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Supporting Social Security Benefit Cuts: What’s In It For AARP?

Tell AARP:
Hands Off Social Security

Sign our letter telling AARP that we will fight any attempts to make cuts to Social Security.

AARP is spending massive amounts of money to protect their brand in the wake of the June 17 Wall Street Journal article in which John Rother of AARP confirmed the organization would support Social Security benefit cuts.  Anyone over the age of 50 has seen Betty White’s face pop up somewhere in the course of their online browsing, proudly sporting an AARP badge. They’re sending robocalls to their members that patch through to the White House and Congress, urging the “protection” of Social Security.

So why don’t they just come out and say that they won’t support any benefit cuts?  Why do they keep dancing around with weasel-words?

  • June 17 statement: AARP walks back the WSJ article:  “Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security.”  That’s right, they haven’t. As Jon Walker reported, AARP has supported Social Security benefit cuts for 7 years.
  • June 17, the Hill: “AARP insisted Friday it has not changed its position on Social Security, but acknowledged it could back some benefits cuts for future seniors to preserve the program.”
  • June 24 letter to AARP members:  “Any changes should be phased in slowly, over time, and should not affect any current or near-term retirees.”
  • Latest AARP petiton:  “No harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security”

No “harmful cuts.”  As opposed to the “non-harmful” ones I suppose.  Every Social Security slasher from Alan Greenspan to Alan Simpson has echoed the Pete Peterson rhetoric of “saving” Social Security when they took a knife to it.  Nobody is going to go out there and launch a campaign promoting “harmful cuts” to Social Security.

But how did this article make its way into the Wall Street Journal right now?  And why did Third Way have a statement of support written up and ready to go as soon as the article appeared?

The article indicates that this wasn’t a casual mention, and that “AARP was preparing coast-to-coast town hall meetings to explain the problem and possible solutions.”

AARP isn’t in the Social Security business, so there’s no reason for them to weigh in on this unless they’re doing it as a political favor.  A BIG political favor. They’ll lose massive amounts of business for supporting this, and clearly they know it.

The AARP Foundation  received $18 million in stimulus funds for a “work training program for mature workers.”  The project is listed as “completed” and the jobs created is listed at “0?.

If  Rother is so concerned about the dangers of the federal deficit, why don’t they give that $18 million back?  Maybe because they already spent it. The AARP Foundation’s 2008 990 form lists executive salaries as follows:

  • $1,005,380 William D. Novelis
  • $625,857 Thomas C. Nelson
  • $452,667 Lin MacMaster (includes a $172,000 severance payment)
  • $421,679 Nancy A. Leamond
  • $417,246 Emilio Pardo
  • $409,560 Joan S. Wise
  • $398,432 Robert R. Hagans Jr.
  • $375,449 Shereen G. Remez
  • $361,352 John C. Rother
  • $358,222 Kevin J. Donnellan
  • $351,278 Ellen Hollander
  • $350,836 Hugh Delehanty
  • $335,120 David Sloane
  • $334,330 Harroll Backus
  • $332,865 Nancy Smith
  • $328,138 Susan Reinhard
  • $327,293 Matthew Rosser
  • $324,219 Matthew Mitchell

No company takes on this kind of brand damage for nothing.  AARP’s support for benefit cuts is a stalking horse.  And they would not be doing this unless a) it was already in the works, and b) they expected something in return.

Then again, maybe they already got it.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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