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2014 was always going to be a tough one, right out of the box, with no extra poisoned frosting.

An off-year election of a sitting President's second term with that President's party on defense.


As a Democrat, liberal or no, do you really want to add a dozen extra anvils to that heavy load?

No. Of Course not.

Here's a sobering thought: What about the AARP? If Social Security is the Third Rail of American politics, and it is, the AARP's members make sure that the juice is set to extra-crispy.


The Obama Administration and members of Congress are considering, as a means of deficit reduction, a legislative change to the consumer price index – the so-called “chained CPI.” This change would have a particularly negative impact on Social Security benefits – here’s why:

1. Chained CPI compounds over time.
As a result of a chained CPI, there will be a 0.3% annual cut in Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs). Since this compounds over time, it would end up cutting the equivalent of one full month of benefits each year from a 92-year-old beneficiary. And it’s not a small cut overall – Social Security loses $112 billion over the next 10 years.

2. The greatest impact will be on the most vulnerable older Americans.
As retirees age, they have less income, fewer financial assets, and are more dependent on Social Security. Specifically, women tend to live longer than men and tend to have lower incomes, so women and poorer households are more at risk of falling into poverty with any cuts to Social Security.

3. Benefits for disabled and retired veterans would be cut.
3.2 million disabled veterans and another 2 million military retirees would see their benefits cut if chained CPI is adopted. Permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits at age 30 would see their benefits cut by more than $1,400 a year at age 45, $2,300 a year at age 55 and $3,200 a year at age 65.

4. Chained CPI is a less accurate measure of inflation.
Since retirees spend much more on medical care than working-age Americans, the current CPI calculations already underreport the rapidly increasing health care costs experienced by seniors. Moving to a chained CPI would exacerbate the gap between formula and actual costs.

5. Social Security does not drive deficits, and shouldn't be cut in any budget deal.
Social Security is a separately financed, off-budget program – it is not a driver of deficits in the rest of the budget. Any changes to Social Security should be handled separately, not as part of a budget deal that focuses on near-term savings that harm current retirees.

Well. That certainly doesn't sound like they are 'eh, whatever' about this at all, now does it?

That is the AARP's take on "Chained CPI". It's not neutral. It's not on the fence. It's not vague. To their members, they say unambiguously that it is a cut, that it's wrong, and you don't want or deserve it because it is unnecessary. Does anybody think that sounds like a group that is going to stay neutral in 2014? Keep its powder dry?  Not get engaged and put in its two cents?

They don't even have to say "get really, really mad". That business will take care of itself.

The AARP reveals that 70 percent of voters age 50-plus oppose the use of the chained CPI to cut benefits, and two-thirds of them – including 60 percent of Republicans — say they would be “considerably less likely” to support a congressional candidate if he or she backed a new way of calculating consumer prices. And 84 percent of voters over 50 say Social Security has no place in budget-deficit discussions, since it is self-financed.
You know what else? It makes this:
"I strongly opposed the Obama (Democrat Party/Reid/Pelosi) Social Security Cuts."                                -American Crossroads is soley responsible for the content of this ad
Much, much easier to pull off.

The only way you are able to run this ad, let alone run this kind of ad with an austerity pimp like Paul Ryan able to cast himself as defending Social Security from the "Democrat Party", is if the Democrats make it possible. Well, now it is possible. AND it may very well be something the Right is able to do with an AARP scarequote or two in it as well. To go along with the Biden quote that Social Security was not going to be touched, and candidate Obama swearing off the idea of cutting the Program in 2008. All of that would be, in a word, priceless in isolation to a Republican consulting firm or a Koch Brothers or Karl Rove outfit. The ability to put all that together? Only one of the greatest acts of political malpractice even pulled off would allow it out of the realm of RW fever dreams.

But wait.

Why worry? Why worry about the Democratic Party being on the hook for "Chained CPI"? Or the AARP getting engaged in a way that hurts the Democratic Party in 2014?

The GOP hates Social Security! "Everybody" knows that.

What's could possibly work in their "Democrat Party and Chained CPI" playbook?

The GOP's pivots are as clear as they are simple. Let the Democrats own 100% of specifics, and bait them to keep attaching their name to the policy in ways that have multiple political uses later, while falsely framing themselves as the good guys in all of this.

