Tomorrow, the newly appointed budget conferees meet for the first time to hammer out a budget deal conservatives hope will include benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  In spite of the fact that budget cuts have already paid for nearly 75% of deficit reduction, with only 25% coming from revenue increases, even that’s not enough as some in Congress continue their attack on America’s safety net programs.

The National Committee urges Congress to reject plans to cut Social Security benefits through adoption of a new COLA formula called the Chained CPI.  We explain why in a letter sent to all 28 Budget Resolution Conferees today:

The chained CPI would reduce Social Security benefits for the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it.  Three years after enactment, the chained CPI would cut the Social Security benefits of a typical 65 year-old by about $130.  By age 95, the same senior would face a reduction of almost $1,400 per year.  Moreover, the chained CPI would have a harmful economic impact on every state and congressional district in the country.  In a National Committee report released earlier this month, we found that the COLA cut could result in a $31 billion loss in economic output and the loss of more than 200,000 jobs nationwide in 2023.  For an estimate of how your state’s economy would be affected by the chained CPI, please see our Foundation Report.

Social Security does not face an immediate crisis and is not driving either the short-term deficit or long-term debt. Rather than cutting the already meager benefits, Social Security should be strengthened for the long-term by increasing the current payroll tax cap on earnings.

We’ve also urged the conferees to reject proposals to cut Medicare:

Regarding Medicare, beneficiaries already have high out-of-pocket costs, and because over half of beneficiaries are living on incomes of $22,500 or less, they cannot afford to pay more.  However, if the budget resolution includes Medicare cost shifting proposals, seniors and people with disabilities could be required to pay a $25 increase in their Part B deductible, a $100 copayment per home health episode, and higher Part B premiums for purchasing comprehensive Medigap plans.  And, further means-testing of Medicare would mean middle class seniors would pay higher Part B and D premiums.  These proposals would shift costs to beneficiaries without solving the underlying problem of overall health care inflation, and would make Medicare more complicated and difficult to administer.

Conservatives have said they hope to use these benefit cutting proposals, also included in the President’s budget, as bargaining chips in the budget conference which begins tomorrow.  The National Committee will continue our efforts to stop these harmful cuts including a demonstration next month at the White House reminding the President and Congress that the American people, of all ages and political parties, do not support cutting benefits to balance the budget.