-CIO. This post originally appeared on the AFL-CIO Now blog.