Look at what Republican Senator John Boozman said here:

“It’s good that [the] president is starting to throw things on the table,” [Sen. John] Boozman said of chained CPI. “I know he got some pushback from his troops. And so, at some point, we’re going to just need to sit down and figure out how to not cut Medicare, Social Security, those programs, but make sure they’re viable for young people in the future.”
Did you notice that the Republican Senator didn't say "Social Security Cuts" or "Chained CPI"? He said "things" on the table. Be vague on what gets cut. Let the Democrats own that as much as possible. Ideally, all of it. But when it got to be time to get specific, and say the program names in question, he said, specifically, we need to figure out how not to cut them. Before making the usual mouth sounds about preserving the programs. You know, the ones that his party has been trying to destroy since their creation. Now. Boozman. Sheesh. How to put this? This isn't one of the likely MENSA members in the Republican ranks inside the DC beltway. If a butter knife in the scalpel drawer is still sharp enough to play this like a Rounder at a poker table full of tourists suckers, that should give a non-Movement Conservative pause. Real pause.

Here's Republican Greg Walden, who is going to help craft the GOP's 2014 election strategies going forward. In poker, this kind of Tell is called "looking at your cards and suddenly blinking and twitching over the felt like you are having a grand mal seizure".

Top Republican Blasts Obama Budget As ‘Shocking Attack On Seniors          

Remember those warnings about how instead of welcoming President Obama’s adoption of Chained CPI, Republicans would continue to deny him a budget deal and attack him for proposing to cut Social Security?

Well Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — who also happens to be chairman of the House GOP’s re-election committee — just showed how it’s done, saying Obama’s budget “lays out a shocking attack on seniors.”

“I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country,” he said on CNN Wednesday afternoon.
Needless to say, if the NRCC chairman is fronting this line of attack, we’ll probably see it pop up contested districts around the country next year.       -   Talking Points Memo.
A Democrat, any Democrat, willingly putting his or her fingerprints on cutting Social Security has profoundly erred. Is Social Security still the "Third Rail" of American politics? Why, yes it is!
"But, but, but... Fred Hiatt!?!? David Brooks!?! Ron Fournier?!?!"
Sigh. None of these brave souls have ever humped a rifle before pimping a stupid war that was to be killing and maiming other people, so, why would they not demand that somebody in elected office who is also not them go and prove their "seriousness" by committing political suicide? Their first and only serious consideration is "what about me, my safety, my security?" If they are in the clear, watch out.
"But, but, but... Alan Simpson! Pete Peterson! Fix the Debt!"
Yes. All of them want Democrats to own this, and the GOP to get to sit back and watch the incredible 'Democratic Party Implosion' show if they don't actually get to get the policy passed with somebody else bearing all the blame for it. All of those people would also have been big VIPs at any Romney/Ryan Inaugural Gala or Presidential Ball in 2012. Not. Your. Friends. All of them also would have been tremendously thrilled by 2008 and 2012 GOP wave election landslides that didn't happen. All would also really love 2014 to be a historic GOP wave election.
"Nobody cares about this, people don't watch the news and they don't care about things like the President's budget containing Social Security cuts."
Wow. I see things like that said seriously as pushback and I wish we could harness massive delusion as an alternative source of energy to save the world.

There is no winning this once you own it. No explaining it. Turning it into a win. This is one of those things you don't wander into for the same reason you don't merrily skip through a minefield. If you want to fight them, along with the GOP, and their Citizen's United money, and depend on the lazy beltway Village (who will be entertained by the Democrats plight more than pushed to put anything in context or give them a break) to debunk the tsunami waves of "I Oppose/Opposed the Obama/Democrat Party Social Security Cuts" ads, you do so at your peril.

Let's all be clear on something. Here and now.

Framing. Specifically, re-Framing "Chained CPI" in some fashion.  

Very Serious People and Wonks will try to pitch you on the idea that it is possible.

Forget it. Fantasyland. The AARP has ended any microscopic chance of selling that.

Anybody who thinks that they can spin "Chained CPI" into wonky political gold, instead of it being an easily framed electoral anvil, is utterly delusional. After a thousand talking points? It's a Social Security benefits cut that takes funds out of current seniors pockets. After a thousand position papers to sell it as 'not a cut'? It's a Social Security benefits cut that takes funds out of current seniors pockets. Even if you don't agree with that. You can talk and talk and talk until you are blue in the face as somebody who supports the policy or wants to try and moderate the damage that having your parties fingerprints on it will do. This is still a cut. Anybody seen as being behind it is going to take a hit. That's why you don't want your name on it. This is obvious. Like touching a fire to see if it's hot. Yep. Still hot. The blame will be just as easy to fix in place by Republican consultants and the Rightwing echochamber. This is, by far, the easiest frame and blame job, handed to any political consultant, in the last 50 years of American politics.

