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In Press Secretary Jay Carney's press briefing Monday, we found out that President Obama is now pursuing a "big deal" instead of a "grand bargain." This big deal will not include raising the eligibility age for Medicare. Instead of that, apparently the president wants to offer up Social Security. Yep, the chained CPI is in the big deal.
Q: Can you clarify for me very clearly? Is the president open to raising the eligibility age for Medicare?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q: Absolutely not?
MR. CARNEY: The president’s made clear that we don’t believe that that’s the right policy to take. [...]
Q: What about reducing the annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients?
MR. CARNEY: Again, as part of a big deal, part of a comprehensive package that reduces our deficit and achieves that $4 trillion goal that was set out by so many people in and outside of government a number of years ago, he would consider the hard choice that includes the so-called chained CPI — in fact, he put that on the table in his proposal — but not in a cherry-picked or piecemeal way. [...]
He has put forward, as a technical change, as part of a big deal—and it’s on the table that he put forward to the speaker of the House. [...] But as part of that deal, a technical change in the so-called CPI is possible and is on offer as part of a big deal.
That "technical change" might be technical, but it's also a benefits cut. In case you need a refresher on what this is, it's a new formula for calculating the cost of living, a stingier one that will reduce benefits for Social Security beneficiaries and veterans pensions. It's supposedly a more exact way of indexing consumer prices, but it's also doesn't account for how elderly and poor people spend their money. It's a tax hike, too, if legislators choose to apply it that way since tax brackets are indexed to inflation, as well. It would save the government something like $200 billion over the next 10 years. It would take away $112 billion from the pockets of Social Security recipipents and $25 billion in veteran's benefits in the next decade.
We've had promises from President Obama that the most vulnerable would be protected from the hits. But here's the thing: half of Social Security recipients would qualify as vulnerable, including the majority of older women. That shows just one problem with the idea of this as a budget savings—by the time all of the people who would be hurt most by it are protected, any savings would be drastically reduced.
President Obama's big deal is mostly a start at chipping away at the New Deal.