The Walk to Walden's Woodshed and Other Contradictions in the Obama Budget

It's news these days that the President has dinner with members of Congress. Had President Obama enjoyed more meals or even an occasional beverage with some members of Congress in both parties, he might have found out that putting the Chained CPI in his budget could derail his entire legislative agenda because of the passions roused in both Democrats and Republicans against the proposal.

 

 

One of the key messages coming from the White House when the President's usual allies began openly criticizing his budget, was a time-trusted blame game statement that insisted "It was Speaker Boehner's idea."  While that may be the case, the Speaker didn't put Social Security cuts in the House's budget or even request that they be added as an amendment.  The President did.  The claim that he didn't own the proposal when his budget owned the proposal is not the only contradiction surrounding the Chained CPI proposal, but it's one of the more notable ones.

Related: Why the Chained CPI is Wrong for Social Security

Just before the President released his budget this month AARP released national and state polling asking specific questions about the Chained CPI proposal that would cut benefits for veterans, children, widows, retirees, and people with disabilities as well as raise taxes for most Americans.  To no one's surprise, except perhaps the President and his staff, the vast majority of older voters, the people who make up a large proportion of the voters in the 2014 midterm elections, had strong feelings against making cuts to our Social Security benefits.

We've seen that the message the White House uses to defend its own budget isn't being bought by members of the President's party nor is it being bought by many in the GOP.  Speaker Boehner dismissed the President's budget and one of the Speaker's House leadership team, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), called the budget proposal a "shocking attack on seniors."  Of course Walden got in to trouble with one of quasi-bosses, the Speaker, while his actual boss, the people in Oregon's second Congressional district didn't seem to mind his comments in support of them.

 

 

Another of the contradictory things the President and his staff have said about the benefit cut for veterans, children, widows, people with disabilities and seniors is that it's a "small tweak."  In the budget released by the President is also the line that "most economists find the Chained CPI [the benefit cut] to be more accurate."  This line is as blatant a lie as the "small tweak" line.  While economically speaking many agree the formula is accurate, most of the people who agree on its accuracy also agree that it isn't at all accurate for seniors, because it doesn't calculate the money older Americans spend on health care.

The President's budget ties itself in knots by carving out multiple groups from the Chained CPI to 'protect the most vulnerable.'  If it's more accurate, then why does anyone need to be protected from it?

For example, older Americans would get a so-called "birthday bump" as Social Security beneficiaries, with an $800 bonus added to their benefits after a certain amount of time.  If the formula were more accurate, they wouldn't need any such bonus or bump.  But the $800 bump unintentionally emphasizes that the Chained CPI is in fact a benefit cut.

Other groups could face multiple cuts to their benefits.  For example, a disabled veteran may face two benefit cuts if the Chained CPI becomes law: one as veteran benefits would be cut by the new formula, and one as Social Security benefits are cut by the new formula.

AARP believes the Chained CPI shouldn't be applied to anyone, and that Americans deserve a separate debate about strengthening Social Security, a program that doesn't contribute to the deficit.  After all, the government borrows from Social Security, which has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay benefits in full until 2033.  So there's no need to propose changes that would harm our veterans, children, widows, people with disabilities and older Americans.

To review, four myths, or contradictions we've seen in the President's budget on Chained CPI:

MYTH: Chained CPI is a more accurate measure for inflation.
FACT: If it were more accurate, the President's budget wouldn't need to turn the formula on its head and carve out only certain groups while others suffer the unnecessary consequences of benefit cuts.

MYTH: Many Republicans and Democrats agree with Chained CPI.
FACT
: Numerous Republicans and Democrats immediately distanced themselves from the President's budget when they saw that he had included Chained CPI which would be a benefit cut for children, widows, veterans, people with disabilities and seniors.  The Chained CPI would also increase taxes on most Americans.

MYTH
: The Republicans made the President do it.
FACT
: Neither the Republican House of Representatives nor the Democratic U.S. Senate included Chained CPI in their budgets.  Both of these budgets passed their respective chambers.

MYTH
: It's just a small tweak.
FACT
: The Chained CPI is no small change.  It's a massive benefit cut that impacts children, widows, veterans, people with disabilities, retirees. Chained CPI also raises taxes on most Americans, which is why even the conservative Americans for Tax Reform opposes it.

Let's work to convince the President and Congress these myths don't belong in anyone's budget.

 

Also of Interest

 

See the  AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more

 

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
December 11, 2018 10:07 AM
In an election year filled with partisanship and political fights, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel that their voices aren’t being heard or that the issues that affect their lives aren’t being addressed. But, many outstanding elected officials work hard every day to make a positive difference for their constituents.  That’s why AARP recognizes state legislators, governors, and other elected officials – from both sides of the aisle – who have stepped up and worked together to write, support, and advance common-sense policies that help older Americans remain in their homes and communities and retire with confidence. AARP is proud to announce our fifth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers, who fought this year to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones, along with our fourth annual bipartisan class of Super Savers, who championed policies that enhance retirement security.
December 05, 2018 01:06 PM
Caroline is a mother of two children and a preschool teacher who unexpectedly became a family caregiver for her father after he suffered a major stroke. Her father, Tom, now deceased, lost the use of his right side and his ability to speak. Multiple surgeries and rehabilitation treatments later, he was able to live at home with the help of nurses. But it was up to Caroline to provide daily care, such as overseeing appointments and handling certain nursing responsibilities, like managing his medications. “I became the person my father could rely on more than anyone in the world,” Caroline said. “I became his safe place and his best friend.” In communities across the country, family caregivers like Caroline are caring for older parents, spouses and other loved ones, helping them to remain at home – where they want to be. Their tasks are done out of love and commitment, but are not easy. That’s why AARP is fighting for family caregivers and their loved ones in every state. In 2018, AARP advanced new policies to provide more help at home, flexibility at work, training, relief and more, which will benefit over 30 million family caregivers. Here are a couple highlights:
November 27, 2018 08:55 AM
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the vital role that transportation options play in what we at AARP call “livable communities” – great places to live for people of all ages. Being able to get around is critical to earn a living, raise a family, contribute and stay connected to your community and enjoy life. And, having alternatives to getting behind the wheel of your own car is particularly important for older adults who want to stay in their homes and communities as they age.