When seniors get angry ...

When seniors get angry ...

by digby

Voting for this only makes sense for someone who never has to run for re-election:

Older Americans don't like President Barack Obama's proposal to reduce future increases to Social Security benefits, according to a new poll by AARP.

Like many polls before it, the latest from the senior advocacy group finds overwhelming bipartisan opposition to cutting benefits. Eighty-seven percent of registered voters 50 and older said it's "very important" that policymakers not cut benefits for current or near retirees.

Obama has proposed reducing future benefits by making annual cost-of-living adjustments less generous. Almost every year, the Social Security Administration adjusts benefits based on the prices of various consumer goods, including things like food and health care. Obama's proposal would change the way the government measures inflation from the current Consumer Price Index to what economists call "chained CPI."

Last year, beneficiaries received a 1.7 percent boost. If the adjustment had been calculated using chained CPI, seniors and other Social Security recipients would've received a 1.4 percent adjustment. The policy switch would save more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Sixty-nine percent of voters said they opposed or strongly opposed the chained CPI, according to AARP, while 16 percent said they supported it. Sixty-five percent said they'd have a less favorable opinion of their member of Congress if he or she supported the policy.

Here's a little historical reminder about what happens when the Seniors get mad:

"I was out there on the street with him that day," recalled Jim Jaffe, Rostenkowski's longtime press secretary. "When you see the video with the old lady chasing him down the hill, I was there. It was a wonderful media moment."

It was not so wonderful for Rosty, as the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee was known. The moment, nearly 21 years ago to the day, was captured in an iconic video clip that has served ever since as a warning to lawmakers about the way seemingly good intentions in Washington can go very bad back home.

The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, first unveiled by President Ronald Reagan, became law in July 1989. The measure provided seniors on Medicare with protection against catastrophic medical expenses and coverage of prescription drug costs. The benefits were to be paid for exclusively by the elderly receiving them, with high-income seniors paying an extra premium surtax.

Soon after Congress passed the law on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, Rosty returned to his district. It was there, after a fairly civil meeting with seniors resentful over having to pay higher taxes for coverage they either already had from a former employer or didn't want, that he was accosted by an angry mob of Social Security recipients.

As the Chicago Tribune reported the next day, Aug. 19, 1989:
Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, one of the most powerful politicians in the United States, was booed and chased down a Chicago street Thursday morning by a group of senior citizens after he refused to talk with them about federal health insurance. Shouting "coward," "recall" and "impeach," about 50 people followed the chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee up Milwaukee Avenue after he left a meeting in the auditorium of the Copernicus Center, 3106 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the heart of his 8th Congressional District on the city's Northwest Side.

Eventually, the 6-foot-4-inch Rostenkowski cut through a gas station, broke into a sprint and escaped into his car, which minutes earlier had one of the elderly protesters, Leona Kozien, draped over the hood. Kozien, one of more than 100 senior citizens who attended the gathering, said she had hoped to talk to Rostenkowski, her congressman, at the meeting.

But Rostenkowski clearly did not want to talk with her, or any of the others who had come to tell their complaints about the high cost of federal catastrophic health insurance. "These people don't understand what the government is trying to do for them," the 61-year-old congressman complained as he tried to outpace his pursuers.

"This was a setup," said Jaffe, who can be seen in the video ducking into the backseat of the car. "They were standing with made-for-television signs about how he had sold them out."