One of the most serious threats facing Montana’s seniors and veterans is an acronym you’ve probably heard recently: chained CPI. It’s a policy you’re going to be hearing a lot more of as the budget debate continues to heat up in Washington.
In his most recent budget, President Obama proposed changing the formula used for determining annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that seniors, veterans and those with disabilities receive in benefits, including Social Security, federal and military retirement, disabled veterans’ benefits and disability insurance benefits. The change is to a formula called the chained CPI (consumer price index) and it’s gaining steam.
Supporters of the chained CPI claim it is a “painless” fix that would add $230 billion to the U.S. budget over the next decade. Of course, there is no painless way to save $230 billion. But it is unacceptable that the president and some in Congress suggest burdening some of the most vulnerable Americans with a $230 billion price tag under the guise of what they refer to as a “modest change.” It is a “modest change” (read “reduction”) in benefits only with regard to the short term; the long-term reduction would be substantial. After 30 years of a compounded chained CPI formula, individual benefits would be 9.4 percent lower than under the current inflation formula, the CPI-W.
Proponents of the chained CPI often minimize the reductions in benefits by saying the chained CPI is a “more accurate measure of inflation” or just a “technical adjustment.” But both the current formula used to calculate COLAs (CPI-W) and the chained CPI fail to accurately reflect the principal costs most seniors face: health care. Americans age 65 and older spend roughly 13 percent of their income on health care (younger Americans spend about 5 percent). If there’s going to be any change to the formula, it should follow the commonsense approach of the CPI-E formula, which accounts for seniors’ healthcare costs and more accurately predicts needed cost-of-living adjustments.
The chained CPI will, over time, make the poor poorer. Those who retire at a younger age (the military), those who receive disability benefits and those who live the longest will be hit the hardest.
What does that mean for those of us here in Montana? Instead of having a population of seniors who have the income to meet most or many of their needs, the chained CPI will, over time, create a population which will require ever more public assistance, both federal and state, to meet basic needs. This seems to cancel out the touted “savings” the chained CPI is supposed to create.
Getting our fiscal house in order is important. But attempting to use the elderly, veterans and disabled to balance the budget is not the way we should go. We must take the time to understand the impact of this damaging proposal and voice our opposition to our elected officials before it’s too late .
Mary L. Williams
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2013 19:48
“The most precious gift of God is a child.” So said Mother Teresa.
I remember a picture of her holding a tiny baby who was recovered from a trash bin in Calcutta, India. This wrinkled and saintly nun, face beaming, held aloft that child as though he were the infant Christ Himself. And to her, he was.
That babe in the trash bin sums up much of what has gone wrong with our world. Children are discarded like so much garbage not only in Calcutta, but also in the cities of America.
Countless unborn babies are killed in their mothers’ womb through abortion. The old and disabled are “put down” like cats and dogs that have outlived their usefulness.
If only we could take the words of Mother Teresa to heart. A child is precious. He is of infinite value even before he is born. Human life is sacred. Even the old and feeble are made in the image of the living God.
How dare we treat them as disposable trash?
Mike Kecskes Sr.
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2013 19:47
I am writing to you concerning the proposed Otter Creek Coal Mine. With changing political environments in the past few years, big industry has begun to creep into politics so extensively that individuals are losing the ability to represent themselves and each other, and decision makers can’t decipher right from wrong. Let me help.
Polluting people’s air is wrong. We have no choice whether or not to breath the air around us. We cannot control its quality, nor can we clean it on our own. Everyone has the right to have clean air. Polluted air from coal causes 23,000 deaths each year, not to mention other coal ash-related health issues.
Exponentially increasing greenhouse gas emissions is wrong. The coal from this mine will contribute approximately 280 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere a year. We’re already seeing the detriment of global climate change each year, and significantly adding to it is unethical.
Finally, destroying water sources is wrong. Ranchers depend on this water for their cattle, as well as their irrigation. Coal mines cannot prevent heavy metal seepage into surface waters nor can they prevent coal ash pollution in water. Bioaccumulation of heavy metals also means check your fish before consuming; they could be toxic.
Allowing another outdated energy source in this state is wrong. Check the facts and listen to the individuals, not the big corporate groups just saying what you want to hear. Please let democracy work!
