Thursday, December 20, 2012

Alan Grayson Explains Why He Opposes A Conservative Plan To Unravel Social Security That Starts With A Chained CPI



Voting on the rule to permit a vote on Boehner's cynical Plan B gave some clues to how the real vote would come down. It passed 219-197, every Democrat voting NO and 13 Republicans joining them: Justin Amash (MI), Paul Broun (GA), Trent Franks (AZ), Louie Gohmert (TX), Andy Harris (MD), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Walter Jones (NC), Jim Jordan (OH), Jeff Landry (LA), Thomas Massie (KY), Ron Paul (TX), Mean Jean Schmidt (OH) and Joe Walsh (IL). Unless more 11 Republicans were to join the revolt-- and the Democrats held 100% united, Plan B will pass the House and instantly die, as the Senate isn't going to further disgrace itself by even taking it up. If Boehner and Cantor weren't scared about the numbers they wouldn't have made Ryan get up and identify himself (and his future career) with this mess. Will Ryan's aura withstand the blowback he's going take from the far right on this? Being one of the foot soldiers in getting the TARP bankster bailout done for Bush didn't hurt him at all-- but he wasn't as widely known by the public then. Now he is... and they'll notice.

Going into the vote, the far right website, RedState had NO votes (or leaning NO) at 34, enough to doom it-- and that's not counting another dozen "on the fence." Their whip count against Plan B:

Garrett (NJ), Amash (MI), Jordan (OH), Scalise (LA), Gohmert (TX), Stutzman (IN), Gardner (CO), Pearce (NM), Burgess (TX), Mulvaney (SC), Huelskamp (KS), Barton (TX), Broun (GA), Fleming (LA), Labrador (ID), Lamborn (CO), Walsh (IL), Westmoreland (GA), Southerland (FL), Massie (KY), Duncan (TN), Graves (MO), Schweikert (AZ), Blackburn (TN), Landry (LA), Buerkle (NY), Tim Scott (SC), Gowdy (SC), Joe Wilson (SC), Guinta (NH), Harris (MD), Myrick (NC), Burton (IN), DesJarlais (TN).

But in the end, there was no vote-- a bad whip count for Boehner and then a meeting in his office followed by this rather pathetic press release:

"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation's crippling debt. The Senate must now act."
Boehner and Cantor were so desperate to get Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Bill Young (R-FL) to stay on the reservation for Plan B, that they passed-- very narrowly (215-209)-- H.R. 6684, the Spending Reduction Act, with changes the Sequestration Bill they passed to take more cuts from Medicare, food stamps, Meals on Wheels, funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other social programs for the needy while re-larding up the Pentagon with projects McKeon's campaign contributors want. Democrats called it another "political stunt" and a "waste of time," but it's what those two warmongers demanded to stay on board the sinking ship, SS Plan B. Boehner should retire; he's the least competent Speaker in my lifetime. And I'm old.

Alan Grayson (D-FL) doesn't take his seat until January. Same with the rest of the 49 new freshmen Obama and Boehner are trying to cut out of the process. It's certainly simple enough to see why Obama and Boehner don't want a staunch advocate for working families like Grayson participating. Here's an explanation to his constituents and supports explaining where he stands in what Obama and Boehner are trying to do to Social Security:
Let me get right to the point. I'm against the proposed "chained CPI" cut in Social Security because it substantially undermines the protection against inflation that Social Security recipients enjoy under current law. The existing cost of living adjustment ("COLA") already understates actual increases in the "cost of living"; the chained CPI would exacerbate the problem.

I understand that the vast majority of Americans-- including, quite possibly, most people reading this-- have no burning desire to learn anything about the chained CPI. It has, however, become a major part of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, and so it has become one of those things that people have to learn about, for their own protection.

Where we are now in the fiscal cliff negotiations is that Speaker Boehner is talking about reducing the federal deficit in the exact same way that Governor Romney did-- Boehner says that he wants to, but he won't tell us how. President Obama, boxed in by the poll-driven sense that he must-must-must propose something "balanced," is "balancing" the reduction of tax breaks for the rich against the reduction of the protection that seniors have against inflation. On the merits, however, reducing that protection is undeserved, unwise and unfair.

