On July 2, thousands of retirees across the nation took a stand against a proposal that would reduce Social Security benefits for all recipients. Nearly 2,800 people rallied and created human chains in front of key congressional offices and federal buildings in more than 50 cities nationwide. The participants were links in the “Human Chain Against the Chained CPI,” a national day of protest against the chained CPI, the Obama administration’s proposed formula to reduce Social Security cost-of-living increases as part of a “grand bargain” with Republicans on the federal budget for fiscal 2014.
The national event was sponsored by the Alliance for Retired Americans; its members were joined by activists from labor and other organizations such as Social Security Works, Health Care for America Now, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. In addition to the rallies, activists made thousands of phone calls and sent more than 100,000 emails to members of Congress, asking them to oppose the chained CPI.
“Social Security is really popular. To put it on the table is a blow to us; seniors are really upset,” says Hene Kelly, an AFT retiree who rallied in San Francisco. “Chained CPI is difficult to explain, but if you put it in terms of how many bags of groceries you can buy, it’s a little easier to understand. This is a cut to Social Security,” adds Kelly, who is legislative director for the California Alliance for Retired Americans and chair of the California Federation of Teachers Retired Educators Committee.
Kelly says these cuts will hurt the economy if they are allowed to get through. “The 1 percent doesn’t put money into the economy like we do; we keep the economy going with the money from Social Security.”
The national alliance is supporting congressional resolutions rejecting adoption of the chained CPI. There currently are two: H. Con. Res. 34, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and S. Con. Res. 15, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The alliance is also supporting the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 (S. 567), introduced by Sen. Harkin. This legislation strengthens Social Security by getting rid of the earnings cap, changes the formula for the cost-of-living-allowance to better reflect seniors’ spending habits, and increases the benefit.
Social Security is the only source of income for some people, says Kelly. “If it’s cut, they can’t live, and that will cost the government in the long run. That’s why we decided to rally.” [Adrienne Coles/Photo credit: Alliance for Retired Americans]