Economy Social Security

Up is Down

SSAlogoMost people regard chained-CPI as a benefit cut or, if you wish to frame it another way, a reduction of the growth of benefits.

No one would describe chained-CPI as an increase in benefits. No one except House Republicans.

[The] House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Social Security and is led by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), said the policy would have given seniors a bigger increase than they’ll be getting from the regular inflation gauge next year.

“If the more accurate chained CPI was used to determine the 2014 cost of living increase, seniors would see a 1.7 percent increase as opposed to this year’s increase of 1.5 percent,” Ways and Means Republicans said on their website. “What does a 1.7 percent increase mean? On average, that is an extra $21.60 each month for seniors to use on groceries, bills and medicine.”

House Republicans apparently made this fantastical calculation by using unadjusted, outdated numbers that are no longer credible. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, if chained-CPI were implemented, Social Security benefits would be about 2 percent lower than they are today by 2023.

If House Republicans, or anyone else, were serious about implementing chained CPI, the window of opportunity when that would have been plausible has passed.

The House and Senate have ruled out a grand bargain and House Republicans have unequivocally demonstrated that they will not negotiate in good faith. And if chained CPI ever had a chance of becoming law, it would been a part of a grand bargain that would realign the economy for the next decade.

That’s not going to happen now. We’ll be fortunate if we don’t experience another government shutdown if only to preserve the status quo.

It’s possible the idea may be floated while exploring whether Republicans will give up sequestration, but I think we know the answer to that already. Democrats should gird their outrage if congressional leadership float ideas if only to expose Republican intransigence.