AARP's CEO A. Barry Rand released a statement Friday, saying the group's position on Social Security hasn't changed, despite media reports that it no longer opposes cuts to Social Security benefits.
A June 17 Wall Street Journal article reported AARP had dropped its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, but it hadn't made discussions on that decision public. Though AARP had championed an effort to kill former President George W. Bush's plan for partial privatization of the entitlement program, WSJ reports, the group concedes that change is inevitable.
Rand, however, says AARP has never rescinded its stance on Social Security, and that "AARP is as committed as we've ever been to fighting to protect Social Security for today's seniors and strengthening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."
Rand continues his statement:
"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.
"Our focus has always been on the human impact of changes, not just the budget tables. Which is why, as we have done numerous times over the last several decades, AARP is engaging our volunteer Board to evaluate any proposed changes to Social Security to determine how each might – individually or in different combinations – impact the lives of current and future retirees given the constantly changing economic realities they face.
"Second, we have maintained for years – to our members, the media and elected officials – that long term solvency is key to protecting and strengthening Social Security for all generations, and we have urged elected officials in Washington to address the program's long-term challenges in a way that's fair for all generations.
"It has long been AARP's policy that Social Security should be strengthened to provide adequate benefits and that it is sufficiently financed to ensure solvency with a stable trust fund for the next 75 years. It has also been a long held position that any changes would be phased in slowly, over time, and would not affect any current or near term beneficiaries.
"AARP strongly opposed a privatization plan in 2005, and continues to oppose this approach, because it would eliminate the guarantee that Social Security provides and reduce benefits, and we are currently fighting proposals to cut Social Security to pay the nation's bills.
"Social Security is a critically important issue for our members, their families and Americans of all ages, especially at a time when many will have less retirement security than previous generations with fewer pensions, less savings and rising health care costs. And, as we have been for decades, we will continue to protect this bedrock of lifetime financial security for all generations of Americans."
A separate report from the New York Times claims the group's policy chief, John Rother, insists the group's stance as it was outlined in the WSJ article should be seen not so much as a major change in position, but as a "reflection of the political and financial realities facing the Social Security system and the country as a whole," Times Staff Writer Eric Lichtblau writes.
“You have to look at all the tradeoffs,” Rother told the New York Times. “and what we’re trying to do is engage the American public in that debate.”