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What Does “Strengthening Social Security” Mean to AARP Members?

On both sides of the debate over the social safety net, we often see the term ‘strengthening Social Security’ tossed around.

This phrase means different things to different people. To the majority of Americans who support expanding benefits, this phrase likely means taking a strong position against any cuts or changes that negatively impact their benefits.

But to understand what it means to Wall Street, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable is a very different story. To them, it means to advocate for a reduction in benefits, for raising the retirement age, and for hacking away at perhaps the most important social program in our country’s history.

As the nation’s largest seniors’ advocacy group, AARP purportedly strives to work in the best interests of its members. But has AARP actually stopped to ask their members what position they should take on the social safety net? To help answer this question, look at the brief survey provided to members as a precursor to their “You’ve Earned a Say and We’re Listening” tour; a national town hall series to “make sure your voice is heard in any conversation about the future of Medicare and Social Security.”

The survey begins:

1. Which of these statements do you think describes Social Security the best?

A: Social Security is okay as it is
B: It needs minor changes
C: It needs major changes
D: It is in a state of crisis

Question 4:

4. When it comes to securing the future of Medicare and Social Security, which of the following do you expect:

A: More funding will be needed to maintain the same benefits
B: Benefits will be reduced
C: Either A or B
D: None of the above

If the majority of Americans oppose cuts, and instead support the expansion of benefits, where is that option in AARP’s survey? Or are the majority of members really expected to ‘make their voices heard’ in the catch-all comment box at the very end? One would think this popular position might be important enough to be added as an option on their survey, yet it has been completely left out.

While AARP members are left with limited options to communicate their wishes to their organization which rakes in billions off insurance payments and millions more siphoning its members off to choice businesses, the CEO holds court with some of the most outspoken and influential enemies of the social safety net – groups and individuals who have gone on record supporting raising the retirement age or switching to Chained CPI – in a forum in which they can voice their opinions without restraint.

Can AARP really provide an adequate service to its members without actually giving them a chance to say what it is they want for the future of the social safety net? We think that’s a very important question to ask, and if AARP won’t ask its members, we will.

We’re beginning to run ads on Facebook in an attempt to find out what AARP members really think about Social Security, but we need your support to get them up and running in front of as many people as possible.

Click here to donate $10 or more to help us run ads targeted to AARP members asking them how they really feel about the future of the social safety net.

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Brian Sonenstein

Brian Sonenstein

Publishing Editor at Shadowproof and columnist at Prison Protest.