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I wrote a letter to Senator Richard Durbin's office asking him to oppose the President's "Compromise" budget and its use of the chained CPI to cut social security and increase taxes on the lower income workers.  In my letter, I questioned the chained CPI proponents' premise that the use of the current CPI-U overstates inflation, pointing out that my mom is currently in Alzheimer's care and receiving social security, and that over the past three years, while the cost of her care has increased from $3,800 to $5,600 monthly, her social security has only increased by $68, and that in her case it was not possible to "substitute" some commodity the price of which is decreasing for professional Alzheimer's care.

Predictably, I received a form letter from the senator's office, featuring a lot of words implying that the senator was undecided on whether to support the President's approach.  One paragraph piqued my interest though:

The CPI tends to overstate inflation due in part to substitution bias.  Given the widespread use of the CPI, especially when it comes to adjusting payments to inflation, its accuracy can have a significant impact on the economy.  Currently, the CPI is a fixed-weight price index and does not always accurately predict the impact of the price increase on a consumer's budget.  Some deficit reduction plans have called for a shift to a chained-CPI calculation to produce a measure of change in consumer prices that is free of substitution bias.
I called the senator's office to question this paragraph, and was referred to a staff member named Beth Cook.  After several attempts, I was able to reach Beth, and it became very clear from the conversation that the senator is "all in" on the chained CPI.  When I pointed out that it was inappropriate to refer to changes in Social Security in the context of "deficit reduction plans", Beth responded that the Senator "believes that all options need to be on the table."  I followed that cutting social security was not an option which would in any way impact the deficit, Beth responded that it was "necessary to sometimes introduce other policy issues to get people to talk about deficit reduction."

The conversation quickly devolved from there, with Beth continuously spewing infuriating talking points about the "inflated" and "inaccurate" CPI, the "impossibility" of a revenue-based solution to Social Security's long-term challenges, the "need to support the President's grand bargain, and even some nonsense about the senator "investigating the alternative of tax-favored savings plans to offset losses from the 'unsustainable' traditional social security program."  

While Beth continued to insist that the senator is "undecided", it was clear from the talking points that Senator Durbin's mind is made up and that he is fully behind cutting social security and increasing taxes on the poor and middle class.  Because "accuracy", you know.  I ended the conversation sick to my stomach that I voted for Senator Durbin and the President.

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Originally posted to WaltIN on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 09:28 AM PDT.

Also republished by Land of Lincoln Kos.

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