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'Unacceptable': Democrats Sound Off on 'Chained' CPI Proposal

Democrats in the House are speaking out against a proposed Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) cut known as the “chained” CPI, which would severely harm the elderly and people with disabilities.

Here are some highlights and videos of written and public statements:

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.):

Social Security has nothing to do with the debt problems that we're facing now. The seniors and disabled should not be held hostage by the Republicans. Their only priority in this debate is to protect America's wealthiest citizens. Under former President Bush, our nation financed two wars on the credit card and senior citizens should not be collateral damage. We lost trillions of dollars through irresponsible tax cuts and let's be clear, tax cuts are the same as spending when it comes to the deficit. And now the Republican Party's proposed solution is to make up the difference from taking money from seniors. That is unacceptable.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.):

In order to shield the wealthiest Americans from paying Clinton-era tax rates, Republicans are demanding cuts to programs that benefit the poorest Americans.  Inequality in the United States is the worst it has been since the Gilded Age, and their cuts would make it worse, not better.

One proposal is to reduce Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment through the use of the so-called chained CPI. It’s a benefit cut—pure and simple— an average earner retiring in 2011 at age 65 would lose $6,000 in benefits over 15 years. It’s particularly devastating for women—who live longer, rely more on Social Security and receive lower benefits. 

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.):

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 toward 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 15 years of retirement and adds up to a $16,000 loss over 25 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. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.):

The less money our Social Security recipients—including 9 million veterans—are able to spend, the less money goes to the businesses that create jobs. "Chained" CPI makes life harder for millions of retirees, weakens Social Security and doesn’t reduce the deficit by a penny. It’s a Beltway fig leaf that I will never support, and I call on my colleagues to make their feelings known as soon as possible before this becomes yet another piece of conventional wisdom that makes things worse.

Lifting the cap on high earners paying into Social Security is a real fix that would make the program solvent indefinitely. If we want to talk about solutions, let’s talk about that, not inventing reasons to take money from American retirees.

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