Dick Morris and Pat Caddell couldn't screw this one up for their clients.  

Call your Senators, and your House Representatives and let them no you do not support cutting Social Security benefits. Tell them that it doesn't matter to you what the austerity policy is called, or what the talking points and spin is to be used to try and sell it as anything but a disasterous idea. Your Democratic Senators and Reps. in Congress will thank you later for killing this nonsense as early in the crib as you can.

It's not too late. There is still time.

If you can't oppose a Chained CPI because you don't care about the cuts huring the elderly and the disabled, or you think it's a great idea as you are a strong believer in all the beltway deficit fetishism and debt hysteria, that has nothing to do with Social Security at all, you should oppose it because it is profoundly bad politics. There is no political upside to Democrats becoming the Chained CPI party. None. Not only is there no upside, but it will hurt every Democratic office holder because it does harm to the heart of the party brand. Liberal. Moderate. Corporatist Semi-Conservative. I have spent hours of my life looking for some shred of a fig leaf for this, and I have found not a single solitary coherent rational explanation as to how it helps anyone in the Democratic Party win in 2014, or beyond, or helps maintain/grow the party brand, or how it will, in any way, bolster or strengthen the Democratic Party at all.

Let's go another step further. If you are an Obama supporter, particularly if you are a strong and passionate Obama supporter, especially if you are one who is often frustrated with what you see as your President being treated too disrespectfully or with what you see as commentary being filled with too much bile, well, you should oppose him as strongly on this front for his own good and his future political well-being as resoundingly as anyone. Stop. Think. What happens if the GOP uses the blowback to win the Senate and increase its GOP House Majority? Especially to the Obama administration itself? To be blunt, Whitewater meets the Arkansas Project on Meth and Steroids. No stinging hippy punch, no matter how rhetorically searing or lauded, will soothe, let alone undo, that if you choose to let that happen while hoping for the best. All you have to do is think about Senator Ted Cruz with a gavel, legions of investigators, full subpoena power, and the Village full-on trying to out-Fox Fox News.

The threat of 2014 going from a tough Democratic slog to a possible GOP wave election is as real as it gets. Every Democrat still has the time to make a personal, and then a wider, collective choice, and push their Reps and Senators to say "no" and to change course before it actually is too late. Chained CPI is easily framed as both a painful Social Security benefits cut, and a regressive middle class tax increase. Easily understood, and framed, to the lowest of low-information voters by the worst bad faith snake oil salesmen of the Right. It is one of the dumbest things to come down the non-Movement Conservative policy pipeline in probably all of our lifetimes. It's dumber than DOMA. If not for Democrats signing off on the second Iraq War with a crystal meth kind of cynical cowardice and rank abdication meeting up with sheer stupid, it would be the absolute dumbest non-Movement Conservative act of political malpractice in most of our lifetimes.

That's why we have to stop this.  

If not because it's a bad idea, or because it violates every core value and principle you believe in as a non-Movement Conservative, then to prevent a catastrophic election outcome that is as easy to predict as how an elderly voter will react to his or her household losing hundreds of dollars they can't afford to lose in the name of their having "skin in the game".

Barring that? If cutting Social Security is allowed to become fixed in the minds of the public as a Democratic Party policy, I'd suggest investing in a helmet. The GOP is going to be gleeful, the Village extra-useless, and the AARP marching spears out. This is not a group you can concern troll or hippy punch into shutting up and getting in line.

If I were to think of the worst possible position to find myself in before an off-year election, a cycle that I was already playing defense to begin with, with the control of the majority of the US Senate very much at stake, with "IMPEACH NOW!" freaks waiting for Senate gavels and subpoena power, well, having to worry about defending the entire party from an extremely powerful and influential group that should be my greatest natural ally on the social safety net would more than fit that bill. I would think that that outcome would probably be one of the lower circles of the lower circles of my worst idea of political Hell.

It's not too late. Call. And call again.

