July 30, 2014

AARP Stance on Social Security: Essentially Unchanged

  • The national debt has grown significantly in recent years due to rising annual deficits. A deficit occurs in any year the government spends more...

Contradictory reports last week created confusion over the AARP’s stance on possible changes in Social Security. Although the program is now spending more money than it takes in and will face even greater strains as more baby boomers retire, the powerful organization that represents older Americans has long been wary of reform efforts.

On Friday The Wall Street Journal reported that AARP “is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits”  after “a wrenching debate” inside the organization. The story featured quotes from John Rother, an AARP executive vice president.

With other news media picking up the story, the AARP quickly released a statement Friday from CEO A. Barry Rand that said: “Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security.” And only a day before, the AARP announced a multi-million-dollar television campaign urging Congress “not to make any deal to pay the nation’s bills that would result in harmful cuts to critical Medicare and Social Security benefits.”

A New York Times article on Saturday quoted Rother as saying AARP would be willing to discuss benefit cuts if they were “minimal,” were aimed “far off in the future” instead of affecting current recipients, and were offset by increases in tax revenue.

So after all the dust has settled, the AARP’s position on Social Security remains essentially unchanged. It has always been open to limited benefit changes along the lines suggested by Rother so long as they are part of a Social Security solvency plan. What the organization opposes are cuts aimed at deficit reduction.

While it is good that AARP is not ruling out benefit cuts under any circumstances, it remains to be seen whether the organization will help or hinder current efforts to develop a plan for a fiscally sustainable budget.