Candy Crowley Asks AARP Director If Seniors Are Going To Be Willing To 'Put Skin In The Game' To Reduce The Deficit

Apparently Tom Brokaw isn't the only one out there who's confused about the notion of "shared sacrifice" and who thought the AARP's recent ad telling politicians to keep their hands off of their Social Security and Medicare was terribly unfair.
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Apparently Tom Brokaw isn't the only one out there who's confused about the notion of "shared sacrifice" and who thought the AARP's recent ad telling politicians to keep their hands off of their Social Security and Medicare was terribly unfair. CNN's Candy Crowley badgered the Director of the AARP, David Certner about whether seniors are going to be willing to "put skin in the game" when it comes to getting our budget deficits under control.

I assume she thought this was a "fair and balanced" discussion since she brought on representatives from the American Petroleum Institute and the Air Transport Association to ask them what they'd be willing to give up as well.

Transcript via CNN:

CROWLEY: Joining me here in Washington, Marty Durbin, executive vice president of government affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, Sean Kennedy, senior vice president of Global Government Affairs for the Air Transport Association, and David Certner, legislative policy director for the AARP.

Before we begin we want to disclose that the AARP and the American Petroleum Institute's advocacy and industry ads have run on CNN. I've seen them many, many times.

I'm sure that makes you all happy.

So listen, I want to start out with the AARP ad. This is representing seniors, for those who might not know. And this is one of the public ways you've been pressuring the super committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's a number you should remember. 50 million. We are 50 million seniors who earned our benefits. And you will be hearing from us today and on election day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: David, it seems to me that in fact this has become a threat, you know, to the super committee. Here's the super committee which we're all hoping will do the best thing for the country and everybody's out protecting their bailiwick. So what I want to know from each of you, I'm starting with David, is what are you willing to give up? What will seniors give up to help the country that's in a big problem at this point?

CERTNER: Well, seniors of course are always willing to sacrifice for the country. But when you talk about programs like Medicare and Social Security in this kind of an economic situation where people are hurting and they're critical programs that people have paid into over their lifetimes, they can't understand why they're looking for people who basically have incomes less than $20,000 to first put their benefits on the table. People outside of Washington think very differently about protecting Social Security and Medicare than people inside Washington who are in a closed-door meeting who are thinking about numbers and not the impact on real people.

CROWLEY: I want to read you something. This came up in a Washington Post editorial talking about these ads. The crunch time for the congressional super committee has arrived and with it comes a new round of self-centered shortsighted intransigence on the part of the AARP and its fellow "don't touch my benefits" purists.

I think that grasps at least -- maybe it is inside the Beltway but it is also a lot of young people looking at the kind of benefits with Medicare, with Social Security, and saying everybody's got to put skin in the game. That's what we're hearing all the time, and yet there are groups that don't seem as though they're willing to put skin in the game.

CERTNER: I think most Americans today feel like they put a lot of skin in the game over what's happened to the economy and what's happened to their finances the last ten years.

CROWLEY; Sure.

CERTNER: And these programs are not just for seniors, they're going to be important not just for families today but for people in the future as well. And we need to protect these programs because they are what provides economic and financial security.

Budgets, remember, are not a goal in and of themselves. Budgets are meant to get you somewhere and we're trying to get to a better economy and strong economic and health security. That's what Medicare and Social Security already provide.

CROWLEY: But the way to do that of course is to either raise revenues or make cuts in some of these programs and probably a combination of both.

[...]

CROWLEY: Let me go down the line fairly quickly, if I can, and starting with you, David. Is there anything in terms of what seniors get from the federal government that you think the AARP could get behind if there were a cut in it? Is there anything the AARP is willing to give on?

CERTNER: Well, let's take the Medicare program, and health care in general. There are lots of ways we can save money in health care. For example, we can attack high drug costs, we can do a better job of care coordination. So there are ways we can save money.

CROWLEY: But not for the people you represent, right.

CERTNER: We can save money in these programs without cutting benefits, without hurting people. That's what we need to tackle, are high health care costs, not just simply say to seniors, you need to keep paying more.

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