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Seniors to Congress: Protect Social Security

Hundreds of seniors, backed by community and labor groups, will perform the “Scrap the Cap Shuffle” in Federal Plaza tomorrow and deliver bags of bottle caps to congressional leaders to kick off a campaign to lift the cap on payroll taxes in order to strengthen Social Security.

The “Scrap the Cap” rally takes place at noon Tuesday, April 2, at the Federal Plaza, Dearborn and Adams.   Representative Danny K. Davis will participate, organizers said.

Delegations of seniors will attempt to meet with Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk to urge them to oppose cuts to Social Security and focus on strengthening the program by lifting the limit on income levels subject to FICA taxes.

Currently income over $113,700 is exempt from FICA taxes.  “Scrapping the cap” would solve solvency issues for Social Security far into the future. The program’s trust fund now has a $2.7 trillion surplus, enough to fully cover benefits for at least 25 years.  And the fund is entirely separate from the federal budget.

Durbin in particular has backed implementing the so-called Chained CPI — which seeks to predict how consumers will substitute cheaper items when prices rise — and raising the retirement age.

“Older women, especially older women of color will suffer the most from switching to a Chained CPI formula,” said Audrey Douglas, vice chair of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus. “Senators Durbin and Kirk need to hear that older women have something to say about this issue.   Any cuts to Social Security are unacceptable.”

The C-CPI hurts seniors because it fails to take into account the higher proportion of income they spend on fixed-cost necessities, including health care, rent, and utilities, according to experts.

Switching to the C-CPI would reduce benefits by $135 billion over the next decade, according to the Campaign for America’s Future.

In 2010, Durbin voted to back a proposal by the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission that called for instituting the C-CPI and raising the retirement age.

Last year he withdrew calls for including cuts to Social Security and Medicare in “fiscal cliff” budget negotiations after 19 people were arrested in a protest at his Chicago office, where a “Durbinville” shantytown was erected in a separate action.   But he’s refused to join Democratic colleagues including Harry Reid in pledging to oppose cuts.

More recently he’s called for a deficit reduction commission, which some advocates fear is another attempt to implement benefits cuts.

During the 2008 campaign, President Obama denounced Republican candidate John McCain’s endorsement of the C-CPI and a higher retirement age and called for lifting the income cap on FICA taxes (here’s a short video of his statements).

But since his election he has reversed course, making deficit reduction a key goal — despite a lagging economy and persistent unemployment — and repeatedly pushing Social Security cuts as part of budget deals, most recently offering “entitlement reforms” as a way out of automatic budget cuts now in place.

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