WASHINGTON - Politicians who cut the increases in Social Security - allegedly to help reduce federal red ink - will get cut out of office themselves next year, at the polls. The AFL-CIO will work for that, federation President Richard Trumka says.
Trumka took that stand in a brief interview with Press Associates Union News Service, after a Jan. 31 press conference. There, the federation joined other groups in defending Social Security against plans to reduce the system's annual cost of living hikes. He explained the fed would let voters know where solons stood on that issue.
"Hit 'em where it hurts," he said of Social Security cutters. "They understand the ballot box - and that's where it counts," Trumka told PAI.
Trumka joined leaders of women's rights groups, veterans, the disabled and Social Security advocates at the press conference. All the speakers, including three senators leading the crusade, oppose plans to change the way the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is calculated to determine yearly Social Security cost of living increases.
The new scheme, backed by virtually all congressional Republicans and some Democrats, is the "chained CPI." It would produce smaller increases in monthly Social Security benefits, including benefits flowing to present recipients, they said. That reduction would especially hurt women: 70% of female retirees rely on Social Security payments as their sole income source, one speaker said.
Advocates of the smaller cost of living hikes call them Social Security's contribution to so-called "entitlement reform" in budget deficit cutting. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., declared again that Social Security "has contributed not one dime" to the deficit, that it has paid full benefits for 73 years and can for at least 20 years more.
But Social Security's 56 million recipients draw an average of less than $15,000 yearly. So a $675 difference - the reduction due to the chained CPI-is "not a minor tweak" in benefits, but "a significant cut," said Sanders, leader of the Senate Save Social Security coalition.
The AFL-CIO will be in "full mobilization" against using the "chained CPI" to calculate Social Security benefit increases, Trumka told the press conference. That will include workplace visits, leafleting, lobbying and more.
Regardless of the outcome, the fed will be back out on the hustings in 2014, letting workers and everyone else know how lawmakers voted on the issue, he added.