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A not-so-grand bargain for seniors

Democrats and Republicans in Congress have yet to reach a compromise on federal spending levels for the next fiscal year, or to strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling. One of the questions being asked is: "Will a 'grand bargain' include cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits in an effort to avert a partial government shutdown this fall?" The answer is not clear, and it's that uncertainty that has people, especially seniors, worried.

Over the past couple of weeks, President Obama has been touting what the administration calls a better bargain for the middle class. The plan focuses on jobs, housing, healthcare, retirement security and education. The Obama administration is proposing corporate tax cuts to increase spending on jobs and to create economic growth. However, administration officials say the White House remains open to alternative ideas, including the president's $1.2 trillion plan to replace the sequester.

If there is such a bargain, there is concern that it will include benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The cuts could come from switching to a chained CPI to calculate Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, or from means-testing Medicare by increasing premiums for seniors with higher incomes.

Seniors have been disappointed with the president's willingness to compromise on the issues of Social Security and Medicare, and many have taken to the streets with groups like the Alliance for Retired Americans to protest any proposed cuts. The concern over these vital issues is compounded by the fact that Republicans support these cuts.

The AFT supports addressing the spending cuts and generating revenue through tax reform, without making cuts to Social Security or Medicare.

[Adrienne Coles]

September 26, 2013