The Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link -- they have a paywall) ran a story today claiming that AARP is now open to the idea of raising the retirement age in order to "save" Social Security -- something it had vowed to fight against. But this lobby, which has become more of a broker for Medicare supplement insurance plans than a real public interest advocate for seniors, is walking back this report in a hurry. It looks like it may have been one of those coordinated trial balloon leaks to gauge wind direction. AARP is acting very confused about exactly what its position is, and seems to want to have it both ways.
While telling CNN today that that there was some "miscommunication" with the Wall Street Journal, AARP legislative policy director David Certner acknowledged that AARP believes that Social Security needs to be changed.
"Everybody knows we need to look at a package of different changes to Social Security to make it strong for the long term," he said. "The reality is, we have more people older and who are living longer, so we need to make changes. Everybody recognizes that. And we're certainly willing to talk about a package of changes that will keep Social Security strong."
Even though raising the retirement age does constitute a benefits cut, the 37 million-member lobbying powerhouse launched a national ad campaign Thursday warning members of Congress not to reduce benefits for recipients of Social Security and Medicare. Raise the retirement age without raising the retirement age -- Paul Ryan must be loving this. It's doubletalking doublethink after his own heart. I betcha he'll apply for a special waiver to join AARP before he's 50. I betcha AARP will also rope in the Millennials with a special introductory offer to give them a headstart on shopping for voucher plans of the future. Medicare Part F for Failure, they might call it.
Meanwhile, a grassroots campaign is taking shape urging people to just cut up their AARP cards and demand a refund of their membership fees. Eric Kingson, a former advisor to President Obama on Social Security, is going to burn his. From his Firedoglake post today:
And so, sadly and with respect for many good people associated with AARP, 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.
Fortunately, there are a couple of organizations out there — the Alliance for Retired Americans and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare — which maintain an advocacy focus more supportive of the protections provided by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. For those also inclined to “tune out and drop out” of AARP, maybe its time for us through our various networks, blogs and organizational involvements to encourage others to do so as well. And, with AARP being so wavering in its support of elders, hopefully, two outstanding organizations — the Alliance for Retired Americans (www.retiredamericans.org) and the National Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare (www.ncpssm.org ) — will find opportunity to further build their already substantial memberships and with it to become even stronger advocates for today’s and tomorrow’s older Americans.
And don't forget Betty White, the new face of the AARP. If you want to figure out what will truly happen to older people once Social Security and Medicare get "fixed," here's the real picture: