Today’s Wall Street Journal coverage of AARP’s support of Social Security benefit cuts certainly got everyone’s attention.  While AARP spent most of the morning trying to “clarify” its position, with tweets every minute for most of the morning, and eventually a follow-up statement from its CEO,  it’s clear AARP has once again chosen to offer up vital safety net programs to the altar of insider Washington politics. In short, AARP says Social Security should not be a part of the budget conversation. So we ask…Why suggest benefit cuts now…during one of the most intense budget debates of our lifetime?   They say they’ll also hold town hall meetings to “educate” Americans about AARP’s vision for Social Security.  Again, if benefit cuts should not be a part of the budget debate (and they shouldn’t) then why is AARP working so hard to try and sell these benefit cuts to an unsupportive membership now?   AARP’s John Rother says:
 “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 footing financial for the long-term.”  
But benefit cuts are not the only way to put Social Security on stronger footing. Perhaps, most disconcerting is how closely AARP’s language mirrors the anti-Social Security approach promoted by the Cato institute after the last reforms in 1983 and perpetuated by President Bush in his campaign for private accounts.  That strategy says policymakers should ensure current seniors know the cuts won’t affect them to garner their support:
 “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 CEO, Barry Rand
Advocates representing millions of American seniors nationwide, including the National Committee, joined together this morning in a news conference call to remind reporters that AARP does not represent the views of most Americans.  Here is Max Richtman, NCPSSM Executive VP/Acting CEO’s full statement:  
“While AARP is among the nation’s largest lobbyists…it clearly does not speak for all of America’s seniors.  Seniors of all political persuasions, and even voters across all age groups, do not support cutting Social Security benefits.  Poll after poll, (including AARP’s own polling) show that seniors know Social Security didn’t cause this fiscal crisis, shouldn’t be included in the current budget debate and that there are other ways to resolve our economic woes without cutting benefits to millions of Americans. Suggesting now, given the current anti-Social Security environment in Washington, that seniors’ benefits should be cut is not a view shared by any other major seniors’ organization because it’s just not good policy. We don’t need to be squishy on this issue or equivocate, flip-flop or try to have it all ways…let me say clearly…we at the National Committee do not support cutting Social Security benefits.  Timing is everything in politics and no one in Washington now is really talking about providing long-term solvency issues for Social Security…they’re looking at ways to avoid paying back what’s owed to the trust fund and ways to cut spending.  Addressing Social Security as part of a budget deal has absolutely nothing to do with long-term solvency.   The National Committee has always said we need to find long-term solvency solutions to preserve Social Security for future generations…and those solutions aren’t really a surprise to anyone.  The need to make adjustments before the year 2036 isn’t news or position unique to AARP.  We all know, modest and manageable changes will bring Social Security where it needs to be for 75 more years; however, THAT is not what is being debated now.  Not a single seniors’ group, contrary to claims by Washington’s fiscal hawks, have ever argued that we should do “nothing” or “ignore” the fiscal facts; however, that has absolutely nothing to do with the current budget debate engulfing Washington.   Offering up Social Security benefit cuts, to gain access to closed door discussions, where Let’s Make a Deal politics has become the norm is not the way to address strengthening a program which touches the lives of virtually every American family.  AARP clearly hopes to continue to position itself as the representative of Americans seniors in Washington.  They say they want to captain the ship in this Social Security debate.  The problem is their policy ship is the Titanic and America’s seniors shouldn’t be forced to go down with it…with AARP at the wheel.   The National Committee takes our position as a membership organization very seriously…we will always advocate for positions that best serve the programs we fight to preserve and strengthen because they are literally lifelines for millions of Americans. The debate about preserving Social Security over the long-term has absolutely nothing to do with the budget debate…period. “