Trays of printed Social Security checks wait to be mailed. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)
When Congress returns from its five-week recess this fall, a huge task awaits: passing comprehensive immigration reform. The House will (or, maybe won’t) pass its plan, which will then have to be reconciled with the bill already passed by the Senate, and the final legislation then passed again by both chambers.
Hence, there’s been a lot of coverage about what members are hearing from their constituents about immigration during this recess, and rightly so. But there’s another huge decision Congress must make this fall: funding the government and avoiding the debt ceiling. These negotiations have always produced talk, from both Democrats and Republicans, about cutting safety net—and members of Congress are hearing from their constituents on that, too.
Some brief context: Chained-CPI is a way of recalculating inflation in federal formulas in a less generous way. Obama proposed this to resolve the post-election budget impasse (as well as the summer 2011 debt-ceiling standoff) and also included it in his most recent budget. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell also recently said he’d like to see it enacted. In short, this proposal will definitely be on the table when the two parties try to hash out a deal this fall.
Most notably, Chained-CPI would mean a cut in benefits for people on Social Security: a net loss of $15,615 for average seniors over the course of their retirement if Obama’s proposal is enacted.
And people on Social Security know it. Here is one woman breaking down in tears at a town hall meeting in Iowa with Senator Tom Harkin earlier this month:
I have $624 a month, that’s what I’m living on. Ninety-nine [dollars] of that goes to Medicare Part D and B. After I get my check, in two weeks, it’s gone. I have nothing. I live on what I eat here. And I just do not want my cost of living cut because I’ve paid in since I was 16 to the government. I’m looking for work in my retirement years so that I can exist. I do own my house, but I don’t know how long that will go because I have property taxes to pay.
Harkin has long opposed Chained CPI, as he told the constituent.
The issue also came up at a town hall event with Representative Dan Maffei, a centrist Democrat in New York State. He assured constituents he would oppose Chained CPI this fall: