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Local politics

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Retirees plan protest chain today at federal building

Cost-of-living change draws outcry

Retirees and organized labor activists plan to form a human chain this morning at the E. Ross Adair Federal Building to protest what's known as the chained CPI.

The demonstration outside 1300 S. Harrison St. will be among about 50 nationwide organized by the Alliance for Retired Americans, a group opposed to a plan for changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated.

Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration have endorsed tying Social Security and other federal benefits to a version of the Consumer Price Index that presumes people buy less-expensive alternatives when the price of a good or service increases.

Retiree advocates oppose the chained CPI because it would reduce cost-of-living adjustments contained in Social Security benefits.

"The assumption is you're going to buy something cheaper or shop around," local protest organizer Dick Merren said. "Some may do it – those that have the means and have the transportation. But not all of them."

Most retirees aren't able to do comparison shopping for expensive medical procedures, said Merren, 82, a longtime labor activist.

He said he expects about 50 people will show up at 10 a.m. today to hold a paper chain outside the South Harrison Street offices of Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd. Merren said the gathering might include retirees, union members and military veterans.

Tara DiJulio, Coats' communications director, said Coats favors the chained CPI.

"Coats believes that if we don't take steps now to reform mandatory spending programs, we risk not only bankrupting our country, but we also risk having to tell countless numbers of Americans who are in these programs that we no longer can fulfill the benefits they rely on," DiJulio said in an email.

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the chained CPI would cut the federal deficit by about $340 billion in the next 10 years.

The Alliance for Retired Americans, which has 4 million members, said Rep. André Carson, D-7th, will participate in an Indianapolis demonstration today outside the federal building named for his grandmother and predecessor, the late Rep. Julia Carson.

The Alliance for Retired Americans gives André Carson a 100 percent lifetime score on his votes on legislation affecting retirees. It gives Coats a 5 percent score and Stutzman a zero.