Being Sick With Fear

AARP Supports Cuts To Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif It was a shocker early Friday morning when, in a front page Wall Street Journal story*, AARP reversed its long-standing opposition to cuts in Social Security. According to WSJ reporter Laura Meckler,

"AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain...The shift, which has been vetted by AARP's board...is now the group's stance...”

The response was thunderous even here on my laptop. Alerts and messages from other newspapers, advocacy groups, websites, blogs, friends and TGB readers were coming in so fast that my inbox wouldn't hold still long enough for me to click on any of them.

Undoubtedly, AARP's inbox influx was even heavier and by afternoon the CEO, A. Barry Rand, issued a press release characterizing the WSJ story as “misleading,” stating that AARP's position on Social Security had not changed but he did not deny that the group is open to cutting benefits.

Further, in his statement, Mr. Bond repeated that most egregiously insulting “selling point” touted by Republicans who want to gut Social Security and Medicare:

“It has also been a long held position [of AARP] that any changes would be phased in slowly, over time, and would not affect any current or near term beneficiaries."

I just don't get how anyone believes elders in vast numbers would sell out their children and grandchildren as long as they get to keep Social Security (or Medicare) for themselves. I also don't understand why no one – from the media to the best, most fierce advocates for Social Security and Medicare - don't point out this hateful assumption about old people.

A February Wall Street Journal poll found that 84 percent of Americans 65 and older are opposed to Social Security cuts. Other polls come up with similar numbers. Nevertheless, as the WSJ story points out, AARP is now williing to alienate a large portion of its 37 million members. To win them over to the group's new point of view, reported Mecker in her story,

“AARP is preparing coast-to-coast town hall meetings to explain the problem and the possible solutions.”

Cuts should not be part of the solution. For too many elders, a cut as small as five or ten dollars makes a negative difference in their lives. As Jared Bernstein pointed out Friday on his blog,

“You might get the impression from this debate that Soc Sec benefits are chump change to seniors. But in fact:

“…for recipients age 65 and up on, Social Security is about two-thirds of their income and that share grows with age—for the old-elderly, it’s closer to 70% of their income. Other data show that for a third of those over 65, Social Security accounts for at least 90% of their income.”

Although AARP was an ally in the fight against President George W. Bush's campaign to privatize Social Security in 2005, and I greatly respect the organization's research arm in particular, I have always questioned their dedication to elder issues. After all, the majority of their revenue - $1.4 billion in 2010 – comes from insurance and financial products sales and royalties, not membership dues.

I'm not alone in that concern and now, with the group's support of benefit cuts, some Social Security advocates who are far more important that I am suggest it is time to burn our AARP cards.

One of them is Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University, former adviser to President Barack Obama on Social Security during the 2008 campaign and co-chair of Strengthen Social Security:

“[S]adly and with respect for many good people associated with AARP,” he said, writing at FireDogLake, “I have decided to make the supreme sacrifice and 'burn my AARP card' and recommend that others consider doing so as well.

“No more AARP discounts, free Magazines with Katie Couric, Sally Field, Michael Fox, Goldie Hawn, Condoleezza Rice, Robin Williams, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford and others emblazoned each month on its cover – all fine people but hardly typical of the nation’s very diverse population of boomers and elders. Oh well.”

It would be best if large groups of elders did this together but there is a glitch in my participation. The least expensive and most comprehensive Medicare Part B coverage for me is sponsored by AARP and requires membership, so I'm stuck. For now.

But unless AARP renounces its Social Security benefits cut policy, come renewal time at the end of the year I will find another provider. It will undoubtedly cost more, but adding the price of my AARP membership to the budget will help.

*NOTE: The Wall Street Journal is behind a paid firewall. If you are not a subscriber, you can read the original story by typing these exact words (with the quotation marks) into Google: "Key Seniors Association Pivots on Benefit Cut”. Then click the link to the story that will show up at the top of the search results.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ann Favreau: Tornado


I sent AARP an email last Friday, and got a prompt reply...stating the same thing you posted. Bit of waffling, but still saying cuts will be necessary. Bye, bye AARP for me!

On Friday, the very day I heard about the AARP changing it's policy re Social Security, I received my renewal notice in the mail.

Needless to say, I will NOT be sending it back with a check.

As far as discounts for AARP membership goes, there are all sorts of other senior discounts out there.

If you go to www.about.com/frugalliving
and look in THEIR search box you will see "Senior Discounts" which lists all sorts of discounts for seniors. We really don't need AARP for discounts.

What we need them for is their political power to guard our rights and benefits. If they decide to abdicate that role then why would we choose to pay dues to them?

I must be stupid or seriously missing some key information about "why" SS needs to be cut. What is wrong with the current system that it needs to be cut, modified? Does the problem lye with future contributions to the program? WIll there not be enough funds available past 2037 to pay out to retirees? I just don't get it.

I quit them 2004 right after they recommended Enron and then supported Bush's massive drug program ripoff. Don't people pay attention?

I just got my new AARP card in the mail last week, and now this. I am totally shocked at this. I really am curious as to what swayed them to do this drastic decision. If a town hall meeting comes to Huntsville, I will be there to hear it.

The biggest problem with this stance by AARP is that politicians of all stripes will quote AARP and cite AARP when they argue for SSI benefit reductions and "privatization" of Medicare. Thanks for the knife in our backs AARP!

AARP lost thousands of members in 2004 when they caved in on the drug program. Including me. Guess what? They didn't care a twit! I never joined again and have no regrets. Still, this new turn of events is too familiar for comfort - another betrayal that tells me sadly, my instincts are on the mark.