Social Security benefits are automatically adjusted each year to reflect increases in the cost of living, as determined by the consumer price index (CPI). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the CPI each month.

Here is how the "chained CPI" would change things: Let's say that the cost of gasoline tripled, from $3.33 per gallon to $10 per gallon. Most people would call that a 200% increase in the price of gas. That's how it would be calculated under the CPI today. Under the chained CPI, however, it would be calculated at less than 200%, because some people couldn't afford to pay $10 a gallon. They would drive less. They might have to take the bus to work. They might take a "staycation" instead of a vacation.

Because a tripling in the price of gas basically makes everyone poorer, and thus less able to buy gas, the chained CPI doesn't count that as a 200% increase. It reduces the percentage increase in proportion to the amount of gas that people can no longer afford to buy.

In fact, the bigger the price increase (and the poorer people get), the bigger the gap between the actual price increase and the chained CPI adjustment. This effect starts off small, and barely noticeable, but then as time goes by, it swells like a blister. In fact, it swells from $1.4 billion in the first year to $22 billion in the tenth year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. So the chained CPI is inflation protection that, by design, inflation itself erodes. Ain't that just grand?

To make things worse about the chained CPI, there is no evidence that the existing CPI is somehow overpaying seniors. On the contrary, as John Williams has pointed out at , if the Government simply calculated the CPI today in the same manner as it did through 1990, then every year, the CPI increase would be approximately 3% higher. If the Government calculated the CPI today in the same manner that it did before 1980, then every year, the CPI increase would be approximately 7% higher. That's the sort of thing that happens when you pretend (as the CPI now does) that a computer with a CPU that is twice as fast is the same as a computer that costs half as much.

And let's be honest: you know plenty of Social Security recipients. Have you seen any of them driving a brand-new Lexus, thanks to a COLA increase?

The political proponents of the chained CPI are hoping that you don't understand it. Because when you do understand it, you won't support it. We should be doing more to protect seniors against inflation, not less.

The chained CPI calls to mind something that W.C. Fields once said: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with . . . " With the chained CPI.
But Obama and Boehner aren't alone on wanting to do this to seniors. Almost the entire Republican Party congressional delegation is on board-- and so are the worst, most corporately-oriented Democrats. Take wealthy conservative Mark Warner, for example, a right-wing Democratic senator from Virginia, He's on board with Obama and Boehner and very much against what Grayson and all progressives are talking about. He's a big fan of the chained CPI. The distance between Warner and anyone who will be impacted by this is as vast as it is between a Martian and anyone who will be impacted by this. It's, in part, why I've been advocating that people not vote for millionaires who happen to be, like Warner, conservative. They are the class enemies of the American people, regardless if they call themselves Democrats or Republicans.

Greg Sargent pointed out today that the American Labor movement has some advise for President Obama: start acting like a Democrat, a real one.
The AFL-CIO wants Obama to pull back his proposal to raise the income threshold on the tax hikes to $400,000 and to rescind the offer of Chained CPI on Social Security.

“He needs to recognize what everyone else recognizes, which is that he made an overly generous offer to Boehner, and Boehner threw it back at him,” Damon Silvers, the policy director for the AFL-CIO, told me this afternoon. “The appropriate response is to tell Boehner the offer is no longer valid.”

Silvers said Obama should reboot and get back to a set of proposals that is more in line with the policies he ran on-- the ones that got him reelected

. “We want the president to come forward with an offer that reflects the reason why he won,” Silvers said. “We want the president to fight for two things: One is an end to the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent, and the other is to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” Silvers confirmed that the AFL-CIO wants Obama to pull back on the $400,000 threshold and Chained CPI offers.
Obama will be remembered as the president-- the Democratic president-- who began the process of the Republican Party dream: destroying Social Security. We'll never know if Romney would have had the guts to try.

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At 7:39 PM, Blogger Public Takeover said...

Yeah. We need to keep up a scare.

But it's past time for the people to get out from under the ruling, corporate class and organize ourselves to protect our natural resources, our ability to raise and educate healthy children, and restore a popular-based, open communication system.

If we wait for government to lead the fight against catastrophic global warming, it will be too late!

The mass media-government-financial system is off the rails.

We need local, direct democracy and sustainability.

Washington is a perfect waste of time, money, and energy.

At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facts on CPI-E


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