November 15, 2013

White House switchboard: 202-456-1414.
White House comments line: 202-456-1111.
Numbers for the Senate are here.
Numbers for the House are here.

Fortunately for us, I guess, the president's low popularity ratings may make politicians more reluctant to take on senior citizens and vets over the chained CPI -- but they're sure as hell going to try:

WASHINGTON — With congressional budget negotiations moving behind closed doors, one item apparently on the table is changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for seniors, veterans and other recipients of government benefits.

The consumer price index, or CPI, is the government’s main gauge of inflation and is used to determine cost-of-living adjustments, often shorthanded as COLAs. It’s a formula used for more than four decades.

But President Barack Obama earlier this year proposed a less generous formula called a “chained” consumer price index, in hopes of saving the government $230 billion over 10 years.

In April, Obama’s proposal was viewed as an olive branch to Republicans that was largely rejected. With budget bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate now in a conference committee to narrow differences and a mid-January deadline approaching, the issue is back on the table.

The chairman of the congressional talks, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., identified the issue as an area ripe for compromise.

"Compromise" being politician-speak for "selling out," of course.

Advocacy groups aren't giving up the fight, however:

“Democrats are going to have to give on entitlement reform,” Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat involved in budget negotiations, said in an Oct. 20 interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Two days later, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a Washington-based political group that raised and spent more than $1 million in the first six months of this year, blasted an e-mail to its 950,000 members, excerpting Warner’s comments.

“We need to pressure Senator Warner and other Democrats on their home turf to stop pushing for a Grand Bargain that cuts Social Security,” the e-mail said in bold-face type before asking for a $3 donation.

During the 16-day partial government shutdown last month, AARP monitored talks in Congress aimed at finding an agreement to open the government, while lawmakers in 18 states were warned in radio spots that “seniors are no bargaining chip.”

Warner “is aware” of the retirement group’s efforts and has received “several dozen” phone calls from constituents carrying the message, said Kevin Hall, the senator’s spokesman.

We can't let down our guard. For instance, we were reassured that Sen. Bernie Sanders was on the budget conference committee, but the real deal is now being made behind closed doors:

Senator Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont, complained about the secret negotiations and vowed to stop efforts to cut the Social Security pension program and Medicare and Medicaid healthcare benefits.

He presented Murray and Ryan with a petition signed by more than 700,000 Americans opposed to cuts in the programs. "I'm not a great fan of background negotiations," Sanders told Reuters Insider Television. "I will
do my best to make sure that we don't cut these very important programs, which are life and death to millions of Americans."

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