Wish you had a button so I could post this to my Facebook page.

All you need to do is click the "like" button and it will show up on your facebook page.

I am another person who quit AARP when they supported the drug program and haven't looked back. Their magazine was geared to the 50 crowd (and younger) and I don't miss it.

I don't have their insurance coverage, but do have a friend who does. We compared what we had paid out in a year for our basic medical cost and I came way out ahead. Of course, that's comparing apples and oranges, but I still think it's cheaper to join a good HMO. Granted, I have to use the HMO's providers, but so far I have had good ones.

This is the second blow for me but I suspected AARP was not our friend long ago.

What seized my mind was the fact that the head of NCPSSM retired just as this issue was coming up.

I don't think even a paid firewall is going to keep us safe from the Wall Street Journal.

AARP is a business. Period. They are not advocates for the elderly, they are an insurance company PR/sales outfit.
Their magazine features well off attractive senior members of the elite who have nothing in common with me but age.

If I bail out of AARP, where do I go with my money that has a similar track record and the clout to advocate for elders? I've read AARP's response, but they are short on actual proposals. If increasing the income level for contributing (opposed by Reps) is reasonable, wouldn't cutting benefits to higher income folks also be reasonable? I guess I'm for letting the dust settle for a bit and waiting to learn what their actual plan is. Who else is as powerful an advocate for seniors and for protecting Medicare?

I to am surprised by the AARP change of tone. However, isn't there always a however, the demographic facts are that changes will happen to the retirement safety net. There are just to many future retirees coming along compared to the number of remaining workers who are funding the programs (SS and Medicare).

The real problem is that most of us don't trust our politicians to make rational well thought out changes. For Social Security, some combination of adjustments to salary caps (get back to the 90% range), retirement age and benefit levels like cola and possibly means testing like taxing benefits on high income earners will be needed.

As for Medicare, the real solution is to solve the medical insurance problem for all citizens. Last years Affordable Care Act doesn't really fix the problem. On paper it did extend the Medicare trust fund by a few years but it doesn't solve the cost issues we all face. A fair and rational solution would be to do what every other developed nation does and what Vermont just did. Move to a Single Payer system.

If you look on the INTERNET, you will find a number of thoughtful proposals to solve these problems that don't try to shift the burden to the poor, sick and elderly.

I am not a member of AARP. My parents were both members. I noted that they got very little for their $ and did not join. Now this latest news has me scratching my head again. Does AARP defend elders, or not?? And, you know what? The Bush tax cuts need to be rescinded. That's the position AARP should take. I feel disgust at our political system. Where are the Democrats with backbone? Purchased by corporations? Ugh!

I decided long ago that AARP was only for rich people. I have asked them to take my name off their mailing list(s) countless times.

None of this surprises me and that makes me angry and sad all at the same time.

Social Security is my only income and I am hurting badly.
I have joked more than once that there is too much month left at the end of my money but it's really true. I'm pretty good at stretching dollars until the eagle grins but that only works so far.

I know that as tough as it is for me, that others are worse off and that is criminal and it galls me that the people who are supposed to care, don't.

Well, as Bush chuckled, the SS account is just a bunch of IOUs anyway.
I'm glad I get a Swiss pension.
We are doing what we can to assure the economic future of ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, as most of the old people I know are.

I too, am dropping AARP, angry as it makes me, I am very concerned for my children and my grandchildren. In this economy some of them cannot make a decent living even with experience and degrees. How will they ever save anything on which to retire?

AARP's official origin story is that a former teacher started the organization when she was horrified to find a retired colleague living in a chicken coop.

So ... can they at least make the build-it-yourself floor plans for the original chicken coop available ... in lieu of Social Security? Instead of, you know, the floodtide of insurance junk mail they provide now?

I cut up my AARP card after the organization's disgraceful tub-thumping for G.W. Bush's Part D drug plan. Of course, what should one expect from an outfit which hires as CEO a corporate hack like A. Barry Rand. I worked for Xerox back in the 1980s, where Rand was an up-and-comer mucky-muck. He served then, and serves now, on corporate boards of directors, where he shares the view of his fellow board members, that the United States should continue to be a welfare state for the rich. That requires the dismantling of programs such as Social Security, which contribute nothing to the overarching corporate goal of upward wealth transfer.

I dumped AARP when the organization sold us out over the Part D drug plan. I easily found cheaper auto insurance than AARP's so-called discount arrangement with the Hartford. AARP's discounts are not that great an inducement to keep me a member. Let's reward our friends and "un-friend" AARP!

I ended my AARP membership years back when the Part D debate began and I clearly saw where the organization stood. It's pretty obvious that their raison d'etre is marketing insurance and selling into the over 50 demographic.

I am not sure quite why my earlier comment did not appear, perhaps I did it incorrectly. The WSJ article is another example of sloppy reporting as is much of your rant.
I suggest a much more thorough analysis before getting all these folks riled up about inaccurate reporting on two levels. Much of what is said in above comments doe snot make any sense at all. Yes I know the organization, volunteer for them and have been a member for over twenty years.

OK, here is my two cents..... What would happen if we (senior population) all took the stand with politicians that "they need to feel the same pain as we". The way that would play out is for them to be subject to all of the programs that we are...social security, medicare...etc. I'm thinking if they felt the pain in the pocket book the way we all do, things could change. What do you all say???

“AARP is preparing coast-to-coast town hall meetings to explain the problem and the possible solutions.”

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