Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Here We Go

Noises out of the White House and Congress, funneled through their ever reliable water-boy Ezra Klein (as well as many others), tell us that a Fiscal Cliff Deal is nigh, and one of its components is the adoption of the so-called "chained CPI" for calculating Social Security benefits (and possibly other Federal benefits) going forward.

In other words, a cut in future benefits.

It's not a trivial cut, either, as Social Security recipients have already felt the economic blow of low or no COLAs since the advent of the Permanent Recession (for you), while prices of goods and services used by seniors have continued to rise at a smart clip and profits to providers have never been higher.

The chained CPI assumes seniors can just substitute lower priced goods and services, and will do so, when their accustomed goods and services become more expensive, as they will. Ergo, the cost of living index need not reflect the full cost increases faced by older people. It can be jiggered in such a way that COLAs are diminished year by year, cumulatively, such that old folks will receive an ever lower monthly benefit than they would under the current, let alone an appropriate, cost of living index -- which is itself wholly inadequate.

Of course the tragedy in Newtown has consumed most of the attention lately, and with Christmas coming up shortly, there will be little opportunity for the public to consider and digest, let alone oppose, this move to put even more of the forever economic burden on the old, the sick, the halt, the lame and most especially the poor.

Oh, and supposedly, the White House is prepared to agree to the expiration of the payroll tax cut on workers come January. Now, the payroll tax cut was not a very good idea to begin with, but once it was instituted, the the $60-100 a month it provided to households for immediate spending rather than for future retirement became the difference between getting by for the moment and falling off the household fiscal cliff. Millions of households are being forced into poverty every year as it is; the moves to cut benefits and raise taxes for those least able to absorb further economic blows simply ensures more poverty and suffering in America in the future.

Of course, the correct approach is to raise benefits -- substantially at the lower end, not so much at the higher end -- lower the retirement age (55 or lower), provide Medicare for All (eliminating private profit health insurance companies), and establishing a full employment policy, putting everyone who can work to work in peacetime endeavors to repair and rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure while transforming America's energy regime.

All of this and more is doable, should have been started years ago, and as time passes is farther away than ever. Our Ruling Class simply has no intention of allowing any such thing in the near future, either.

We are locked in a political prison with no apparent escape...

But at least we're not Greece! Yay!

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