On Friday, MoveOn has called for actions at Congressional offices across the country to oppose President Obama's proposal to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits by using the "chained CPI" to cut the cost-of-living adjustment. At these actions, folks will be delivering SignOn petitions against the chained CPI cut, or any other cut to Social Security.
This is the new "roll your own" MoveOn. MoveOn members won't be delivering petitions written by MoveOn staff. They'll be delivering petitions written by MoveOn members like you and me.
At my local Congressional office - Rep. Rodney Davis, R-IL-13, in Champaign, Illinois - we'll be delivering these two petitions: "Cut Social Security & Veterans' Benefits? Cut the Pentagon Instead!" and "#ChainedCPI? For Every Social Security Judas, a Primary Challenge."
We're also encouraging folks to organize actions Friday at the four Illinois offices (Chicago, Springfield, Carbondale, and Rock Island) of Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, whose continuing failure to oppose the chained CPI cut is crucial to the fact that this terrible idea isn't dead yet, and who happens to be up for re-election in 2014.
You can create an action Friday against Social Security cuts at a Congressional office in Yourtown, USA here.
This is a golden opportunity for the public to reclaim American democracy. On many of the issues we face, we don't have a clean shot at the 1%, because there is a substantial fraction of public opinion on the same side as the 1%.
But there is broad, bipartisan public agreement that cutting Social Security and veterans' benefits with the chained CPI is a monstrous idea. The AFL-CIO, MoveOn, AARP, the American Legion, and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform all agree: chained CPI, no way.
On the other side, you have President Obama, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Wall Street, and the Washington Post editorial board. It's the bipartisan 99% against the bipartisan 1%.
What unites President Obama, Senator Lindsay Graham, Wall Street, and the Washington Post editorial board isn't just that they want to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits; it's that they want to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits while leaving the bloated Pentagon budget intact.
Broad, bipartisan public opinion has the opposite view: the broad public would rather cut the bloated Pentagon budget and leave Social Security and veterans' benefits alone.
Cutting the bloated Pentagon budget would save more dollars, more easily. According to the Congressional Budget Office, cutting Social Security and veterans' benefits with the chained CPI would save the government $163 billion over ten years. That's about two years of what the Pentagon wants to spend on the war in Afghanistan. It's a shade over 10% of the $1.5 trillion the Pentagon wants to spend on the Joint Strike Fighter, a single weapons program. It's what we could save if we cut Pentagon contractors by 7% and had government employees do the work instead.
The problem isn't that President Obama is a poor negotiator; it's that he's going for the wrong deal with the wrong Republicans. President Obama is trying to cut a deal with the Republicans who love Pentagon spending above all to raise taxes and cut Social Security while protecting the bloated Pentagon budget. The bipartisan deal we should be seeking would leave Social Security and veterans' benefits and taxes alone and cut the bloated Pentagon budget instead. The Republicans we should be courting are the ones who prefer Pentagon cuts and protecting Social Security to a tax increase.
This bipartisan deal to cut the Pentagon instead isn't pie in the sky: it's the default. That's what will happen if there is no "grand bargain" and Congress and the President have to live within the sequester caps on discretionary spending. This is something that they could easily do. Within the sequester caps, Congress and the President can protect all federal spending that serves the public interest. What they won't be able to protect is all the corporate welfare in the federal budget. Some of the corporate welfare will have to be cut. Pentagon contractors, oil, gas, and mining corporations, agribusiness, and the private prison industry are all ripe for cuts.
If you agree, why not come on your lunch break on Friday and make some noise at a Congressional office? But even if you can't come, you can sign the petitions that others will deliver.
Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.