AARP: The story was wrong

Here’s the statement they released today, disputing the Wall St. Journal story:

WASHINGTON – 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.

“Our focus has always been on the human impact of changes, not just the budget tables. Which is why, as we have done numerous times over the last several decades, AARP is engaging our volunteer Board to evaluate any proposed changes to Social Security to determine how each might – individually or in different combinations – impact the lives of current and future retirees given the constantly changing economic realities they face.

“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.

“AARP strongly opposed a privatization plan in 2005, and continues to oppose this approach, because it would eliminate the guarantee that Social Security provides and reduce benefits, and we are currently fighting proposals to cut Social Security to pay the nation’s bills.

“Social Security is a critically important issue for our members, their families and Americans of all ages, especially at a time when many will have less retirement security than previous generations with fewer pensions, less savings and rising health care costs. And, as we have been for decades, we will continue to protect this bedrock of lifetime financial security for all generations of Americans.”

6 thoughts on “AARP: The story was wrong

  1. They’re lying, of course, as usual. Let’s play “Look for the Weasel-Words.” Also, as many have pointed out, the timing and venue of their announcement is critical, and clearly signals their intent to put cuts in the program back on the table in the middle of negotiations over the debt-limit increase debate. Scumbags.

    From the NYT article: ““Our goal is to limit any changes in benefits,” John Rother, AARP’s policy chief, said in a telephone interview, “but we also want to see the system made solvent.”

    Mr. Rother said the group’s stance on possible cuts, which was first reported in The Wall Street Journal in Friday’s editions, should be seen less as a major change in position than as a reflection of the political and financial realities facing the Social Security system and the country as a whole.

    “You have to look at all the tradeoffs,” Mr. Rother said, “and what we’re trying to do is engage the American public in that debate.”

    He made clear that the group’s willingness to discuss cuts comes with conditions: Reductions in benefits should be “minimal,” they should not affect current recipients and instead should be directed “far off in the future,” and they should be offset by increases in tax-generated revenue.

    Nonetheless, the group’s openness to the possibility of unspecified cuts was seen as a significant development by people on all sides of the Social Security question because of AARP’s influence on federal policies affecting older Americans, including Medicare, prescription drugs and many more.

    Third Way, a moderate Democratic group in Washington that has favored possible reductions in benefits, called AARP’s position “a watershed moment” in the debate over Social Security.

    “Now that they have opened the door to reform, it is time for lawmakers to walk through it,” said Jonathan Cowan, president of Third Way.

    But other advocacy groups that are pushing to preserve Social Security benefits accused AARP of effectively abandoning its core constituency.

    Max Richtman, executive vice president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, an advocacy group in Washington, said the timing of AARP’s statements was particularly bad because it came in the midst of deliberations between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans about the debt ceiling and overall deficit reduction.

    AARP insisted that the Social Security trust funds should not be raided to reduce the deficit and that the two issues were separate. But Mr. Richtman said the group’s openness to considering future cuts would no doubt be used by deficit hawks to push for immediate cuts in Social Security benefits as part of the debate over deficit reduction.

    “I think it’s tragic that AARP would, wittingly or unwittingly, play into the hands of people who have never really liked Social Security and want to decimate it,” Mr. Richtman said. “AARP is the 800-pound gorilla, but they do not speak for seniors.”

    Republican leaders, who have led calls for revamping Social Security, had no immediate comments on AARP’s willingness to consider benefit reductions.

    An aide to the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity under committee protocol, said AARP’s position was a welcome acknowledgment that Social Security would be unable to pay future benefits at the current rate and that it must be restructured.

    “The longer we wait,” the aide said, “the more difficult it will be to protect current beneficiaries and those who rely on Social Security the most.”

    The most recent projections from the Social Security Administration, issued last month, indicate that at the current rate, the program’s trust funds will be exhausted by 2036, and that $6.5 trillion in additional money will be needed over a 75-year period to pay all scheduled benefits.

    Mr. Rother said AARP expected to hear criticism from some of its members over its position on possible cuts.

    “We have such a broad membership, Mr. Rother said. “I’m sure there will be some who will not be happy, but others will be eager to see the program put on a stronger financial footing for the long term.” ”

    When Third Way praises your position, you’ve struck sell-out gold.

  2. Comments similar to these enabled the donut hole in the RX plan — I don’t trust AARP to represent the interests of its non-wealthy members or its corporate partners.

  3. Note also the statement “Social Security should not be used as a piggy bank to solve the nation’s deficit.” This train left the station long ago, when Reagan and Greenspan raised the payroll tax, and claimed they were doing so to shore up the program for when the boomers retired.

  4. Soullite pretty summed it up on Susie’s earlier AARP post:

    Um… that ‘walk back’ isn’t a walk back. it’s a ‘The wall-street urinal was wrong. We didn’t change our position; we have always believed this’.

    That isn’t a walk-back. That’s a confirmation.

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