October 25, 2013

The federal government shutdown and threat of default have passed, at least for now. But now the concern is what happens in budget negotiations between congressional Republicans, Democrats and the Obama White House.

For the bipartisan Washington elite and their sponsors on Wall Street, the goal of these negotiations must be a “Grand Bargain” that is centered on “entitlement reform.” Translated into plain English, that means they want the two parties to get together and agree to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the pensions of veterans and federal workers.

We need to speak up now, and tell members of Congress to get rid of the sequestration cuts, and not replace them with other cuts that hurt working people, the poor, children and the elderly.  Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, children’s healthcare, and nutrition programs must be off the table.

Fortunately, there are some influential people saying that, too. On October 21, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warned Democrats that his organization will work to “end the career” of any member of Congress who votes for such cuts. "No politician … I don’t care the political party … will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it." The AARP, the largest retirement advocacy group, is mobilizing seniors and others to contact members of Congress and tell them “No cuts.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) recently told a reporter that there will be no Social Security or Medicare cuts, and "There is not going to be a grand bargain.”

But President Obama has shown that he’s willing to cut these programs for the sake of a "Grand Bargain" with Republicans. That was clear when he appointed corporate Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, two well-known enemies of Social Security and Medicare, to head his “deficit commission” in 2010. It was clear again in April 2013 when he presented a budget proposal that included the so-called “chained CPI” (a hidden cut in Social Security by reducing the cost-of-living increases) and means testing of Medicare, another benefit cut. And Congressman Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, has indicated that he, too, is “open” to Medicare cuts and the chained CPI as he begins negotiating with Republicans.


How much would the chained CPI reduce your Social Security or veterans benefits? AARP has posted a very helpful online calculator to answer that question. Click here to use the calculator. After you see how much you’ll lose under the chained CPI, click the “Contact Your Legislators” button and send a message to your members of Congress.

Four months ago the UE News and ueunion.org ran six articles analyzing the attacks on Social Security and Medicare. Follow this link to read the lead article, with links to the others.