UPDATE: Though the strategic change is still noteworthy, Brien Beutler [has] a statement from the AARP denying there was a substantive policy shift here:
“Let me be clear – AARP is as committed as we’ve ever been to fighting to protect Social Security for today’s seniors and strengthening it for future generations. Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security.
“First, we are currently fighting some proposals in Washington to cut Social Security to reduce a deficit it did not cause. Social Security should not be used as a piggy bank to solve the nation’s deficit. Any changes to this lifeline program should happen in a separate, broader discussion and make retirement more secure for future generations, not less.
Via Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, the AARP, despite Paul Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan being massively unpopular, would seem to have adopted a new strategy in the wake of centrist think tanks and editorial boards keeping up their clamoring for “entitlement reform” of some kind or another:
AARP, the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, 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….”The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens,” said John Rother, AARP’s long-time policy chief and a prime mover behind its change of heart….There are limits to how far AARP is willing to go. The group will accept cuts, but won’t champion them, and it is particularly leery of certain concepts such as eliminating benefits for wealthier recipients….It wants tax increases to fill most of the program’s financial hole, and it insists that a deal must be crafted apart from broader deficit-reduction negotiations.
Drum welcomes the development, as he thinks very modest reductions in benefits can be achieved in concert with tax increases and no rise in the retirement age (and certainly not Ryan’s voucher scheme), and that the program would be put on much firmer ground politically, depriving Republicans of any justification whatsoever for making another run at gutting it. He is likely to be in the minority, though, in a progressive community that AARP joined in in 2005 in definitively opposing Social Security cuts and privatization. [Wall Street Journal]