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Michelle Davies/The Journal Gazette
Members of the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans took part in a human chain Tuesday morning at the federal courthouse in Fort Wayne to protest the proposed chained Consumer Price Index for certain federal benefits, inclluding Social Security.

Protesters link up to oppose chained CPI

FORT WAYNE -- Two dozen people chanted Tuesday in opposition to a proposal to restrain federal benefit payments, including Social Security checks.

"It's time for us to just say no/Chained CPI has got to go.

"We're smart enough to see the lie/So don't you chain our CPI."

Holding a red-and-white paper chain, the protesters stood for a half-hour outside the E. Ross Adair Federal Building. They hoped to catch the attention of local staffs for Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd.

Congress and the White House are considering adopting the chained Consumer Price Index as the inflation gauge for certain federal benefits. The chained CPI assumes that people buy less-expensive alternatives when prices of goods and services increase.

Tuesday's protest was among about 50 around the country organized by the Alliance for Retired Americans, which says the chained CPI would cut the average Social Security check by $6,000 during a 15-year period.

Some demonstrators along South Harrison Street wore ARA T-shirts stating, "Let's not be the Last Generation to Retire."

A rant preceded their chant.

"They want to balance the budget on the backs of working people and retirees," local labor activist Randy Schmidt said about members of Congress.

"They say they need to cut Social Security to balance the budget, to deal with the deficit. Well, Social Security doesn't add a dime to the deficit," he said.

"The government has no business raiding your retirement fund."

Schmidt urged the protesters to support a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that would boost Social Security benefits by about $800 a year for the typical recipient. It would fund the increase by removing a roughly $114,000 cap on annual income taxed for the Social Security Trust Fund.

"All this talk that Social Security is going broke is a bunch of hooey. There is $2.7 trillion in the trust fund right now," Schmidt said.

After the morning rally, labor activist Dick Merren noted that the chained CPI also would apply to benefits paid to military veterans. Merren said he is encouraged that many Republicans in the House have expressed their opposition to changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are figured.

"Their constituents are on their back and telling them 'no,'" he said.

"You can't come out and tell the elder people, 'You created this country, and we love you, we respect you,' and at the same time back-door them," said Merren, 82.