Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hosted a summit meeting today on Capitol Hill with seniors, veterans and other grassroots groups united to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans from budget cuts proposed by congressional Republicans and some Democrats.
The event drew hundreds of opponents of a proposal by President Barack Obama to cut cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and disabled veterans by revising how the consumer price index is calculated.
"There are fair ways to reduce the $845 billion federal deficit and $16.8 trillion national debt -- but balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor are not among them," Sanders said.
"Let's be clear," Sanders added. "Social Security has not contributed a dime to the deficit. Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Social Security can pay 100 percent of promised benefits for the next 20 years. In other words, despite what you may be hearing from right-wing Republicans and the mainstream media, Social Security is not in crisis and Social Security is not going broke."
Sanders is the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus and chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. He was joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).
The Alliance for Retired Americans, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and the Strengthen Social Security Campaign were among the organizations participating in the event. Sanders also welcomed support from AARP; the AFL-CIO; MoveOn.Org; the Campaign for America's Future; the Center for Community Change; Latinos for a Secure Retirement; the Paralyzed Veterans of America; AMVETS and other groups that helped organize the summit.
The proposed change in how to measure consumer prices, a so-called chained CPI, would result in significant cuts in benefits. The average 65-year-old retiree would lose $658 a year in Social Security benefits by their 75th birthday; $1,147 by their 85th birthday; and $1,622 by their 95th birthday. Permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits from the VA at age 30 would see their benefits cut by more than $1,400 a year at age 45, $2,300 a year at age 55 and $3,200 a year at age 65.
The chained CPI also would amount to an across-the-board tax increase on working families. More than three-quarters of the new revenue raised would come from Americans making less than $200,000 a year. Those making between $30,000 and $40,000 would be hit the hardest.