Look Who’s Opposing Chained CPI Now

If you’ve been aware that the president’s “Chained CPI” proposal applies to tax bracket adjustments as well as to Social Security COLAs, perhaps this news from HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney won’t surprise you:

Members of Congress who have pledged never to raise taxes will be breaking their promise if they support changing how the government measures inflation for Social Security and tax purposes….

Americans for Tax Reform, the advocacy group that asks lawmakers to sign a formal “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” said Tuesday that chained CPI violates the pledge.

“Chained CPI as a stand-alone measure (that is, not paired with tax relief of equal or greater size) is a tax increase and a Taxpayer Protection Pledge violation,” the group said in a blog post.

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, leader of the organization, criticized the policy via Twitter on Wednesday. “Chained CPI is a very large tax hike over time,” Norquist wrote. “Hence Democrat interest in same.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that chained CPI would reduce Social Security spending by $127 billion and increase tax revenue by $123 billion over 10 years.

Presumably this will spur congressional Republicans to make it clear they favor Chained CPI for spending, not for taxes, but that in turn will give the administration a chance to emphasize that it wouldn’t favor the former without the latter (i.e., it wouldn’t be “balanced”). Indeed, the White House would be smart to make this an absolute demand, and refuse to discuss one without the other. That would create two big speed bumps for any Social Security-only Chained CPI, since it ain’t happening at all without a budgetary “grand bargain” of the nature nearly all Republicans have been regularly ruling out.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.