On Thursday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said if the federal government adopts, as part of a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, the chained consumer price index to determine future cost-of-living adjustment increases to Social Security payments, seniors would be forced to eat “cat food” when their Social Security payments are reduced.
Kucinich said “if seniors usually eat steak but then can’t afford its higher price, they can switch to something cheaper, like cat food — and the cost-of-living calculation would be ‘chained’ to the cheaper item — cat food.”
“There is no justification to cut Social Security benefits,” Kucinich said. “No to throwing seniors off the fiscal cliff. No to a Cat Food Christmas.”
Currently, the cost-of-living adjustment is determined by the consumer price index, which is measured by a so-called “basket of goods.” If the cost of steak goes up, so does the price index and the cost-of-living adjustment even though consumers may purchase cheaper turkey or chicken instead. Under a chained consumer price index, the more expensive steak in Kucinich’s example would be replaced by the cheaper chicken or turkey substitute to better reflect reality and not, as Kucinich hyperbolically claimed, “cat food.”
Further, even if the federal government adopted a chained consumer price index, Congress could still exempt groups from being impacted by the new index after seniors, the most reliable voting group, exert political pressure on them.