AARP Wobbling On Social Security

Who would have ever thunk it was possible that under a Democratic President, the idea of cutting benefits to Social Security and deficit reduction hawks would be so prevalent? The beltway media has really forced the issue of fearmongering the

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Who would have ever thunk it was possible that under a Democratic President, the idea of cutting benefits to Social Security and deficit reduction hawks would be so prevalent? The beltway media has really forced the issue of fearmongering the American people on the federal debt which is the only way Republicans could ever get any traction for their hatred of New Deal and Great Society programs. Even with a total global financial meltdown and high unemployment, all the polls show Americans still do not want their Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security touched, privatized or voucherized, but that hasn't stopped the Villagers from telling us to get serious and be adults about 'entitlements."

Republicans will always attack these incredible has programs brought us dignity as we get older and have made this country special because now seniors and the elderly are taken care of in a way that so appalled Presidents like FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK and LBJ. Even Nixon wanted some sort of universal health care to take care of people. AARP stood tall against Bush's attempts to privatize Social Security, but new reports have shown them going all squishy on us at a great time of need.

Roger Hickey: AARP Tells Members They Won't Fight Social Security Benefit Cuts

The front page of today's Wall Street Journal features an article ("Key Seniors Association Pivots on Benefit Cut") saying the organization "is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits." The piece is based on a conversation with AARP policy director John Rother. This is a big deal -- not because AARP was ever such a strong force against proposed benefit cuts (other groups are doing that much more effectively), but because the mainstream media is now full of headlines like this from ABC News: "AARP Wobbles on Social Security Benefit Cuts" and this column by David Von Drehle, from Time Online: "Victory! The Grey Goliath Gives Way on Social Security."

AARP members across the country are outraged. Some are burning their membership cards. The timing of this front page story couldn't be worse. Conservatives have fixated Congress and the White House on deficits and spending cuts that will kill jobs -- even though most Americans care more about jobs than deficits. Most Americans were heartened when Paul Ryan's plan for dismantling Medicare was decisively rejected by the very Republican voters of New York's 26th Congressional District -- after Ryan got almost every Republican in the Congress to vote for it. Democrats were starting to re-learn how to campaign as defenders of Medicare and Social Security. And now this -- from a top level AARP leader -- a real momentum killer.

AARP then sent out a new press release that seemed to say that the WSJ report was inaccurate, but still their statement was very fuzzy via email:

AARP CEO A. Barry Rand offered the following statement in response to inaccurate media stories on the association’s policy on Social Security: “Let me be clear – AARP is as committed as we’ve ever been to fighting to protect Social Security for today’s seniors and strengthening it for future generations. Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security. “First, we are currently fighting some proposals in Washington to cut Social Security to reduce a deficit it did not cause. Social Security should not be used as a piggy bank to solve the nation’s deficit. Any changes to this lifeline program should happen in a separate, broader discussion and make retirement more secure for future generations, not less.
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Second, we have maintained for years – to our members, the media and elected officials – that long term solvency is key to protecting and strengthening Social Security for all generations, and we have urged elected officials in Washington to address the program’s long-term challenges in a way that’s fair for all generations.

“It has long been AARP’s policy that Social Security should be strengthened to provide adequate benefits and that it is sufficiently financed to ensure solvency with a stable trust fund for the next 75 years. It has also been a long held position that any changes would be phased in slowly, over time, and would not affect any current or near term beneficiaries.

Sorry, but that's not strong enough for my taste. AARP should be mad as hell and not taking all this deficit and benefit cutting lunacy coming out of DC any more. We're mad as hell, get it. We're not gonna take it anymore.

Hickey continues:

The AARP has just issued a statement by their CEO, A. Barry Rand, entitled "AARP Has Not Changed Its Position on Social Security." In it, Rand calls the WSJ piece inaccurate and misleading, but doesn't clarify what they think was inaccurate.

In the Journal article, John Rother was clear that he's willing to support SS benefit cuts. AARP in its statement just reiterates its commitment to "solvency" of the program. I believe SS can be made solvent without benefit cuts. John Rother disagrees. Where does the AARP as the largest organization claiming to represent seniors stand? They are not clear.

The AARP statement claims to oppose including Social Security in the deficit discussions. If they really mean that, the group that promotes itself as the most powerful defender of seniors in America should get their vaunted citizen's lobby in gear -- to make sure Social Security doesn't become the sacrificial lamb of this dangerous season of budget-cutting blood on the floor.

I've been fighting to save Social Security benefit cuts and will continue to do so until my last breath and I'm eligible to become an AARP member. This is outrageous on so many levels

Digby has more:

What I'm hearing in this from AARP and Begich and people like Kay Bailey Hutchison (who "coincidentally" dropped her Social Security destruciton plan yesterday) is that they've got some kind of agreement to "tackle" Social Security outside the deficit talks around the debt ceiling and the budget. It's a very neat and tidy compartment of the Grand Bargain. Here's Hutchison on the AARP's statement:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who on Thursday unveiled her own Social Security reform package, said Friday that the AARP has marked "a huge shift in the debate on the solvency of Social Security."

Ms. Hutchison went on to say that her hope is “that Social Security is included in the bipartisan discussions on raising the debt ceiling, as it is an opportunity to fix this important entitlement for seventy-five years rather than just focusing on a short-term Band-Aid.”

Hutchison, who is retiring, is the designated Social Security extremist in this battle. Her plan would raise the retirement age to 69 for everyone under the current age of 58. As you can see, she's also demanding that Social Security be part of any deficit talks for no apparent reason, just as the Democrats are all firmly insisting that they will have none of it. (As if that's the issue ...) I think we can all see the outlines of the agreement here, can't we?

So we're looking at cuts to Social Security and eventually many rationales as to why they are "the best they could do." On the Democratic side, we'll be told that an agreement to only discuss Social Security outside the deficit discussions was a big win for the good guys. Why something that doesn't affect the deficit and is solvent so far in the future should even be on the agenda at a time of crippling unemployment and a moribund economy remains a mystery.

The truth, of course, is that the deficit is beside the point in all these discussions. The Grand Bargain was conceived long before it was a major issue. These talks are really about changing the nature of American government --- which apparently will be accomplished by cutting social programs and the safety net.

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