Who will pay for President Trump’s border wall with Mexico? It’s looking increasingly unlikely that it will be Mexico, and that the money may instead come out of the Social Security benefits of older Americans. The President’s very first budget for fiscal year 2018 contains a request to build a border wall with Mexico.
Now a leading budget policy organization is pushing Congress to fully offset the cost of building the wall and other new spending and tax cuts with entitlement cuts — specifically, adopting the more slowly-growing Chained Consumer Price Index to calculate annual Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs). That’s a change that would cut federal spending by about $210 billion, the group estimates.
The proposal to adopt the chained CPI for adjusting Social Security and other federal retirement benefits has been a central feature of nearly every major budget negotiation since 2010. The adoption of the chained CPI to calculate COLAs would not only permanently reduce Social Security benefits of more than 60 million beneficiaries, but would also increase taxes, because personal exemptions and tax brackets which are adjusted for inflation would rise more slowly.
Even the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget, which proposes the change, suggests that lower-income people could be especially vulnerable under the proposal. The organization is recommending that Congress dedicate about $25 billion in savings from lower spending on COLAs to “enhance various benefits for low-income individuals” saying “while chained CPI is the most accurate measure of inflation, it could result in some undesirable distributional consequences.”
TSCL is urging older Americans to fight back. “We encourage you to send email, postcards, or call Members of Congress to let them know that COLA cuts are not to be used to finance a border wall with Mexico, or as a bargaining chip for reducing the federal debt,” says TSCL Executive Director, Shannon Benton.
Call your Member of Congress at 1-844-455-0045.
Sources: “A New and Rising Price Tag for Trump’s Wall: $21.6 Billion,” Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times, February 10, 2017. “The Wall Should Be Paid For,” Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, January 30, 2017. Summary of the Sequester Offset Solutions Plan, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, September 16, 2015.