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DailyKos Blogathon -- Week of April 8th

(All times are Eastern, diaries published by the Pushing back at the Grand Bargain group)
Monday, April 8
10:00 a.m. Roger Fox
12:00 noon eXtina
2:00 p.m. Guest crosspost by Yves Smith
3:00 p.m. poopdogcomedy
4:00 p.m. Horace Boothroyd III
6:00 p.m. slinkerwink
8:00 p.m. joedemocrat

Tuesday, April 9
10:00 a.m. Guest crosspost by Bill Black
12:00 noon Livestream Event diary/Team
2:00 p.m. joe shikspack
4:00 p.m. Roger Fox
6:00 p.m. Priceman
8:00 p.m. TomP

Wednesday, April 10
11:00 a.m. Liveblog budget announcement press conference
12:00 noon  Words in Action
 1:00 p.m.  bobswern
2:00 p.m.  One Pissed Off Liberal (OPOL)
4:00 p.m.  Puddytat
6:00 p.m.  Tool
8:00 p.m.  SouthernLiberalinMD

Thursday, April 11
10:00 a.m. Letsgetitdone
12:00 noon  CitizenofEarth
 1:00  p.m. Words in Action
2:00 p.m. Liveblog event diary
3:00 p.m.  LeftHandedMan
4:00 p.m.  Unitary Moonbat
6:00 p.m. cosmic debris
8:00 p.m. angelajean

Friday April 12
10:00 a.m. joanneleon
11:00 a.m. Roger Fox
12:00 noon jamess
1:00 p.m. joejoejoe
2:00 p.m.  ek hornbeck
3:00 p.m. Seneca Doane
4:00 p.m. poopdogcomedy
6:00 p.m. Jim P
7:00 p.m.
8:00 p.m. Roger Fox

* If you would like to join the blogathon, contact joanneleon or Lady Libertine by kosmail.


1. Call your senators and representatives and tell them "Hell No!" with a priority on contacting senators.  U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.  You can find email contact information here

2.  Contact the White House and tell them "Hell No!".  Switchboard: 202-456-1414.  Email contact page is here.

3.  Petitions.  There are a number of petitions available.  Choose from the following or preferably sign them all.

a. White House petition calling for no cuts to Social Security.
b. AFL-CIO petition calling for no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and calling for more jobs, repealing the sequester and ending tax loopholes for the wealthiest individuals and corporations.
c. Sen. Harkin's petition telling Pres. Obama not to cut Social Security.

4. Social Media.  Share this diary and promote this blogathon on Facebook and Google+ using the buttons at the top of the diary.  Send this out on Twitter and add the hashtags #HellNo and #NoGrandBargain.

Blogathon diaries you might have missed
Hell No! #NoGrandBargain: "Pushing back at the Grand Bargain" by Roger Fox
Hell No! Chained CPI will reduce eligability for EITC #noChainedCPI by Roger Fox
Hell No! Dan Pfeiffer: "The President's Budget Shows That He is Serious About Solving Deficits" by eXtina
Guest Crosspost, Yves Smith: Obama Wants to Be the President Who Rolled Back the New Deal by Yves Smith via joanneleon
IA-Sen: Tom Harkin (D) Needs Our Help Telling Obama Hell No To The Chained CPI by poopdogcomedy
Hell No! Stop crushing the poor by Horace Boothroyd III
Hell, No! Social Security Contributes Nothing To Deficit by slinkerwink
Hell No! No Grand Bargain: Chained CPI: Social Security Means So Much To So Many by joedemocrat

Bill Black: “Wall Street Uses the Third Way to Lead its Assault on Social Security” by Bill Black via joanneleon
Hell No! Livestream. Petition delivered to White House. Millions of signatures. 12:30pm by Lady Libertine
Hell No! No Grand Bargain. Are "Progressives" Destroying the New Deal? by joe shikspack
#HellNo ! #ChainedCPI : $65 billion income tax increase on working families #noChainedCPI by Roger Fox
Hell No! Chained CPI is a Cut. You Either Care About People or You Don't. by priceman
Hell No! No Votes or Money To Dems Who Vote To Cut Social Security. by TomP


Hell No! No Grand Bargain Liveblog 2014 Budget press conference by joanneleon
Hell No! No Grand Bargain: Are We At War With Our Own Neoliberals? by Words In Action
Hell No! “Progressives Rage...Over Plan to Cut Social Security” (Pt. 1 of 2) by bobswern
Hell No! Pam Martens: “Progressives Rage...Over Plan to Cut Social Security…” (Pt. 2 of 2) by bobswern
Hell No! There's No Way to Vote Against Goldman Sachs by One Pissed Off Liberal
Hell No! Hands Off Social Security - This Has Gotten Personal by Puddytat
Hell No! Expand Social Security - Don't Cut It by Tool
Hell No! "Do You Think That Democracy Is Part of the Problem?” Attacks on Soc Security& Democracy by SouthernLiberalinMD

Originally posted to Pushing back at the Grand Bargain on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 12:00 PM PDT.

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