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United We Win: How Progressives Defeated the Chained CPI

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Last week, progressive groups won a huge victory when the White House announced the chained CPI Social Security cut will be not be in President Obama's budget for the upcoming year. We should reflect on two lessons from this victory. The first is the strength and power that comes when progressives join together. The second is that now is the time to fight harder.

CREDO, the nation's only progressive phone company, is a leader in understanding that it takes a movement to win true progressive change. That is why they not only play a leadership role in fighting for progressive change but they also fund organizations across the progressive movement. And this year, Social Security Works was honored with CREDO's largest gift of $191,636! We are incredibly honored and humbled that CREDO members voted to award us the largest share of the 2013 CREDO donations pool. Our plan is to repay that trust by working with CREDO and all of our allies to make 2014 a year of continued progressive victories.

This is the type of movement leadership that has been lacking on the progressive side for too long. The reactionary forces and their Wall Street funders understand that they can win by making their side strong and/or by making our side weak. Our side is weak if we are always engaged in zero sum battles against ideological allies scrambling for scarce funding. Our side is strong when we work together in cooperative competition with shared goals and strategies. That is what CREDO understands. That is what Atlantic Philanthropies understood in 2009 when they funded Social Security Works and helped us to establish and support the cross movement Strengthen Social Security Coalition, over 320 organizations -- including major unions, women's, aging, disability, netroots and civil rights organizations. And, that is why working together with congressional champions and the American people we are now poised to address the nation's retirement income crisis by expanding, not cutting, Social Security.

CREDO Action has been standing with Social Security Works against the forces of austerity since our very first skirmishes against the Bowles-Simpson Commission. And, as our coalition efforts grew to an unstoppable force, CREDO Action was always right at the center of things. This is what makes CREDO such an amazing partner, the vision to not only fight the fight, but at the exact same time to build up allies by funding them. And, our triumph in this round of the fight against Wall Street was only possible with leadership of this nature.

This victory is particularly impressive given the intensity of the push to slash the earned benefits of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Just a few short years ago, deficit mania was in full force in Washington. Pete Peterson and other plutocrats funneled millions of dollars into campaigns to eviscerate our earned benefits. Everyone "knew" that we had to cut what they sneeringly labeled "entitlements."

But, progressives said not so fast. The big money was against us, but we had the American people with us and we had right on our side, as well. In poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly oppose cutting earned benefits to reduce the deficit. They want to see Social Security expanded, as do we. It is the right answer to our looming retirement income crisis, to the strain on America's families, and the perilous upward redistribution of wealth which has resulted in our growing inequality.

When progressives work together as a movement we are truly unstoppable, that is why we need to build on our victory over the chained CPI. We have made incredible progress, but the battle to protect and expand earned benefits is far from over. We need to summon the political and moral force to advance policies that strengthen, not shrink, the middle class and address the devastating poverty inflicted on so many Americans by unemployment, low-wage employment and cuts to SNAP and other critical social services. We have made incredible progress, but the battle to protect and expand earned benefits is far from over. The President's budget retains harmful cuts to Medicare. We will push back hard to ensure that these cuts never become law. We will remain vigilant to ensure that the chained CPI never claws its way out of the grave. And we will continue our fight to expand Social Security to ensure a secure retirement for all Americans, as well as a strong foundation of economic security in the tragic event of disability or premature death.

But, in order for us to win any of these future fights it is critical that we all understand why we won this round. The answer is simple: Movement power. We locked arms as a movement and said an attack on Social Security is an attack on all of us. Labor stood with the netroots, who stood with seniors organizations, who stood with children's organizations, who stood with the disability community, who stood with women and people of color. When we stand together we cannot be stopped.

One of the biggest campaigns of 2014 is the struggle to raise our country's shamefully low minimum wage. This is a fight that intersects with all manner of progressive causes, including Social Security. This is a fight that inspires the type of actions, encompassing the entire progressive movement, at which CREDO and Atlantic Philanthropies have been such pioneers. This is a fight that we can win if we all rise up together.

The push for immigration reform is another such fight. Not only is immigration reform morally right, it makes economic sense. Social Security's actuaries have stated that passing immigration reform will bring in important new revenue, making Social Security even more affordable in the future.

And the push to expand Social Security benefits is a fight whose success will benefit us all. This idea, once seen as fantastical has entered the national conversation in a big way. An increasing numbers of lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are advocates for expansion. The majority of Americans are on board. Now it's time for the progressive movement to work together with our elected allies and the American people to bring the rest of our politicians in line with their constituents. It's time to expand Social Security. It is the right answer to our looming retirement income crisis, to the strain on America's families, and the perilous upward redistribution of wealth which has resulted in our growing inequality.