March 21, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
During our November 12, 2012 meeting at the White House with organizations representing labor unions and seniors, you clearly stated that you would not support including Social Security benefit cuts in a budget agreement to replace the “fiscal cliff.”
Moreover, in your January 21 inauguration address, you said: “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” Few have said it so eloquently.
However, these words have been contradicted by statements made in recent months that both the chained CPI and Medicare means testing remain a part of your deficit reduction proposal. The “chained CPI” is not a “technical tweak,” and no amount of rationalization can make it so. In reality, the chained CPI is a benefit cut for the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it. To offer to trade it away outside the context of a comprehensive Social Security solvency proposal ignores the fact that Social Security does not even belong in this debate because it does not contribute to the deficit. Cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit is unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans across all ages and political affiliations.
Likewise, we are concerned about proposals to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 and to increase the Social Security full retirement age from 67 to 69. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is living longer or is able to work into their late 60s. While life expectancy has risen six years in the top half of income earners, workers in the bottom half have only gained 1.3 years. What is more, the bottom 40 percent of income earners depend on Social Security for nearly 90 percent of their total income. Benefit cuts through the chained CPI and delaying access to Medicare for millions of Americans would harm seniors, people with disabilities and children; and have a disproportionately negative affect on women and communities of color.
When taken together, these benefit cuts will generate a tsunami of seniors living in poverty. As you said during your inaugural address, we don’t want to return to a time “when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.”
This is not hyperbole. More than half of all workers in the United States have no access to retirement plans at work and millions reach retirement age with little private savings. The present and growing retirement crisis means that we should be strengthening the social insurance safety net, not cutting benefits. But the approach you have suggested would do just that.
In addition, we should not fool ourselves that your negotiating partners will be satisfied with lowering Social Security COLAs or raising the Medicare eligibility age. Each debt limit increase, Continuing Resolution or sequestration will give them a second, third and fourth “bite at the apple.”
In November, you won the confidence of the American people by defending the middle class. I urge you not to let them down now by supporting a deal that undermines the last remaining retirement security pillars for middle-class Americans. And, on behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, we urge you to oppose any budget deal that relies on benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which would hurt millions of middle and working class Americans and their families.
With Warm Regards,
President and CEO