…because I’m an economist and a mom–that’s why!

Well, Good for You, AARP!

June 17th, 2011 . by economistmom


So I might just be proud to become a card-carrying member of the AARP…  (There’s the card they sent me, although I’ve got a few months before I turn 50.)

This is a big, huge deal.  For months, Alan Simpson, one of the co-chairs of the President’s fiscal commission, has been lashing out at AARP and Grover Norquist in the same breath.  (Having a hard time finding a video clip on it now, but I’ve heard Simpson’s AARP-Norquist rant live at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s fiscal summit and at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s annual dinner most recently.)  But today the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reports:

WASHINGTON—AARP, the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington’s debate over how to revamp the nation’s entitlement programs.

The decision, which AARP hasn’t discussed publicly, came after a wrenching debate inside the organization. In 2005, the last time Social Security was debated, AARP led the effort to kill President George W. Bush’s plan for partial privatization. AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain.

“The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens,” said John Rother, AARP’s long-time policy chief and a prime mover behind its change of heart…

In an early sign of its new approach, AARP declined to join a coalition of about 300 unions, women’s groups and liberal advocacy organizations created to fight Social Security benefit cuts. “The coalition’s role was to kind of anchor the left, and our role is going to be to actually get something done,” said Mr. Rother.

So good for you, AARP, and in particular, good for you, John Rother.  I know it’s hard for many of these same Social Security advocates to understand that some of us who support voluntary, well-considered reform of Social Security–as an alternative to risking its demise from not-so-benign neglect–are actually advocates for Social Security, too.   But AARP understands now.  AARP’s decision is a prime example of the very tough choices that have to be made, weighing policy wisdom against political pressure, when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

137 Responses to “Well, Good for You, AARP!”

  1. comment number 1 by: Ann

    No sooner do we congratulate AARP than they make us mad again. Check out their press release from this afternoon that says “AARP Has Not Changed Its Position on Social Security.” Sad, just sad.

  2. comment number 2 by: Ann

    Here’s a link to the press release

  3. comment number 3 by: Kooklafphram Endolley

    This is a sickening forced meme. There is enough money for society to take care of the less fortunate among us if we just stop spending money on killing people and insulating the wealthy from taxation.

    Excuse me while i vomit.

  4. comment number 4 by: Jack

    Why not raise the contribution rates for all incomes without upper limits?

  5. comment number 5 by: Joe

    As a 78-year-old, I wonder, how will I live if you cut the benefits I earned? Do you plan on putting me out on an iceberg, with a jug of water and a few pounds of blubber?

    If you think you can’t afford to retain and even (OMG) expand SS and MediCare it’s because the younger generation thinks it can run multiple, constant wars and allow corporations to screw the middle class - all without any of the controls and general sacrifices our generations paid during WWII. You need to either stop all these foreign wars or tighten your collective belt now and pay for these adventures. It is not SS that is breaking our bank, it’s you sheep and the corporate wolves.

  6. comment number 6 by: Thomas Mc

    WAKE UP people! Social Security is NOT insolvent! We have paid some $2.6 TRILLION more into it than has been paid out. That money is sitting there, in T-Bills. If those T-Bills are worthless, then ALL T-Bills are worthless, and so is the US dollar.

    These CROOKS in Congress are trying to STEAL that $2.6 TRILLION - OF OUR MONEY! - to pay for their own fiscal irresponsibility!

  7. comment number 7 by: ron

    Maybe one timne out of many they make a good choice. But AARP is not an association for its card holders and do not respond to the majority of the card holders stand on things. They make money and spend it as they see fit on lobbyist, politics and such. I for one no longer support a business that does not support a majority view and does things counter to same and lobbies where they do not belong.

  8. comment number 8 by: doc

    I will accept a cut when everyone who has held office,will accept cuts and lose some of their”entitlements”.Hands off Social Security.I paid for over forty years.Why don’t you just cut me a check,plus interest and I’ll shut up.

  9. comment number 9 by: Chris Adams

    Social Security is a retirement pension not an entitlement. You receive a check after paying years into the system just like your 401K. Is your 401K an entitlement?

