A person could lose her mind over the past three months paying too much attention to what is said in the media about the the super committee’s work on deficit reduction – something I have, unfortunately, been doing so anything you read in this post is suspect.
Nevertheless, it seems important for this blog to at least give a try to keeping you up to date.
The biggest problem in knowing anything is that the meetings of the 12 members have been held in secret and what has been published – even from usually trustworthy sources – are deliberate leaks and trial balloons or guesses and fairy tales.
Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday in regard to potential job proposals in the final agreement, “I don’t really know because I’m not in the room.”
At the same time, Pelosi told reporters that the deficit reduction committee must wrap up its work by Friday because although the deadline is Wednesday 23 November, “effectively the rest of us are gone after [Friday].”
And the Congressional Budget Office says it must have the proposal by Monday to have time to score it for the Wednesday deadline.
So it’s down to the wire now and aside from predictions that the committee will fail to reach an agreement, the most consistent leak/guess/whatever is that the committee will propose changing the mechanism for calculating the Social Security COLA from the CPI-W used now to the chained CPI.
Of course, that is terrible for Social Security recipients and it would apply not just to future beneficiaries 10 or 15 years down the road (which all politicians seem to believe – erroneously – makes it acceptable to the rest of us), but to you and me – all current beneficiaries too.
The chained CPI harms the lowest level beneficiaries the most as Social Security expert Nancy Altman explained last July:
“Over the next 10 years alone, the chained CPI would take $112 billion directly out of the pockets of beneficiaries, with cuts growing larger each year and pushing many of the oldest old — primarily women — into poverty.
“The COLA cut would reduce benefits by 3.7 percent after 10 years, 6.5 percent after 20 years and 9.2 percent after 30 years. For a typical senior who retires at age 65, their Social Security benefits would be $1,000 less by the time they are 85—on a benefit of just $16,000 a year.
“That’s a big loss of income that may be affordable for politicians in Washington but not for most people across the country.
“Adopting the chained CPI goes in the wrong direction. Most people who depend on Social Security devote a much larger share of their income to health care, and these costs are increasing at a much higher rate than other living costs. They need a more accurate formula that reflects these higher costs, which would result in a cost-of-living increase, not a cut.”
Although Ms. Altman is correct about the need for an increase beyond an annual COLA, I don’t expect Congress will ever do so but if members had anything except their own and their corporate benefactors’ interests in mind, they would at least maintain the status quo especially in light of persistent and repeated poll numbers.
In a recent Politico Battleground Poll, this question was asked:
“Tell me if you would favor or oppose changing the way in which increases in Social Security benefits are calculated in order to lower program costs and lower future benefits.”
56 percent somewhat or strongly oppose. 38 percent somewhat or strongly favor.
Just FYI, here is another question from the same poll that affects elders:
“Tell me if you would favor or oppose making hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid through increasing beneficiary costs.”
76 percent somewhat or strongly oppose. 19 percent somewhat or strongly favor.
And the public supports “increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations” 66-31 percent with a majority, 52 percent, strongly supporting such increases.
Even with polling numbers like these, if the super committee does reach an agreement I fully expect it will be good for the top one percent and terrible for the rest of us. Why? Because Democrat or Republican, that’s what Congress members do whether or not there is an Occupy movement, 99 percent demonstrations and a zillion such polls as this one.
In response to one of the many leaks from the super committee, New York Times economist Paul Krugman wrote on his blog:
“I thought I had worked out all the worst-case scenarios for the supercommittee (there was never a best-case). But this is even worse than my worst imagining: a deal to undermine key social insurance programs in return for a promise that Congress will come up with a plan for raising revenue at some future date.
“If you think that promise has any credibility whatsoever – if you have any doubts that the end result would be to gut Social Security and actually cut taxes for the wealthy – I have this Nigerian bank account that can be yours if you send me $100,000 in expenses.
“The worst of it is that Democrats might actually go for it.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Cow Tipping