On Friday, stories began appearing quoting AARP policy chief, John Rother stating that the powerful senior lobbying group was open to the idea of supporting cuts to Social Security in order to help influence how changes take shape.
First reported by The Wall Street Journal and later picked up by The New York Times and other media sources, the announcement was surprising considering how staunchly the organization had defended Social Security against cuts to this point.
According to Rother, the reasoning for the changing position was due to the fact that it appeared that change to entitlement programs is inevitable and AARP felt they could be integral in defining those changes. "The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens," he said.
Rother stated that AARP chose not to joining a coalition of 300 advocacy organizations created to fight cuts because they felt it was more important to be involved in how the changes are decided.
However, in a statement, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand decried the media reports as a misleading characterization of the organizations position. “Let me be clear – 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," he said.
The statement reaffirms that AARP's position has always been focused on protecting Social Security from cuts to reduce a deficit it did not cause and to ensure the long term solvency for the program. “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," Rand said. "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."
Although the statement does not specifically address the quotes from Rother it does suggest that the media had misinterpreted the meaning of his comments. Rand says the organization has long supported the concept of strengthening social security to ensure solvency and any changes needed to accomplish this goal should be phased in slowly and have no impact on current or near term beneficiaries.