  10. comment number 10 by: Carl

    I’ve paid into the system since I was 14. Why should my social security benefits be cut? No spouse, no children to continue to drain the system were I to die prematurely.

    Perhaps they should increase the social security deduction on those with children. Social security should be based upon an individual’s POTENTIAL for future payments. For example, the father that dies at 40 leaving 5 children.

  11. comment number 11 by: Mick Russom

    Finally, the greediest generations in American history are finally realizing that eating their own young is not the best way to ensure survival. AARP supported Obama murdercare, supports billions on Alzheimers research while our kids are getting Trashed with Autism, i hope AARP changes its tune to stop greedy self serving modus and change to helping leave a country solvent and leave a country of opportunity for my kids.

    65% of our budget is welfare/workfare/interest on debt/medicare/medicaid/social security. 65%. Its time to stop the entitlement insanity now.

    Its also time to cut the federal budget IN HALF. AT LEAST BY HALF.

  12. comment number 12 by: KS2 Problema

    Talk about a content-free article.

    I was hoping to find out something about why writer Diane Lim Rogers thinks it’s so great that AARP has had a policy change but facts, figures, or even vague rationales beyond the tired ‘we needed to destroy the village to save it’ line of blather.

    Mind you, I’m more than receptive to the idea that changes must come to Social Security and our expectations from it — but THIS piece of nothing of an article gives us no information except that Economist Mom LIKES it.

    Next time, just click on a thumbs-up somewhere and spare us your tired blather, “Mom.”

  13. comment number 13 by: E.L.Woody

    So I worked for 30 years contributing to SS and now some pinhead wants to cut what I paid for, worse, AARP is backing this. I have dropped my membership in AARP today and ask all senoir citizens to do the same. It will be amusing to see what AARP will do without money. They are the first I have cut out of my budget. Traitors!

  14. comment number 14 by: George

    And I suppose that Congress will go onto S/S also.
    ARRP only watches out for there business. Not me.

  15. comment number 15 by: HPG

    Comment #8: I’m sorry to say that the average person gets back everything they put in plus interest in less than 4 yrs. The idea was that people lived for a few years after retirement then died. Today we can keep you going for years on end. I say lets start with eliminating ss for the l/2 million millionaires who collect. I read that out of 300 million people, 400 have over l/2 the money in this country. Is this really democracy?

  16. comment number 16 by: Blake

    Boo to you, Diane Rogers. Alan Simpson’s boondoggle wasn’t called the “Catfood Commission” for nothing. Social Security is solvent for the next THREE DECADES, and simply by lifting the cap on taxed income it could continue to fund the rest of the government’s idiocy, just like it’s been doing for the past seven decades. It’s a question of priorities–feed seniors, or fight unwinnable wars? I guess we know where your priorities are.

  17. comment number 17 by: iows

    Very poor journalism. Social Security is fully funded with over $2 Trillion. The issue is that much of it has been looted with federal government iou’s. The issue IS NOT Social Security, the public has paid and deserved what was promised. The issue is the over $2 Trillion dollar “Terrorism Industry” that protects Americans from a threat slightly greater than a shark attack. The issue is having a military budget that is 4X greater than the number 2 spender. The issue is not taxing the wealthiest Americans in spite of the fact that the top 1% of Americans have a combined wealth greater than the bottom 95% of Americans. The public is being treated with contempt by a “free press” that champions the agendas of the oligarchy.

  18. comment number 18 by: John R.

    I’m 67 years old and not an AARP member. If I were, I would feel betrayed. There is nothing that increased contribution rates without upper limits and drastically lower unemployment would not cure. Take away the outrageous congressional pension plan, and let’s see how they would deal with social security then! It’s time to stand-up for the middle class AARP.

  19. comment number 19 by: Jim S

    The kinds of sacrifices envisioned by those with more narrow views have at least one extreme weakness. One of the proposals for both Social Security and Medicare is to raise the age of eligibility. That idea is a major fail until you can actually do something about the rampant age discrimination in the job market. In addition those who have commented about the military budget and how much they waste are on the mark. The Pentagon wastes far more than any social program, even by percentage of budget.

  20. comment number 20 by: Dean Carpenter


  21. comment number 21 by: Mike Young


    These are words from our President, they sure show him for what he is. Shame is that he is our President.

    A Coil of Rage

    The character of any man is defined by how he treats his mother as
    the years pass …. need I say more about this person below other than
    there is no character, no integrity but there is a ton of attitude and arrogance that defines his shallow past and hollow future …. I rest my case.

    I bought and read Audacity of Hope. It was difficult to read considering his attitude toward us and everything American. Let me add a phrase he uses to describe his attitude toward whites. He harbors a “COIL OF RAGE”. His words not mine.

    Is anyone out there awake?

    Everyone of voting age should read these two books: Don’t buy them,
    just get them from the library.

    >From Dreams From My Father:

    “I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of 12 or 13, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.”

    From Dreams From My Father :
    “I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother’s race.”

    >From Dreams From My Father:

    “There was something about her that made me wary, a little too sure of herself, maybe and white.”

    >From Dreams From My Father:

    “It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.”

    From Dreams From My Father:

    “I never emulate white men and brown men whose fates didn’t speak to my own. It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa , that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself:
    the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela.”

    And FINALLY ……….. and most scary:

    >From Audacity of Hope:

    “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in
    an ugly direction.”

    If you have never forwarded an e-mail, now is the time to do so!!!
    We have someone with this mentality running our GREAT nation!
    Keep your eye on him and don’t blink.

    I don’t care whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Conservative or a liberal, be aware of the attitude and character of this sitting President.

    PLEASE help spread the word!

  22. comment number 22 by: Mike Franklin

    Good for AARP, but horribly bad for those who paid into this program their entire working lives and are now forced to face a government that reneges on its contract!

    This is NOT an entitlement program. It is a contract like an insurance policy. How would you like it if your health plan decided to no longer cover your doctor visits or your life plan left your kids out in the cold?

    Tough choices? Yes but only because our representative government pilfered these funds for decades. They should be the ones to pay the difference.

  23. comment number 23 by: shild64289

    Sure if I made millions I’d not be concerned about AARP’s stand on cuts to Social Security. I agree with Jack let all income be subject to Social Security and Medicare just like income tax. I also agree with Chris Adams I get so tired of hearing the call Social Security an entitlement. It’s not and if all presidents since Regan as I recall had not raided Social Security to pay intrest on national debt Social Security wouldn’t be in current condition. Since congress doesn’t pay into Social Security because they have their own retirment program let them raid it to fund needed money for Social Security……

  24. comment number 24 by: historian-mom

    Well, Jack @Number 4 cancelled out all the fake economic concerns. Put in contribution rates for all income levels. And since the AARP has been bugging to renew for months and I was almost ready to, economist-mom has made up my mind. I’m going to send AARP’s latest post card back to them telling them exactly why they can get lost.

  25. comment number 25 by: John Jacobs

    What a load of crap. Let’s hear the one about sharing the pain. I’d like the spot in the pain-sharing line right behind Lloyd Blankfien, please. And how about raising the retirement age? So what if it’s regressive because wealthier people live longer than poor people. Since the Democratic wimps (I’m a Democrat - but not proud of it) ceded the narrative to the right (Boehner ” we’re broke”), revenue in any form is off the table. Why don’t we just give the government to the Norquist-Brietbart administration and be done with it. The collateral damage from relinquishing the narrative to the wingnuts will be felt for decades to come. Even if Florida does throw out the crook Scott, how much damage will he have done? Our president, for whom I voted, has on may occasions used the phrase “that’s a fight I’m ready to have.” Anyone seen any of those fights? Sheesh.

  26. comment number 26 by: zino

    AARP should have made their support conditional on public employees pension reform. Why should private sector employees have to make do with 401k’s and Social Security while puclic employees get lavish pensions. If we reform one, we have to reform the other. AARP dropped te ball on this one.

  27. comment number 27 by: Ray

    Instead of cutting social security which is what most of the population depends on, just cut the government in Washington DC by 80%. They’re all worthless anyway! Then they can all get a real job and realize how hard it really is to get a normal job.But the good news is that they will get their social security whenever they get older.

  28. comment number 28 by: Ron S

    Thats a nice smoke-screen you have there: you say you are for reform that will “save” social security but you give no details. Privatization is a scam, a red herring and a bald-faced lie spread by a few in positions to either 1. take care of themselves financiall (a vast minority of Americans) and 2. corporations in position to profit at the expense of our very nation.

    You are, at heart, unpatriotic and self-serving.

    Shame on you.

  29. comment number 29 by: Stew Colpitts

    Brovo to Chris Adams– Social Security is not an entitlement program, it is an insurance program!!!!

  30. comment number 30 by: J. Guardiola

    This report is erroneous and AARP has since restated their position. For the sake of good (and accurate) journalism, please correct your story.

  31. comment number 31 by: Steve Bonser

    And so the U.S. falls even farther behind in providing its taxpayers with actual value for the taxes and other contributions they’ve made to their nation. Anyone applauding the gutting of Social Security is very badly misinformed or simply willfully ignorant. First, SS is NOT is danger of being insolvent for many years and secondly, the primarly reason it is in any trouble at all is that the federal government has raided (borrowed) its funds with wanton disregard for the sacred trust that exists between it and taxpayers. Thirdly, the nation’s debt and any insolvency it is facing is far more due to tax cuts (primarily for the wealthy), insane defense spending (over $1 trillion annually) and the multi-trillion dollar debts created by the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and finally the out of control borrowing the feds have done to fund their reckless military adventures. So, before right wingers and anyone else cheers the reduction of SS benefits, understand that virtually every other western democracy has citizens that are happier than us, are enjoying a higher standard of living than us and that have access to health care, vacation and retirement benefits that make ours look like a third world nation, which is exactly what we are becoming. Hurray, kill Social Security!

  32. comment number 32 by: C. Pullen

    People must speak up loud and clear to overcome the roar of the wealthy, corporations and media who would have us believe the poor and the elderly are the solution to what ails this country. Stand up and speak the truth until everyone has heard the truth.

  33. comment number 33 by: Petro

    Adding my voice to the rest here calling BS on this. Shame on you, EconomistMom.

  34. comment number 34 by: House Carl

    Good for you? They are supporting the “destroy Social Security to save it” schtick and that’s good news? Sounds like horrible, rotten, disgusting news to me.

    Sorry I forgot the pc thing is to call killing social security “fixing” it. haven’t you heard? There’s a chance benefits will be cut to 75% due to a shortfall in 25 years!!! We have an emergency, cut everything now!!!

  35. comment number 35 by: Greg

    So, we have entitlement cuts for the poor and elderly and tax cuts for the rich, while we age world -wide warin the middle east and a misguided war on drugs. I commend our no named author for having the courage to write such as magnificent piece of journalism that offers such acute acumen. Down with the elderly (and Poor) Bah Humbug, Hurray for the rich!!!

  36. comment number 36 by: Stan Rozario

    I just received a renewal letter from AARP and am going to throw that in a trash. They act and work like any other UNION bosses and don’t care for seniors. AARP sucks!

  37. comment number 37 by: Ryan

    What incredibly bizarre logic. Congratulating the AARP for a move like this would be like congratulating an attorney who decided to admit in court that the other side is right. The AARP should be zealously representing it’s members, just like any other advocacy organization.

    And yes, I realize that AARP is now denying this. But it’s still appalling that anyone would have supported this in the first place.

  38. comment number 38 by: Steve

    Yeah, letting politicians raid SS so they can give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations is the responsible thing to do? The Economist Mom seems to be just another right-wing mouthpiece.

  39. comment number 39 by: emenot

    Time to quit AARP as it no longer parallel in goals! The government need to cut their pork barrel projects and is in great need of culling of corrupted officials! Those that even associated with their payroll are protected and isolated, what about the rest of us?

  40. comment number 40 by: Beck

    Social security is not in crisis. It is 100% funded until 2037. In that year the fund is predicted to dip to 75%. There is an easy and fair way to avoid this minor shortfall. Thanks to the Bush tax cuts, the rich don’t have to pay into Social Security on anything they earn above $106,800. If we repealed this inequity, Social Security would not have to suffer a minor bump in 2037. Then again, we could do it the Diane Lim Rogers way by screwing over Social Security’s full contributors and making people work past 70.

