Is the AARP Willing to Bargain on Social Security?


Today's Wall Street Journal reports what's been obvious to anyone following the deficit debate—that the deficit commission is likely to recommend Social Security cuts. But reporter Laura Meckler buries the lede: The AARP, the influential seniors' lobby that one might expect to be the biggest single interest-group barrier to any such cuts, is now saying that it may be open to a deal that reduces benefits. As Meckler reports:

Even before the commission settles on a plan, many liberals are vowing to block any cut in retirement benefits. But the White House and the powerful senior group AARP appear open to a deal…."We're prepared to be quite supportive of a real engagement on the issue," said John Rother, director of public policy for AARP. Acting sooner allows for changes to be made gradually, he said, and will reassure younger workers that the program will be there for them. He dismisses those who said they can never support benefit cuts. "I know all these people personally and they'll say we have to be hard line now to influence the debate…I kind of take it with a grain of salt, these emphatic statements."

Would the AARP actually back a deal that trims Social Security? "Supportive of engagement" is a far cry from actually supporting specific cuts. The most likely explanation for their outburst of openness is that they want to make sure that they're not left out of the debate. And that means creating the perception that they're willing to bargain, not stonewall.