As President Obama rolled out his budget proposal today, progressive activists and members of Congress were organizing opposition to the Social Security benefit cuts it contains.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, sent an email to supporters saying she was "shocked" to hear that the President's budget includes so-called chained CPI -- a recalculation of the cost-of-living formula that will mean thousands of dollars of cuts in benefits to seniors, vets, and persons with disabilities. Warren called chained CPI "a fancy way to say 'cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled, and orphans.'"

"Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch," Warren told supporters.

In a conference call organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, co-founders Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor pledged to launch primary challenges against Democrats who vote for a budget bill that includes chained CPI.

"There needs to be accountability in 2014, and we're very serious," said Green. "You cannot call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security cuts."

Progressive member of Congress Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, warned that Obama's changes to both Social Security and Medicare benefits in his budget may drag down the whole Democratic Party.

"A Democratic President is proposing cuts to benefits, without receiving anything form the other side ... that undermine the core Democratic accomplishment of the last 50 years," he said.

In addition to chained CPI, Grayson pointed out, the White House budget contains a two-tier approach to Medicare long favored by Republicans that treats new beneficiaries differently from current beneficiaries, imposing means-testing on incomes above $47,000.

"You may recall I lost my election two years ago because Republicans took a shot at convincing the public that ObamaCare was a cut in Medicare," Grayson said. Now, he said, the President is handing the Republicans an issue they can use to win elections.

Polls show big majorities of American voters support protecting Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts.

The PCCC, along with the National Organization for Women, the AFL-CIO, Democracy for America, and MoveOn recently visited the White House to deliver a petition opposing the cuts signed by 2.3 million Americans.

You can still sign the petition at

Next week, the same groups that organized the petition drive are holding phone calls and visits to the district offices of members of Congress across the country to express public opposition to Social Security cuts.

"We need people to organize all over the country," said Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, chair of the Progressive Caucus. "We're going to need you in May. We're going to need you in June. We're going to need you until they cease and desist."

Don't worry about the politics of opposing President Obama, Ellison added.

"This is bigger than Social Security and Medicare -- as big as they are," Ellison added. "They're going after the National Labor Relations Board. They're going after the post office. This is part of the wave that is deconstructing the ladder of opportunity in America."

"Someone had the nerve to tell me, 'Well, it's just a $5 cut per month,'" said Ellison. "If you're making $12,000 a year, $5 is a lot of money."

Cuts to programs that help seniors affect whole families, he added, mentioning a 21-year-old intern in his office whose parents dipped into her college fund to pay health-care expenses for her grandmother.

Thirty-five House members have already pledged to vote against legislation that contains chained CPI.

But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has described herself as "agnostic" on the issue. Members of the PCCC coalition plan to visit her office next week, along with the offices of Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Ron Kind of Wisconsin, who have also said they are open to the chained CPI.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Who Has Standing on Gay Marriage?".

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter.


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A thoughtful, optimistic, progressive speech about the better possibilities of American democracy just as the most...

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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