Social insurance advocates remain dismayed by AARP’s decision to accept Social Security benefit cuts as part of a balanced solution to address the long-term funding gap, a decision they claim was not any different than their prior stances. AARP popped up yesterday to insist on their opposition to including Social Security as part of the debt limit deal, but their bombshell announcement had that practical effect.
To quote Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who sat down with a small group of us at Netroots Nation to discuss Social Security, “As long as the dike holds, the water stays back, with not much pressure. But once there’s a hole in that dike, it comes rishing through, and there’s a lot of pressure.” This was the problem with what AARP did: it put more pressure on making an immediate deal, in an unfavorable political climate, on the most successful social insurance program in American history, “a core piece of the infrastructure of the American dream,” in the words of Sen. Whitehouse.
Pressure is countervailing, and Whitehouse said that even his colleagues who care deeply about the deficit and want to come to a solution on it, those who “needed some backbone,” stiffened once they heard from their constituents on the issue. “There are areas where the progressive perspective has strong popular support,” Whitehouse said. “It becomes energized when a message is delivered to make that latent support active.”
So public outcry can make a difference here, both with politicians and with AARP.