    Diane “Mom” Lin Rogers - your thoughts are pure garbage and your heart is a small one indeed.

  41. comment number 41 by: doc

    Comment number 15:You forgot to mention the Cash cow Government employees receive from Taxpayers.Probably 50% of the “millionaires” you mention are probably retired Politicos.

  42. comment number 42 by: Sheila

    What a nice piece of feel-good fluff from a person who will never need Social Security. “Economic realities” my eye. What about the economic reality of the corporations who pay no taxes? What about the economic reality of those (mostly longer-living women) who need every cent they put into Social Security to survive? Yeah it’s hard to make hard choices. It’s too bad they couldn’t figure out how hard their choice will be on many of their members. What do we need AARP for now? What a bunch of capitulating wimps. AARP understands nothing and that goes for you too, Jane Pauley.

  43. comment number 43 by: J.P Sauvage

    While pretending to represent the elderly, AARP pimps for corporate interests, such as United HealthCare, and is handsomely compensated for doing so. UHC raised my premiums by 773% over 12-1/2 years in order to fund a $1.5 billion compensation package for their former CEO and a $1.1 billion golden parachute when he got caught backdating stock options.

  44. comment number 44 by: Jim B.

    Hopefully any concessions won’t be to pay for all those billionaire tax breaks. Ending those Bush tax cuts would seems the easiest cut to make, followed up by some agressive cuts to military and defense spending.

  45. comment number 45 by: ED

    Hey, they found a bunch of dead bodies down in Texas. It’s all over the news, So far, they’ve confirmed uh, wait, oh, sorry, they just said they found some bodies but it turns out they were just LYING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  46. comment number 46 by: never

    Boycott the AARP. They get their power from members like you. If everyone quits them they are worth NOTHING!!!! It’s hard to believe any American would belong to this organization.

  47. comment number 47 by: Ed

    Ain’t that just peachy. Seems like no one can remember that we’ve been religiously paying into Social Security for decades, in the case of retirring persons, and now that the governement has squandered so much out it by the continued raids into it, now the folks that most depended on it to retire are going to get the shaft. Makes no damn sense, I wornder who was zooming who?

  48. comment number 48 by: bob

    Will the old, sick and disabled please just die, so we can achieve a little economic stability in this country. Please, if you’re physically not up to being exploited for cheap labor, will you please have the common decency to commit suicide? Social contracts are just so, so 1935ish, we’ve moved on. We’ve got ourselves to think about now. So please, just move out of the way.

  49. comment number 49 by: Ron C

    For decades, our representatives have ignored the education system in this country so nobody should be surprised that most of us weren’t smart enough to think about planning for retirement until it was too late.

    If when I was young, the goverment took a larger chunk of my pay for S.S., I would never have noticed and I might be able to retire before I die.

  50. comment number 50 by: Tom C.

    This is insane. The debate is way off the mark. Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid are programs for which anyone who pays taxes, pays into. How can they say these systems are insolvent? Oh, yeah, they drove a budget surplus into a budget deficit with corporate tax cuts, foreign wars of aggression and their own salaries/entitlement programs. BS. Look at he federal budget. We spend more on war than any other nation. Wake up!

  51. comment number 51 by: Tom

    Can we please, please lose this myth that Social Security is in immediate need of some sort of “fix”? There is nothing wrong with SS, it is running pretty much as planned and the last adjustment made by Reagan in raising the payroll tax made sure of that. Successive government, Republican and Democrat, Congressional and Executive, have then used the income gained from the Treasury Bonds purchased (by law) by that vast surplus to hide bad budgeting and underwrite ill-conceived tax cuts for the wealthy.

    What you’re advocating for here in unnecessary and dangerous and yet you think yourself as “serious” in making such an absurd proposal. You need to be better educated about the creation of SS, the evolution of SS over the years, before you jump on this bandwagon.

    In a couple of decades, when we Boomers begin dying off, the stories will no longer be about the great Boomer bubble but about the reduction of demands on SS.

    Also, we have far more pressing and immediate budgetary and revenue issues to confront, issues that will cost us far more and do far more damage than some hypothetical “threat” to SS some decade(s) hence. This is a distraction from the current problems caused by bad policy, wars, tax cuts for the wealthy (such as yourself) and the fueling of an investment scam with inflated real estate values.

