This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," August 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: For the first time since the 1970s, Social Security payments are set to stay pretty much right where they are. They are pegged to inflation and since prices are not budging, neither will those checks. My next guest wants to change that.
Congressman Anthony Weiner joining me right now, Democrat from New York.
Good to see you, Congressman.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER, D-N.Y.: My pleasure. Nice to be here.
CAVUTO: All right, so, these cost of living adjustments, Social Security, not expected to change, inflation so low. What do you what to do about it?
WEINER: Well, frankly, inflation is not really that low when you consider the products that senior citizens buy, health care, by and large, food, housing. None of those things are declining. In fact, they are going up. We have had this whole debate about this health care inflation, for example.
You know, the problem that we have here is, they arrive at the CPI — which, by the way, is not zero either. It's a little bit south of 3 percent.
CAVUTO: You're talking about consumer price index — retail measure of inflation.
CAVUTO: Go ahead.
WEINER: But the problem is that basket takes into account things like the cell phones we have and things like computers, which there really are downward pressures by competition on price.
It is not really happening in the things that seniors have. And to even show it even more pointedly, their Medicare premiums are going up by more now than what they are going to be getting additionally, which is nothing, in Social Security. So, this is not...
CAVUTO: Because the prescription drug benefits rolls into that.
CAVUTO: I see all your points, Congressman and they are all well- taken. But these are the rules that we have lived by for years with Social Security. And now you want to change the rules.
WEINER: Something — something is different here.
Here we are, we're being told that for the next two years, somehow, somebody knows exactly what the inflation rate is going to be that's going to determine this. Look, this number...
CAVUTO: It's always been this way.
CAVUTO: No, no, no, no.
WEINER: It's every year. It's done a year at a time.
WEINER: And it is not even being announced today. It is going to come out in October.
CAVUTO: But, you see, Congressman, there's people looking at this saying what you want to do with this — and it's all well-intended, and I understand that — but what if they change the rules midstream on health care?
WEINER: No, they are changing the rules this year, Neil.
CAVUTO: My point is that, all of a sudden, people are going to look at this. These are the costs or the factors going into this government program. Now we are going to potentially look at changing and going into health care.
WEINER: No, no.
What's happening this year is different than it has ever been. We have never had the announcement two years hence that we know what the inflation rate is going to be. Anyone who made that prediction should come get a job on your show — that's unprecedented.
CAVUTO: But this was...
CAVUTO: ... well-telegraphed, I'm saying. And Democrats hold the majority.
WEINER: Yes, but hold on a second.
CAVUTO: If you guys knew this was — I mean, you knew this was coming down the pike.
CAVUTO: So, certainly, you guys had to. You guys know a lot more than me.
WEINER: Yes, here is why we knew — or what we thought we knew.
The president included in his budget a very suspicious line that said an assumption that there would be no inflation adjustments for two years. Well, they are allowed to try to predict as best they can, but the actuaries get to decide in October of each year what they're going to get in January the follow year — one year at a time. That has not even happened yet.
What is going on here is, I think, that someone is pre-massaging this to try to say — to have — not have COLAs, because the Social Security trust fund makes the rest of the deficit seem smaller.
That Social Security trust fund...
CAVUTO: Well, that would be the White House then.
WEINER: One hundred percent.
CAVUTO: So, you are saying that the White House ahead of time massaged these numbers?
WEINER: I am saying that something is not on the level here. You should not have...
CAVUTO: Well, then you're saying that the president is not being...
WEINER: Well, I don't know. Either that, or the actuaries are tipping their hand and saying, you know what? We're going to say zero, regardless of what the stats are in October.
We don't know. This doesn't happen, by law, until October and then it's for January and it's one year at a time.
CAVUTO: I know what you're trying to do on Social Security...
WEINER: No. So, no, what I'm saying, the point I am making is that there is something suspicious here.
CAVUTO: Understood. And you're raising suspicions with the White House.
But now people are going to look this and say, you know, this happened with Social Security. They might have pulled a fast one, whether you are right or wrong on this, that someone pulled a fast one. What are they going to do on health care if they take it over? Are they going to pull a fast one on that? Are they going to redo the math on this? Are they going to redo adjustments on this? Are they going to redo doctors', you know, allowances and pay — paybacks on — differently?
Do you know what people are going to say listening to you? The very health care you want is the very health care maybe we can't afford.
WEINER: Well, here's what I would say.
If an insurance company does that, who is then going to call them on it? And they're doing it today. At least this is a case — look, this is exactly my point. If you have a federal bureaucracy, if you want to call Medicare that, although it is much lower overhead than anything the private sector has been able to do, at least they are accountable to people. They are accountable to their congressmen. They're accountable to hearings in Congress. What if Aetna or Oxford decided to cook the books, decided to not accept...
CAVUTO: Are you saying this is cooked?
WEINER: I am saying that this something is very wrong and suspicious about those numbers.
We had a 5.9 COLA this year, and a zero the next year, when we don't even know what the CPI is going to be.
CAVUTO: All right.
WEINER: Whoever is leaking this out, I...
CAVUTO: You know, in general, the CPI and all the other ways we measure inflation is very, very low. You're — you're — that notwithstanding, you're saying, look into it.
Now, it's your party, Congressman, who not only controls the White House, controls the House, controls the Senate.
WEINER: Neil, I call them like I see them.
CAVUTO: I know you do. And I give — my hat's off to you.
What I'm saying, though, Congressman, when just dorky financial anchors like me knew that this adjustment was coming, and it was going to be a two-year deal, and it was coming down the pike, and it was your party and its members who told me it was coming down the pike, where is this shock about it?
WEINER: Well, hold on. First, let's make it very clear there is no two-year deal, because the law only allows for the announcement of one year at a time.
CAVUTO: I understand.
CAVUTO: ... knew that was going to be the proposal. This is not a shock.
WEINER: This might be. This might be. This appeared in the president's budget, and the president theoretically doesn't have control over this.
And now the actuaries are saying, you know what? It is actually going to be zero for the next two years.
What I am saying...
CAVUTO: So, Democrats are lying to Democrats?
WEINER: No, here is what I'm saying: I'm saying, I don't know who these actuaries are.
WEINER: If I met one of them, I would like to know how they do their job. But I don't know who they are, but I am raising alarm bells now to say that something doesn't seem to be on the level.
WEINER: And we're going to find out in October if that actually turns out to be the case.
CAVUTO: When are you getting married? Soon, right?
WEINER: The time. I got to get going.
CAVUTO: We are watching that.
Seriously, Congressman, very good to have you.
He's engaged. It's a big event we're watching closely, because you're in the society pages.
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