The Super Committee's Lowest Hanging Fruit

by: Tim Iacono

The deficit reduction supercommittee was in the news again after a public hearing yesterday and anonymous sources allowed interested observers to piece together the conclusion that, with a November 23rd deadline quickly approaching, they’re not making much progress. If they do manage to get a majority vote for some sort of a plan, it will almost surely include a giant step toward financial repression in the form or rejiggering the official inflation calculation to produce a lower number (and, hence, smaller cost of living increases for government entitlements), the subject of Dean Baker’s HuffPost commentary yesterday.

If anyone still questioned who owns Washington, the Congressional supercommittee charged with reducing projected deficits by $1.2 trillion seems determined to end any doubts. According to press accounts, both Republicans and Democrats on the committee support a plan to reduce Social Security benefits by 3 percent.

The benefit cut is being justified by claiming that the current cost-of-living adjustment exceeds the true rate of inflation. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics index that measures the cost of living of the elderly indicates that the current adjustment understates the rate of inflation experienced by retirees.

There should be no doubt, this is a proposal for cutting Social Security benefits; it has nothing to do with making the cost-of-living adjustments accurate.This contempt for the 99 percent coupled with protection for the 1 percent is the reason Congress has an approval rating of 9 percent. When both parties in Congress work against the interest of the overwhelming majority in order to protect a tiny elite, it is not surprising that most of the country would return the contempt.

Coupled with savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, smaller increases for social security and other government programs due to an inflation calculation that produces lower inflation should get the super committee a long ways toward their $1+ trillion goal. Look for these two items to be an integral part of their plan, that is, if they are able to come to an agreement on the rest of it.