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Finally, a crack in opposition to Social Security reform

Post by Kim Bradford on June 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm with 7 Comments »
June 17, 2011 8:06 pm

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Breaking ranks is hard to do.

AARP was in soft-pedal mode late last week, trying to downplay a Wall Street Journal story that bared the powerful seniors lobby’s change of heart on Social Security reform.

The story, quoting the association’s longtime policy chief who has been in the thick of Social Security debates for three decades, reported that AARP was dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting retirement benefits.

The shift reportedly was a recognition of political realities as much as fiscal ones: “The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens,” the policy chief, John Rother, told the newspaper.

On Friday, as the howls of protest mounted, AARP executives went on the defensive. CEO Barry Rand issued a statement calling the story “misleading” and claiming “AARP has not changed its position on Social Security.”

His statement did not deny that the group was open to benefit cuts. In fact, his own legislative policy director told Fox News that Social Security needs a “package of revenue and benefit adjustments … to make it solvent.”

However AARP chooses to spin it, the association’s break with previous positions is readily apparent to others.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who is advancing a proposal to reform Social Security, said AARP has marked a “huge shift in the debate on the solvency of Social Security.”

Third Way, a moderate Democratic group in Washington, deemed the news “a watershed moment.” And former Sen. Alan Simpson, co-chairman of a White House commission on the deficit, likened AARP’s willingness to talk about possible reforms tantamount to “the Arctic icecap cracking.”

The truth is that AARP – and the millions it spends on lobbyists every year – has been a major obstacle to a serious debate about how to address Social Security’s long-term solvency. If the seniors association is indeed relenting, politicians are likely to feel less queasy about tackling the problem head-on.

And it is a problem. The Social Security trust fund will be gone by 2036, at which point payroll tax collections will fall far short of what’s needed to support the system. Seniors would face a 23 percent reduction in their benefits.

Small changes now could delay that reckoning for decades, but many lawmakers struggle to summon the political will to risk their own necks for future Social Security recipients.

AARP’s apparent defection from the opposition creates an opening for Congress to forge a compromise to put the system on a more sustainable path – for the good of everyone who receives or ever hopes to receive a Social Security check.

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  1. I cut ties, quit, when AARP endorsed Obamacare with the expectations of a boom in their insurance business. They did this at the expense of membership…outrageous!
    Now this, endorsing social security cuts (so called reform). The leadership have slipped further to the left with membership funds being funneled to liberal causes.
    I will personally advise all present members and future potential members that it is not advisable to have anything to do with AARP!
    Enough said!!!

  2. The AARP has always been associated with liberal causes. What in the heck to you call Social Security and Medicare?

  3. steilacoomtaxpayer says:

    MASO, what does “cut ties and quit” mean when all over 55 are automatically enrolled and for no charge, no annual fees? What did you quit–being on a mailing list. Bold stand, man!

  4. GHTaxPayer says:

    Isn’t it amazing that AARP is now okay with fixing SS when we have a Demoncrat in the White House? They vilified Bush for even mentioning that SS needed to be reformed.

    Easy fix for Social Security::

    1) Only those (and surviving spouse) that pay into SS get benefits.

    2) Pay benefits at an accrued tier starting at $500 per month and maximum of $1500 per month

    3) Start payments at age 65.

    4) SS funds are put into REAL lockbox that Congress can’t steal from.

    The above formula was put forth by a bipartisan group of senators in the late 1990s and was calculated to be completely sustained by present day SS funding.

  5. “Isn’t it amazing that AARP is now okay with fixing SS when we have a Demoncrat in the White House? They vilified Bush for even mentioning that SS needed to be reformed.”

    Bush wanted to turn Social Security in to another version of a 401k plan.

    I don’t think that most Americans are very financially savoy, and anyone with half a brain can see that Wall Street is not your friend. So I don’t think it would have worked for the average American.

  6. GHTaxPayer says:

    Fatuous – current SS is a ponzi scheme and anyone that isavvy knows it.
    And the plan I listed above is not a 401k and has nothing to do with the stock market.

  7. elmerfudd says:

    “I don’t think that most Americans are very financially savoy, and anyone with half a brain can see that Wall Street is not your friend”

    Government’s not your friend either. Wall Street is at least honest about their motivations.

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