Let’s Apply The chained-CPI concept of Raising Revenue to How We Pay Our Government Officials
Some of you who have been keeping up with budget talks, especially the so-called “fiscal cliff” arguments, may be aware of one of the measures being discussed to reduce the deficit. It’s called the chained-CPI method of figuring cost of living raises (COLA) for, among other things, people who receive benefits from social safety net programs
Sophie Quinton’s article in the National Journal sums up nicely what the chained CPI is.
Here’s how the new metric would save money: Social Security, federal pensions, and military and veterans’ benefits are indexed to rise each year with inflation; so are tax brackets, exemptions, deductions, and credits. But experts say the consumer price index the government currently uses overstates how rising prices affect household spending.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has come up with a more accurate measure, which accounts for consumers’ tendency to switch to cheaper categories of products when prices rise. Rather than looking at a fixed set of goods—as the standard formula does—the new measure looks at how the set of goods changes, and then “chains” two consecutive months of consumption data together.
The chained CPI rises a little more slowly than the current measure. So if the chained CPI were used to calculate cost-of-living increases, it would mean smaller increases to Social Security checks each year. If the chained CPI were applied to the tax code, it would move taxpayers into higher tax brackets faster. SOURCE
There are at least ten things wrong with this method as Daniel Marans explains over at FDL news and they all impact the most vulnerable segments of our population, especially the elders on fixed incomes. I know we are all expected to contribute our fair share to lowering the deficit, but as Lambert Strether notes, this is hardly a “fair share” for some of us.
A “sacrifice” where some give up luxuries and others give up necessities is in no way “shared.” A marginal sacrifice for the rich is not commensurate to core sacrifices for the rest of us. But the tropes of official Washington carefully brush this reality away. SOURCE
Let’s not forget either that it was the spending of drunken sailors in the GOP under Bush/Cheney, along with conservative Democrats that started putting us in the fiscal hole. Spending that was aimed at benefitting wealthy corporations rather than those now being asked to saddle this undue burden on their source of income. Now is not the time to hit the poorest amongst us with benefit cuts and especially on the backs of those Social Security beneficiaries whose source of benefits DO NOT contribute to the deficit. Even the conservative’s darling, Ronald Reagan, pointed this out when he was President.
As much as those who continually and falsely shriek that the deficit is the biggest threat to our children’s future, there are ulterior motives behind this bogus pronouncement as Paul Krugman and others have duly noted:
Contrary to the way it’s often portrayed, the looming prospect of spending cuts and tax increases isn’t a fiscal crisis. It is, instead, a political crisis brought on by the G.O.P.’s attempt to take the economy hostage. And just to be clear, the danger for next year is not that the deficit will be too large but that it will be too small, and hence plunge America back into recession. SOURCE
The point of all this being that many of those who live off of our taxes rather handsomely seem too eager to reduce certain benefits that impact the poorest amongst us while leaving other areas alone, like the Defense budget. Why voters keep sending some of these yokels back to Washington is the height of foolishness but that seems to be where we are at these days. Voters appear ready to “throw the bums out” with the exception of their bum.
But most people would be in agreement I think if we started measuring “the bums” income by their performance and adjusting it accordingly. Clearly our representatives would be inclined to perform their duties more fully if the people had a direct means of rating their performance and legislation was in place that allowed the IRS to deduct their wages based on their performance. Likewise, their income would be raised based on how their constituents felt they were benefitting them as a whole.
Once a year people could vote on-line or by mail, registering their opinions on how effective they felt their representatives were performing. A rating system on a scale of 1-10 could be devised and unless they scored anything better than a 6, their pay would either remain unchanged for scores of 4-6, and lowered incrementally with scores lower than 4. The voters would be given the means to make their selections either on-line or by mail. At the end of each year, when employers are handing out W-2’s, attached would be a form that scored their congressperson’s performance along with a pre-paid postage envelope.
Too many people never make it to the polls on election day because they feel their vote never makes an impact. To a certain degree they are right. But having this direct means of effecting their representative’s wages with very little effort or expense on their part would see many of these people coming out of the wood work to express their views.
There of course would be those political blocs trying to influence their assessments similar to what we already have in the form of non-profit entities that we get regularly inundated with from TV and radio ads, postal mailings, e-mails and social network sources. The concern here is not unlike the one we currently face where the Citizens United court decision that allows unhealthy amounts of money to overwhelm the means by which we get information from.
We may just have to trust that the electorate will make the call that best serves their needs. Where there are those who may not like certain specifics on how their congressperson votes but are ideologically linked to them that prevents them from voting them out of office, they may be more inclined to use this more precise method of conveying their wishes while still supporting them in their elective status.
It’s time to reverse the worry element, where congressional and state legislative leaders need to lose sleep about their source of income being reduced rather than those of us they are supposed to fairly represent. Polls routinely show strong support for social safety net programs, especially regarding Social Security benefits. If this support gets expressed in how the income of our state and national representatives will be determined we just might find that the concept of democracy, that was intended when this union was formed over 225 years ago, will once again have its proper place in how we are governed.