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A majority of House Democrats have signed a House Progressive Caucus letter to President Obama opposing benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
"We write to affirm our vigorous opposition to cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits in any final bill to replace sequestration," the letter, signed by 107 members, says. Sequestration is a set of automatic federal spending cuts, totaling $85 billion, that will take effect on March 1 unless Congress and President Obama agree on actions to avoid them.
Though these cuts will have severe consequences, conservatives have indicated their willingness to allow them to take place unless Democrats agree to cuts in so-called "entitlement" programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The letter - led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. and Raúl M. Grijalva D-Ariz., and Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., John Conyers, D-Mich. and Donna Edwards, D-Md. - singles out the "chained CPI," which many in Congress and the Obama administration are considering imposing as a way to restrain increases in Social Security benefits. Using this alternate measure of calculating cost-of-living increases would lock recipients into a declining standard of living over time, as their benefits would not keep up with rising costs of such items as health care that take up a disproportionate share of their spending.
The letter continues:
Earned Social Security and Medicare benefits provide the financial and health protections necessary to keep individuals and families out of poverty. Medicaid is not only a lifeline for low- income children, pregnant women, people with disabilities and families, it is the primary source of long-term care services and supports for 3.6 million individuals. We cannot overstate their importance for our constituents and our country.
That is why we remain deeply opposed to proposals to reduce Social Security benefits through use of the chained CPI to calculate cost- of-living adjustments. We remain committed to making the changes that will extend solvency for 75 years, but Social Security has not contributed to our current fiscal problems and it should not be on the bargaining table.
Similarly, we oppose proposals to increase Medicare cost-sharing requirements or to raise the age of eligibility. Half of all Medicare recipients live on less than $22,000 a year - yet they spend, on average, three times as much of those limited incomes on health care as other Americans. Raising their already heavy cost-sharing burden or increasing the age of eligibility doesn't lower health care costs, it just shifts them to those who can least afford more financial burdens - seniors, people with disabilities and their families.
A commitment to keeping the middle-class strong and reducing poverty requires a commitment to keeping Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid strong. We urge you to reject any proposals to cut benefits, and we look forward to working with you to enact approaches that instead rely on economic growth and more fair revenue-raising policies to solve our fiscal problems.