November 08, 2013
Alliance Salutes Veterans All Across the Country
The Alliance and its coalition partners are holding several events around Veterans Day to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces. The events also draw attention to the fact that veterans are affected in multiple ways by the chained CPI cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), a cut to earned benefits. On Thursday, seniors joined veterans at events in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Facebook photos at http://tinyurl.com/ng6dk5h); Appleton, Wisconsin; Champaign, Illinois (video at http://tinyurl.com/pjqebgl); and Dayton, Ohio (story athttp://tinyurl.com/qxp6awy). The events are taking place before a December 13 deadline, when a House-Senate conference committee is charged with reaching a budget compromise. There is danger that the compromise will contain a “grand bargain” that would cut seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits as well as veterans’ benefits. “The chained CPI is a benefit cut that affects Social Security beneficiaries as well as those who receive veterans’ disability benefits and military pensions. Because of the number of programs that would be subject to the chained CPI, veterans would receive double, triple or more hits from the chained CPI,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.
At the Appleton event, approximately 45 activists rallied in front of Rep. Reid Ribble’s (R-WI) office to oppose the Social Security benefit cuts that he and 50 other Republican Representatives proposed in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (http://tinyurl.com/psply6q). The protesters also delivered petitions from constituents opposing cuts in the name of deficit reduction and called attention to a new report exposing how the chained CPI will harm veterans and Social Security beneficiaries in Wisconsin (http://tinyurl.com/qggwv38). Rep. Ribble is an outspoken advocate for raising the retirement age, adjusting the COLA formula, means-testing Social Security benefits and other benefit cuts. For photos from the Appleton event, go tohttp://tinyurl.com/oyc7rtw (photo credits: Wisconsin AFL-CIO). Additional events around the country will take place next week.
“The greatest part of Veterans Day is that it is about honoring and thanking veterans among us. So if you know a veteran family member, a coworker or a neighbor, just take a moment to say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ said Jimmy Gilbert, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council. “On behalf of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council officers and staff, I would like to say no matter when and where you served our country, ‘Welcome home and thank you,’” he added.
Ways and Means Committee Misleads on Chained CPI
Social Security beneficiaries will get a 1.5% increase in their monthly payments in 2014, the Social Security Administration announced last week. However, the program’s COLA will be below 2% for the fourth time in the last 5 years. Following that news, House Ways and Means Committee Republicans were misleading when they released a statement on Monday, saying, “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.” (http://tinyurl.com/l2k2s5m).
“Any economist will tell you, to use an earlier estimate for a figure – as they did – when an adjusted, more accurate number is available, is not sound analysis,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “The Ways and Means Committee is intentionally trying to mislead us. The chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) would be a cut in benefits – that is why conservatives support it. It is a cumulative cut over time,” Mr. Coyle added.
In fact, an average earner retiring in 2011 at age 65 would lose more than $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted. (http://tinyurl.com/kxywnow). Experts won’t know for sure what a hypothetical chained CPI COLA would have been for 2014 until January 2016, because the chained CPI is based on surveys of consumer substitution that are not completed until up to two years after the fact. This is one of the implementation problems a chained CPI COLA would face. Over the medium and long term, Social Security’s actuaries predict substantial differences across three possible COLAs: CPI for the elderly (CPI-E), CPI for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W), and the chained CPI. It is long-term trends that matter when it comes to the impact of COLAs on benefits, since the effect of COLAs compounds greatly over time. To read the Alliance’s full statement on the Ways and Means Committee Republicans’ use of a less accurate number to make their case that the chained CPI would increase benefits, go to http://tinyurl.com/obmlejl.
On Thursday, the Alliance sent a letter (http://tinyurl.com/ndpvnzv) to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) insisting that the misinformation be removed from the Committee’s web site. Go to http://tinyurl.com/ncaau69 to read a Huffington Post piece on the issue.
Sherrod Brown Co-Sponsors the Strengthening Social Security Act
In Youngstown, Ohio on Monday, Ohio Alliance President Norm Wernet shared the stage with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) as the Senator announced his co-sponsorship of S.567, the Strengthening Social Security Act (photo at http://tinyurl.com/okv4uda). “In times like these, people need more economic security, not less. By phasing out the earnings cap on contributions, this legislation extends the life of the trust fund and increases average benefits by about $800 per year,” said Wernet. If you have not contacted your senators about S.567, clickhttp://tinyurl.com/qgcbowb
Election Day Brings Key Victories in Cincinnati and Virginia
On Tuesday, Alliance-endorsed candidate Terry McAuliffe was elected Governor of Virginia. For a photo of Alliance campaigners, including Ms. Easterling and Tom Webb, AFGE Retiree President, go to http://tinyurl.com/patwrqf. Also on Tuesday, voters in Cincinnati resoundingly rejected Issue 4, the attack on pensions and retirement security that was on the ballot, by a whopping 78.3% to 21.7% (http://tinyurl.com/pdhlaxe). “Thank you to everyone who volunteered, wrote postcards, and told their friends about Issue 4,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. The Alliance sent two pieces of mail about the issue to members in Cincinnati.
AFSCME Video Personalizes the Potential Detroit Bankruptcy
The potential bankruptcy in Detroit is not only a Detroit crisis; it is also an American crisis. Bankruptcy will increase economic hardship for broad portions of the middle class in Michigan, including retirees on fixed incomes whose pensions could be cut. To view “Detroit Matters,” an AFSCME video of real stories on the subject, and sign a petition, go to www.standwithdetroit.org.