    Why are you allowing yourself to be so distracted? What happened to real journalists capable of understanding the nuts and bolts of an issue rather than buying into whatever the conventional wisdom or current beltway mantra says is an issue?

  52. comment number 52 by: Charlie R

    Wow, sold out by the AARP
    I guess when the French Revoluton arrives in the US, all of the Bankers/Politcians will wonder why

  53. comment number 53 by: DCD

    Here’s a thought. Let everyone in the federal, state and local government contribute to their healthcare like the rest of us and also have them contribute to a 401K plan like the government makes us do. No high paid retirement benefits. Who voted on these things anyway. I don’t remember free healthcare and retirement being up for a vote!

  54. comment number 54 by: Paul

    AARP is a private organization. It never has and will never speak for me! I realized it’s motives years ago and dropped my subscription to its magazine. The biggest eveopener for many seniors was when it backed “Obamacare”.

  55. comment number 55 by: John Schafer

    Social Security is Title IV funded, right? Title IV also funds the National foster care system, possibly the most corrupted bureaucracic nightmare in the country! Do something about THAT and Social Security would hove NO money problems at all untill they figure some other way to drain it.

  56. comment number 56 by: builder7

    Unfortunately, AARP’s true colors have been seen. Their primary way of making money is through selling insurance, which is what would replace social security benefits in the form of annuities and medical insurance. What they don’t bother to understand, because of the greed that blinds them, is that people on social security already do not have enough to live since George Bush lowered the benefits for the people that made lower wages and raised them for people that made high wages. This meant the they have already been lowered by about 20 to 30 percent for most Americans and raised for the few that made up to $150,000 a year. AARP needs to be replaced by an organization that truly represents old people. I will not be renewing my membership!

  57. comment number 57 by: john dahodi

    AARP is nothing more than the capitalist lobby for the capitalists by the capitalists and of the capitalists. If you check their insurance plans and cost, you will surprise that in reality this organization is cheating to their millions of members. Back door they work for the powerful insurance companies and political parties only raising some noise to fool their members but accepting minimal or nothing for their members.

  58. comment number 58 by: builder7

    Commenting on Ron C. comment. The reason that most people do not have private insurance is because business has been lowering the wages for the last 40 years (since Nixon) so it has been hard to even make it, much less save and have a retirement fund also. These extra wages went into the pocket of the rich who did not lower prices one bit, but did go overseas where they could get help for 25 cents an hour. One guy said that even if wages were 0 that it would still be too expensive to produce things in America because of rules of law as well as taxes etc. I think it is just the opposite - it is too expensive to produce in America because the greedy few take too large of a profit and also take everything else like wages, bonuses, insurance, and benefits and pocket it. We need to get rid of all of these types that use us as virtual slaves for their own pleasure. It is like ancient Rome now!

  59. comment number 59 by: queenofromania

    “You frighten yourselves with ghosts and apparitions, whilst your house is the haunt of robbers.” William Cobbett

    The chickens (literally and figuratively) have come home to roost. Republicans who robbed America blind are now asking the victims to mend their spendthrift ways, so they, the GOP, can continue eating cake in the Versailles with their rich cronies. Wake up America! The greed heads have eaten your future. Look ahead and all you see if darkness. Your only two choices now are bunga-bunga or death by bunga-bunga. Get used to it because it is what it is. So long suckers!

  60. comment number 60 by: rick hatch

    aarp pledged the donuts ex benefits. I have no faith in them and have destroyed my membership card. Often.they haven’t got I think they’re jerks so they keep sending new ones. we may need to limit social security benefits. we certainly need to reduce medical costs we haven’t got the guts to do it by at dealing with a major problems suc as end of life ,prenatal care, organ transplants. And malpractice insurance.

  61. comment number 61 by: audaciousafrofascist

    Never supported AARP. Never really had the extra money for them and they always seemed a bit parasitic and untrustworthy to me. Anyone who supports the plundering of the SS program supports billionaire corruption at the expense of the working class. I suggest torching this writer’s house and giving her a health expense. Fight Back!

