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Letter to Representative Brooks on Social Security

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Written by Dean Baker   
Friday, 29 July 2011 07:31

The Honorable Mo Brooks
1641 Longworth Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Brooks:

Responding to a letter campaign from a large number of your constituents asking you to stand up for and support Social Security, you recently said, "I haven't seen a proposal by anybody that hurts anyone receiving Social Security or Medicare."

Actually, one such proposal has emerged in the context of deficit reduction talks, namely, changing the inflation measure of Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs). This would involve changing the index for calculating the cost of living to a new index, known as the “chained consumer price index” (CCPI). The CCPI typically shows a rate of inflation 0.3 percentage points less than the CPI currently used to adjust benefits.

A reduction of 0.3 percent in benefits may seem small, but this will accumulate through time. After being retired 10 years, benefits will be almost 3.0 percent lower with the CCPI. After 20 years the loss will be near 6 percent, and after 30 years the reduction in benefits will be close to 9 percent. This is a serious loss of income for seniors, the vast majority of whom rely on Social Security for most of their income.

Your constituents have made it clear that they expect their elected officials to protect their benefits. As their Congressman, I thought that you should be aware of the effects changing to the chained CPI would have on Social Security. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

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