In a mood of displeasure and disappointment out here in Colorado a few days back, I sent a comment to whitehouse.gov ahead of President Obama's Social Security (cave)proposal. Then I forwarded the message to my Senators Udall and Bennet to find out what their positions are on the issue. Here is the record of the communication so far...
The first message, sent to President Obama and then forwarded to Senators Udall and Bennet:
Bad move on offering cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Mr. President. Morally and strategically. I would never have believed it possible, but I'm actually thankful for the intransigence of the Republicans and I hope that their intransigence convinces you to take the chained CPI off the table. But I won't hold my breath because it now seems woefully apparent that despite the fact that I and millions of others that voted for you TWICE in hopes that you would fight for the deep principles that practical progressives espouse, you lack the stomach for the battle. And FYI I'm NOT a wide-eyed, naive airy-fairy liberal or some cynical political operator that used a slogan such as "Change We Can Believe In" in order to hoodwink the American people for their votes. I am a student of the history and struggle of American politics and I took you at your word. No more. You've just lost me and many others. Good luck with your fundraisers and corporate sponsors. 2016 can't get here fast enough.
The response from the Senator Udall:
April 9, 2013
Thank you for contacting me regarding Social Security. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
Protecting the viability of Social Security has been a priority of mine since first being elected to the U.S. Congress over a decade ago. The year 2010 marked the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act of 1935 becoming law, and I am committed to the efforts under way to maintain this vital program for an additional 75 years and beyond. Though the program was never intended to serve as a stand-alone retirement policy, it was designed to provide a safety net guaranteed to be there when our fellow Americans need it most. As many baby boomers are set to retire in the coming years, we must continue to look for ways to keep our promise to the millions of Americans who have worked so hard and rely on the program's solvency and long-term stability.
In December 2010, the president's bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released its recommendations for deficit and debt reduction commonly known as Simpson-Bowles plan. I believe the commission's report deserves to be considered by Congress, and I commend the commission for negotiating an effective, if sobering, plan for reining in our nation's fiscal imbalances while protecting vital programs like Social Security on which Americans rely in tough times and in retirement. That is why I led a bipartisan letter with six members of the Colorado delegation imploring congressional leaders to come to an agreement on a deal that put our spending and deficit on a sustainable path while reforming entitlements so they are sustainable for the long term.
In the 113th Congress, I will continue to push for a bipartisan deal on the deficit that grows our economy and responsibly reforms the federal government. I am optimistic that we can reach a bipartisan deal that puts our spending and deficit on a sustainable path while shoring up entitlements in the long term. Any broad deal that achieves these needed goals will not be perfect, and surely no provision will have unanimous support, but that should not deter us from taking up and passing a well-crafted, strategic deficit reduction plan like the one recommended by the Simpson-Bowles Commission. Congress should strive to avoid half measures or kicking the budget can down the road any further.
I will continue to listen closely to what you and other Coloradans have to say about matters before Congress, the concerns of our communities, and the issues facing Colorado and the nation. My job is not merely about supporting or opposing legislation, but also about bridging the divide that has paralyzed our nation's politics. For more information about my positions and to learn how my office can assist you, please visit my website at www.markudall.senate.gov.
U.S. Senator, Colorado
I don't know about you folks, but Senator Udall's use of words like "bipartisan deal" and describing the Simpson-Bowles plan as "well-crafted" do not exactly inspire me with the belief that Senator Udall will be a warrior in defense of Social Security, because in the real world outside of beltway pundits and Washington DC pols, bipartisan compromise means Democrats aiding and abetting the Republicans in the destruction of Democratic priorities.
Senator Bennet's response:
Thank you for contacting me regarding Social Security and the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). I appreciate hearing from you on this very important issue.
I believe that Social Security is a sacred promise that we have made to our nation's seniors. The program provides income security and makes it possible for millions of Americans to avoid poverty when they enter retirement. After years of hard work and payment into the program, seniors deserve to reap these benefits and retire with dignity. It is hard to overestimate the importance of Social Security and the safety net it provides.
As you know, Social Security beneficiaries receive a COLA to compensate for the effects of inflation. In the fall of each year, the Administration announces Social Security changes for the coming year. The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), updated monthly by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is the measure used to compute the change.
Recently, there have been several proposals to replace the CPI-W in the COLA formula with other measures of inflation. For example, the 2010 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Senator Simpson and Mr. Bowles) and the Bipartisan Policy Center (Senator Domenici and Dr. Rivlin) have proposed replacing the CPI-W with the Chained CPI for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U). The issue has also come up during the course of budget negotiations.
I believe that we have an obligation to protect the Social Security while ensuring that it remains solvent for future generations. The retirement of the baby-boom generation will place increasing pressure on the program.
Our national debt represents one of the greatest challenges that our nation faces. If we don't get it under control soon, our children and grandchildren will have fewer opportunities than our generation has enjoyed.
While I support a comprehensive approach towards addressing the deficit, I believe that any reforms to Social Security should go towards improving the solvency of the program-not for deficit reduction. As Congress continues to work on a budget, I will strive to ensure that any changes to Social Security extend its solvency, making it stronger and more sustainable for our future generations.
I value the input of fellow Coloradans in considering the wide variety of important issues and legislative initiatives that come before the Senate. I hope you will continue to inform me of your thoughts and concerns.
For more information about my priorities as a U.S. Senator, I invite you to visit my website at http://bennet.senate.gov/. Again, thank you for contacting me.
Michael F. Bennet
United States Senator
Actually, I'm a little more heartened by Senator Bennet's response, which is more substantive and realistic about the state of the Social Security program than Senator Udall's response, although still a bit more steeped in the "deficit hysteria" conventional wisdom for my tastes.
So there you have it from the Colorado Senators. Seems to me at the very least that the pressure needs to be maintained on them to prevent any straying and to remind them that caving on principle issues like Social Security may lead to primary challenges down the road. Which is what I pretty much reminded them with my last reply I sent them today:
Thank you for your response to the message I sent your office a few days ago regarding the current talks and negotiations centering on the federal budget, taxes and Social Security. As I believe I made clear in that message, I am a strong supporter of this bedrock program, one of the proudest and most successful progressive legacies of the New Deal and of President F.D. Roosevelt.
What I am less enthusiastic about is how the program has been drawn into the broader conversation concerning Federal debt when the widely known, but barely reported fact that Social Security is fully funded and solvent apart from the rest of the Federal budget.
I know this and you know this. That is not to say that the program can’t be further strengthened by raising the income cap above the current Social Security wage base of $113,000. Unfortunately, due to misleading and hysterical rhetoric from the Republican Party and their (mostly) corporate funded supporters, millions of citizens are either unaware or misinformed about this.
In short, I am asking you to do the right thing and protect Social Security and its beneficiaries, the senior citizens of America, from unnecessary and unjust cuts to pay for unfunded wars and tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations merely because they have the power and resources to lobby the government to do their bidding.
I will be carefully watching these talks and negotiations. I will not accept euphemisms and phony sentiment about the need for bipartisan “compromise.” The Republicans have proven themselves as utterly bankrupt in terms of ideas and governance at all levels. I will recognize a vote for a cut for what it is, a vote for a cut. Don’t do the Republicans' dirty work and sabotage Social Security for them. It’s a huge political loser.
A concerned Colorado citizen.
(of course I actually signed with my name, which I have removed for the purpose of this diary)
And that's where things stand. I just thought my fellow Coloradans and others interested in this issue might be interested to know what the positions of our Senators are at the current time. I will stay vigilant.