  62. comment number 62 by: Ed

    I keep telling everyone, buy silver and gold, buy plenty of guns and bullets, make sure you stock up on food (there are some pretty good ways to put up stores of food), get a water purifier. You need to do all this because shit is going to hit the fan. They are cutting police, publice workers, teachers, all jobs, and benefits for everyone. The dollar is worthless and even Mexico is tightened the way US dollars can be exchanged there. So everytime I get more pissed about all this, I just order more bullets. I think we’ll all need them. When the police are too understaffed or overloaded to protect you, then you must protect yourself. Right now the best deals are on 7.62X39 and .223. Get it before it’s gone.

  63. comment number 63 by: Jerry

    Hey….let’s take a look at where the money went…first, let’s let those too big to fail with the taxpayers the first to be paid from the assets….don’t dawdle like those countries in Europe as the rich take all the goodies out the back door first….
    After they have been disolved, then it’s time to tax those big bonus guys. Last we need to get some tax dollars from all those offshore accounts and close taxloops holes….remember only 40% of us are carrying the tax load…no one driving a car and who owns a home in this country should be living here tax free!!!

  64. comment number 64 by: Worked46yrs

    Nonsense. Meaningless blather. AARP has its priorities wrong. Politicians are spineless. The party of fiscal constraint is blowing smoike. You can give up your Social Security check and give it to me. Or give me what I’ve paid in for 46 years with the interest. Eah, I forgot, it’s a ponzi scheme.

  65. comment number 65 by: Earle Hancock

    The government wasted 9 billion on inappropriate benefits.
    I have wasted membership dues on AARP. I bet my action will be swifter.

  66. comment number 66 by: John Schafer

    I just got off the phone with the AARP offices. I canceled my membership with them that did not expire until 2013, and I gave them my specific reasons for doing so. I encourage all current members to do the same. Just tearing up your card will tell them nothing, calling to cancel will tell them you don’t believe they are acting in your best interest. Here is the number: 888-687-2277

  67. comment number 67 by: Sirspeak

    Social Security is a sad, destructive fiction. Just an account reflecting unsecured indebtedness that the debtor will never be able to pay. Face it, the “Greatest Generation” collected as we paid in and they have left nothing but empty promises behind for us. We baby boomers find ourselves holding the bag. After contributing in all my life at the top applicable tax rates, and never collecting a dime, I will now be blamed for being “greedy” and for not having somehow saved the Social Security and Medicare systems, and eventually I will be cut off from any benefits for all my trouble as a result of politicians buying the prior generation of seniors off by delivering any chance of my funding my own retirement (and any possibility of my paying for my own medical care in my later years) to them.

  68. comment number 68 by: deb marst

    Good lord. I didnt see a response to Mike Young’s rant against Obama but his quotes were all made up! scary how hate filled someone is to lie and expose bias and disdain that way. I have to agree with other posters about the absurdity of refering to SS as an entitlement. We pay and pay so we have money when we are old. We need to look to our fiscal irresponsibility, wars and free ride for the wealthy and cut there. I for one am happy to delay an extravangance if it means someone else has money for health and safety. shame on us for not being more thoughtful about the less fortunate.

  69. comment number 69 by: Dale Rogers

    So we’ve put years of our payroll into a system that was spent on other things. Too bad, we’ve paid into the system, we are owed the benefits. You want to save some money, end a few wars we can’t afford and slash defense spending. Stop paying retired congress members a pension. Require members of congress to buy the same health care as everyone else. Funnel those funds into the programs we have contributed to.

  70. comment number 70 by: Del

    AARP is just a giant marketing firm - marketing mostly insurance products. Discovered that I did not need to be a member to buy “AARP Medicare Supplemental Insurance” from United Health Care. Dropped membership. No adverse effects.

  71. comment number 71 by: WasCountingOnIt

    Ya gotta be kidd’n me, right? I’ll be sending in my AARP card, along with my wife’s card, to the smiling senior who thinks everything is just wonderful with this INSANE idea to cut benefits
    earned by the working class without first cutting socialism for losses created by the rich with thier bad bets… bad bets that have ruined this economy along with bad wars, tax breaks for the uber-rich etc. Maybe it’s time to really shake up the Dems, and toss them out along with the Tea-Baggers. What a bunch of home grown terrorists!

