For as long as anyone can remember, AARP has opposed cutting Social Security benefits; its June Bulletin said so and it went on to pan the Ryan recipe to cook Medicare. Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that John Rother, AARP's long-time policy chief, had indicated that the organization would entertain benefit cuts. Rother responded that his comments had been misinterpreted, that he only stressed AARP's desire to strengthen the program's resources to meet a projected shortfall a quarter century from now. Further, he said, AARP advocated raising the cap on earnings subject to the payroll tax -- a very popular proposal embraced by Candidate Obama. The Rother statement did not fully square with AARP's later statement, suggesting willingness to trade some benefit reductions for improved long-term funding.
However, this ambiguity, if it is that, hasn't spared AARP from a public roasting for caving in to pressure. Long-term critics of Social Security indicated their pleasure. But none of that changes the fierce and solid public support for an unimpaired Social Security program for current retirees, near-term retirees and all future retirees -- the major victims of possible benefit reductions.
Whatever stance AARP has taken, it does not provide "cover" for the Obama Administration to agree to cut benefits now, soon or in the future. If AARP does not vigorously and clearly repudiate what some see as willingness to accept benefit cuts, AARP will be the loser.
The major result would be that AARP would join Representative Paul Ryan in the dog house.