Negotiations over avoiding the 'fiscal cliff' have put Social Security back in the news. While the program isn't a money loser for the federal government, its trustees favor acting soon to keep it healthy.
The president's latest deficit-reduction offer to House Speaker John Boehner (R), summarized in news reports early this week, includes the idea of changing the way inflation is calculated when making annual adjustments to Social Security benefits.
The move is controversial, and it brings to the forefront a basic question: Does Social Security need reforms right now, or not?
Some budget experts praised Mr. Obama for agreeing with Republicans on the idea of shifting to what's called a "chained" version of the consumer price index (CPI) to calculate cost-of-living adjustments in retiree benefits.
They argue that the chained CPI is a more accurate guide to the cost of living. Basically, this gauge would take into account not only changes in prices for various goods, but also the way consumers respond to prices by adjusting the mix of goods and services they buy. And supporters say that, because the result will be modestly smaller cost-of-living increases, the move will help to put Social Security's finances on track.
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