About 40 retirees belonging to the Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans held a demonstration Tuesday against federal proposals to use a less aggressive inflation factor for calculating yearly cost of living increases for Social Security recipients. One man wrapped his shoulders in large-link chain and others waved placards at passing motorists along Capitol Way to specifically target the “chained” Consumer Price Index, which President Obama signaled willingness to consider in his 2014 budget.
As outlined in a column in Governing magazine, the chained CPI assumes smaller increases in the cost of living by assuming consumers look for cheaper alternatives when prices go up on costlier goods or foods.
“This alone doesn’t do anything but this (demonstrating) is happening in about 50 places around the country,” Mike Warren, state president for the alliance, said of the “human chain” his members were forming.
Leslie Liddle, a field organizer for the group, said the event was timed to coincide when members of Congress are home. “They are on recess. We want to send them a message on their home territory,’’ Liddle said.
Warren said talk of cutting costs in Social Security comes at a time fixed pensions are becoming less common and there is more uncertainty for younger generations that are going to be relying more on 401(k)s.
The alliance has tried to raise the issue with local members of Congress – including U.S. Rep. Denny Heck of Olympia in the 10th district; U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor in the 6th; and U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas in the 3rd. But Liddle said none had signed onto a resolution in the House, nor had Sen. Patty Murray signed onto one in the U.S. Senate – apparently due to a lack of belief the chained CPI would ever become law.
“Patty Murray says there is no will in the Senate to do it. Kilmer will say there is no will in the House to do it. But no will in May doesn’t mean there won’t be will come September or October’’ when budgets come up again, Liddle said. “In Washington state we only have three of our members signed on to oppose use of the chained CPI.’’
Liddle identified the trio as U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen of Everett and Jim McDermott of Seattle and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.
Warren said he doesn’t believe Sen. Murray will let it happen. “At this point we have temporarily killed it,” he said.