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2013 19:47
Ever have one of those days when you learn something the hard way? Auto maintenance, OK, the shocks are bad, I’ll get to them some day. The tires are getting thin but can’t find used ones and don’t want to put out all that money for new ones. I can get a few more miles on them. Yes, I have a headlight out and the wipers work sometimes.
Coming from town one evening, it starts to snow/rain, you have your one light on, the wipers sort of clean the windshield, you hit something in the road, and due to the shocks not holding and the tires not gripping the road, you lose control. Down through the borrow pit you go, into a power pole, through the fence and out in some farmer’s field.
When everything finally stops you get out to check the damage. The field is soft enough you can’t drive out plus you have a flat tire. The one headlight that did work got hit and is busted plus the front fenders are both dented up.
So how much money did you save by not replacing the shocks, wipers, tires, and a headlight?
You are now looking at a tow charge, replacing a power pole, fence, and more than likely your vehicle, maybe even a nice little fine.
Your health is much like your vehicle. Regular maintenance can save you a lot of headache down the road. That ache in my side usually goes away in a day or two. That chest pain – a couple of deep breaths and all is fine.
OK, so I drop a few things now and then or I reach for something and it isn’t where my hand goes.It’s just the flu; I’ll be over it in a couple of weeks.
I guarantee if you put off checkups and you will go to the hospital and the doctors won’t quit looking for something or anything they can get money out of you for.
My suggestion: Keep an eye on your gauges, pressure (tire, oil and blood), temperature (coolant and body), mirrors, make sure what is behind you, as in how did you feel last year, 10 years ago or 15? Your vehicle needs air circulation for the radiator to work; your body needs good air and blood circulation for it to work.
Get that chuck up and do the maintenance. It will save you money in the long run.
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2013 19:45
In the Editor’s Notebook dated May 2, David Crisp misreads gun owners and the situation entirely.
Any attempt to repeal the Second Amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or two-thirds of the state legislatures and the amendment has to pass three-fourths of the states. That isn’t easy, regardless of what Thomas Jefferson thought.
The history of the Second Amendment included legislative attempts to ban firearms. The reasonable anti-gun people want to take the power out of the Second Amendment instead of repealing it. What if the 13th amendment, the abolition of slavery, had the history of the Second Amendment?
Would David Crisp brand the 13th Amendment defenders as worshipers of a sacrosanct document? Or would he see the attempt to reintroduce slavery as outrageous?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., once said that if she could have achieved what she wanted, she would have said, “Mister and Mrs. America: Turn in your guns.”
What if the 19th Amendment, women’s suffrage, had the history of the Second amendment? Would Ms. Feinstein like to hear someone say, “If I could have my way, I would say, ‘Ladies, go home! You don’t have a say in the future of this country!” Or would she see that idea as outrageous and fight against it with everything in her power?
Gun owners don’t expose their throats to wolves. They don’t disarm unilaterally in the face of their enemies, and they don’t trust anti-gun people who describe themselves as reasonable.
Would Mr. Crisp have even written this opinion if the 13th or the 19th amendments were at stake?
Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:37
Anyone concerned with increased train traffic, expanded West-coast ports, or the industrialization of eastern Montana should cross their fingers and hope that the Department of Environmental Quality decides not to permit the mining of Otter Creek coal.
The Otter Creek mine is the largest proposed coal mine in the lower 48 states. Though the coal is located in southeastern Montana, it is destined for Asian countries where cleaner energy sources are not yet in high demand.
For transportation purposes, the mine’s approval would strongly influence the construction of the Tongue River Railroad and the expansion of various ports along the Pacific Coast. Though presented to the public as three separate projects, the development of the Otter Creek mine, the construction of the Tongue River Railroad, and the expansion of West Coast ports are interconnected undertakings. These three destructive projects are actually segments of a larger strategy for out-of-state coal companies to make money by convincing Montana agencies to allow our state to become a coal colony for China.
If Otter Creek Valley is overrun by Arch Coal, Montanans will suffer the endless effects of air pollution, aquifer depletion, property value loss and misdirected tax dollars. Eastern Montana’s most prosperous agricultural region should not be sacrificed for temporary corporate gain. The hazardous implications associated with private and public agencies’ elaborate plan to mine and transport Otter Creek coal are not worth the risks.
I hope state agencies set higher standards for the uses of Montana’s natural resources.
Mary Ellen Wolfe
Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:37