I read with interest the Feb. 10 guest column, “Cut benefits? There’s a better way to reduce the deficit,” by Don Berry and Terry Lochhead. It made some great points against cutting Social Security benefits.
One of the more recent, and worst, ideas to surface lately in Washington is the proposal to cut Social Security benefits by changing the way the cost-of-living is calculated.
This “chained CPI” plan is often portrayed as a technical “fix.” In fact, it would cut Social Security benefits substantially, leaving seniors with less protection against increasingly expensive health care, prescription drugs and utilities. The only thing that is “cheap” is the talk of the politicians who promised they wouldn’t cut Social Security benefits for current recipients.
The chained CPI breaks that pledge and does it in a way that the longer we live, the more we lose.
In Maine, where there are more than 204,000 people who receive Social Security, we would lose more than half a billion dollars in benefits over 10 years.
The CPI already fails to take into account that seniors spend more on health care, which is rising much faster than overall prices. The CPI assumes, wrongly, that when prices go up, seniors can simply plug in a less expensive substitute. But seniors spend much of their money on basics such as drugs, utilities and health care, which don’t have lower cost substitutes.
The chained CPI won’t fix anything and Social Security shouldn’t be cut to solve Washington’s budget problem.
J. Diane Shnaider, Poland
AARP Maine advocacy volunteer