After weeks of fumbling moves and back tracking, it appears that AARP was against Social Security benefits cuts before it was for them. Or something like that. What's clear is that the non-profit interest group serving more than 40 million persons age 50 and over has drawn the ire of many of its constituents by indicating that it would not oppose future cuts to Social Security in the face of the program's dwindling reserves.
In mid-June, The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler reported that "[AARP] is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington's debate over how to revamp the nation's entitlement programs," and a decision made "after a wrenching debate inside the organization."
The resulting blowback came fast and furiously as scores of members, including The Newark Star-Ledger's Fran Wood took to public forums to denounce the decision and proclaim that they were canceling their AARP memberships. In an open letter titled "Dear AARP: You're wrong. We're done," Wood writes
Enclosed please find my AARP membership card. I see no advantage in belonging to an organization that apparently has decided the full preservation of Social Security -- the single most important economic lifeline for most seniors and retirees -- is negotiable...Bargain rates on insurance, hotels and restaurants are all very nice. A glossy magazine with medical news, recipes, a crossword puzzle and articles on motorcycle-riding seniors is also nice. But AARP's focus has always been -- and always should be -- its advocacy for the two programs that spell the difference between solvency and poverty for most retired Americans: Social Security and Medicare.
AARP has spent the weeks following the Wall Street Journal story attempting to clarify, restate and/or retract its position on Social Security. According to The Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney, "[w]hile AARP says it is adamantly opposed to having Social Security in the debt ceiling discussion, the group is open to separate negotiations on changes in things like the retirement age or the formula for calculating benefits to maintain the long-term solvency of the Social Security trust fund. Such changes are tantamount to benefit cuts if they reduce the total amount retirees receive."