POLITICS
01/16/2015 01:23 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2015

Bernie Sanders: Obama Won't Propose Chained CPI To Cut Entitlements

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will not renew his pursuit of a stealthy cut to Social Security and other entitlement programs by proposing a cheaper way to measure inflation, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Many budget-cutters on both sides of the aisle have proposed stemming the growth of entitlement programs by changing the government's standard measure of inflation, the consumer price index, to one that grows more slowly, known as the chained consumer price index.

Obama included chained CPI in his budget two years ago as a concession to get Republicans on board, but he dropped it last year. Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said Friday he expects the proposal will not make a return.

"It is my understanding that the chained CPI will not be in the president's budget," Sanders said in a Capitol Hill press conference. Sanders called the conference to emphasize that he would aggressively oppose any Republican budget proposals that failed to acknowledge the realities of record poverty, income inequality and falling middle-class wages.

"While the economy in the last six years has made significant gains, the simple truth is that the American middle class has been declining over the last 40 years, and I think most American workers understand that," Sanders said.

Chained CPI requires the government to change which items it incorporates into inflation calculations when prices climb and consumers switch to cheaper alternatives. For instance, when beef gets too expensive and people start buying more chicken, under chained CPI the inflation index would also switch to measuring the price of the cheaper chicken.

Supporters say the method is more accurate because it measures what people are actually buying. Opponents call it the "cat food index" because it leaves people on fixed incomes with less money, forcing them to buy cheaper and cheaper alternatives for basic staples like pet food.

Depending on a person's income and age, shifting to the new inflation gauge could mean cuts of thousands of dollars from retirees' future incomes.

"At a time when the wealthy and corporations are doing phenomenally well, median family income is nearly $5,000 less than it was in 1999," Sanders continued. "When you look at a budget, it is imperative that you look at the overarching reality of American life, and today when we look at America we have to understand that we have an obscene level of income and wealth inequality, the highest of any major country on earth, and worse in America today than at any time since 1929."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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