AARP still playing it both ways on Social Security 

I had been meaning to write a blog post arguing that today's Wall Street Journal report likely overstated its claim that AARP was making a major shift toward  more openness on cutting Social Security benefits, but the group's CEO has beat me to it.

“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," the group's CEO Barry Rand, said in a statement. "Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security." 

This is the deal. AARP has been playing it both ways for a long time. They'll say they are open to Social Security reform in the abstract to counter charges that they're intransigent, but then they'll come out opposed to specific proposals to address the problem. If you read Rand's full statement, you'll notice he highlights all the times AARP has opposed changes to Social Security, but offers no specifics on changes it supports. 

And buried in the WSJ story was the following key qualifying paragraphs:

There are limits to how far AARP is willing to go. The group will accept cuts, but won't champion them, and it is particularly leery of certain concepts such as eliminating benefits for wealthier recipients.

It wants tax increases to fill most of the program's financial hole, and it insists that a deal must be crafted apart from broader deficit-reduction negotiations.

This gives them plenty of wiggle room to reject specific proposals by arguing that they go too far in cutting benefits, or don't increase taxes enough on the working age population.

Now, as always, they'll be standing in the way of actual reform.

So, for once, I find myself in agreement with AARP's CEO -- the group has not changed its position on Social Security.

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Philip Klein

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