AARP is coming under increasing pressure to better define its role in the fight over the future of Social Security and Medicaid.
Is the powerful lobby for Americans 50 and older for them or against them?
Media reports persist that AARP is willing to negotiate a reduction in benefits as a long-term way for Congress to reduce the nation’s soaring debt.
Its CEO, A. Barry Rand, made a statement that was somewhat contradictory, saying on one hand that “we are currently fighting some proposals in Washington to cut Social Security to reduce a deficit it did not cause.”
But on the other hand he said: “… 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.”
If he’s saying that Social Security needs to be left alone in one breath, why is he saying in the next that efforts to improve solvency need to be phased in? That’s what some in Congress have bee talking about in order to make the program solvent and reduce the nation’s deficit.
AARP has responded to the notion that it is opposed to any changes in entitlements by airing a commercial that asks Congress to attack waste, not Social Security or Medicare. It also has a new web page dedicated to the cause.
The commercial is suffering from some backlash. It depicts clearly older Americans talking about cuts, when the proposed changes being discussed in Washington affect future retirees, not current.
“The ‘characters’ depicted as Medicare beneficiaries are clearly selected to look like 65 and older,” said one writer posting on the AARP web page. “No one 65 or older is in any plan to reduce Medicare or Social Security benefits. Your (AARP) stance is pathetically erroneous and could be categorized as an out an out lie.”
Wrote another: “I’ve seen your TV commercial on this and you do great disservice to your constituents by playing to the Democratic Party fear mongering. We are $14T in debt. SS and Medicare are unsustainable as they currently exist. Plans in congress DO NOT cut benefits for anyone currently 55 and older. Shame on the AARP for fostering these misleading statements.”
Frederick Lynch, author of the newly released“One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security, and America’s Future,” said the organization needs to narrow its focus.
He wrote in a New York Times opinion piece yesterday that “AARP must get back to the basics: it stands for Americans 50 and older and the policies and programs that protect them. Period.”
Lynch, an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, argues that AARP has become too much of a “big tent” and should focus on its constituency of now, not those who might become AARP members in the future.
“If AARP’s leaders have already agreed to accept limited reductions in Social Security benefits as part of a strategic play to preserve a dominant role in the coming debate over entitlement reform, as has been reported, it is a grave error that will only encourage further concessions and demoralize activist members,” he said.
“… a strong AARP stand on Social Security and Medicare has the potential support of not only 78 million aging boomers but also the general public; polls have found broad majorities opposed to slashing Social Security and converting Medicare into a voucher system.”