  72. comment number 72 by: JCD

    And do all those in favor of cutting/gutting Social Security also demand that big banks and insurance companies stop getting tax dollar bail-outs? That Big Oil stops getting tax dollar subsidies and wars fought on their behalf? That the rich stop getting any tax breaks? That the military industrial complex never get a meaningful reduction. That most of the Fortune 500 stop getting tax dollars to bolster their bottomline? I don’t think so. The rich have a throat-hold on the rest of the US and the rest of the US is in awe of them and lets them have whatever they want.

  73. comment number 73 by: Ray

    Wow! One simple article that lets me to cancel an AARP membership and stop reading the Christian Science Monitor. Did Mary Baker Eddy write Science and Health or Wealth and Healt? s it any wonder we are a dying faith.

  74. comment number 74 by: Tom Mariner

    Yes we are living longer and healthier and is a small part of the reason for the social security and Medicare problem. The real deal, which AARP should know, is that for the past 40 years every American has been forced to send part of their paycheck to purchase an insurance policy at the investment rates then in effect (and since the S&P has gone up 10,000% I would expect some appreciation. But along the way our government stole the money. So the solution under this government is to take the money from seniors (retired people) who contributed and give it literally to those on Medicaid who haven’t invested a dime.

    I would expect AARP, yes to want a seat at the table, but at least to not condone both the theft and the social engineering. But, like the organization who claims to represent women, NOW, I get more politicing than representing their supposed constituency.

    In other words, just what I expect from AARP.

  75. comment number 75 by: Charles Jones

    Reasonable compromise on SS would be much more likely if we saw those at the upper end of the earnings spectrum compromising by stopping the lobbying against raising their taxes. Taxation is cynically unfair. AARP decision makers appear now to have joined the super-rich, if not in income certainly in mentality.
    A note to AARP: if you are not going to protect the earned rights of seniors, then your 20% discounts mean nothing since if we cannot afford the perks. If indeed you, the AARP, announce this change in policy, I will be among the thousands dropping their membership.

  76. comment number 76 by: middleclass

    One way to fix social security to make sure that all members of Congress are required to participate in it, that they no longer have access to their own health insurance,and their own retirement. Especially, they do not qualify for ANY benefits unless they have served a minimum of 25 years in Congress. They should have to face the same requirements that most of the Americans must face in the job market.
    Most politicians are millionaires and don’t need social security to survive while middle class Americans have worked for 40 years using SS as “one leg”of the retirement stool. When the corporations went from defined benefit pensions to defined contributions (with the help of Congress), pensions became less stable. When GW Bush wanted to privatize SS, I got a big kick out of the stock market tanking shortly thereafter (and it still hasn’t recovered). What would you do with all the people who did not have any way to live and were “too old to work” because of the job market because of the stock market? What a stupid idea!

    I think these ideas are a war on the middle class. I don’t think the middle class should be the only ones having to bear this burden. Respond to AARP and your people in Congress and let them know what you really think about it!

  77. comment number 77 by: Underwriterguy

    Where did all these folks come from? Don’t see many familiar names. In fact, non of the familiar names. I smell a conspiracy. BTW, I wish all the money deducted from my earnings over the years had been deposited in an S&P500 index fund with dividends reinvested. And I gave up my AARP membership years ago.

  78. comment number 78 by: Dale Rogers

    Underwriterguy: This article showed up on Google news front page. I’m guessing the onslaught of comments are coming from that. Given the author’s POV, I doubt I’ll be back.

  79. comment number 79 by: James

    Do these wars protect the interests of the least compensated among us, or do they protect the interests of the most wealthy among us. Who should then pay the lions’ share of the cost of these wars we are waging. The janitor or the CEO?

  80. comment number 80 by: snarfblatt

    Actually, its not just that Social Security has its own stream of funding and doesn’t contribute to the deficit, Social Security LEGALLY CAN’T run a deficit, it’s impossible.

    In addition to that, Social Security taxes have been FUNDING the debt for 30 years.

    When people talk about future Social Security benefits adding to the deficit what they are really talking about is the fact that REPAYING Social Security for the money it lent to the general fund will “add to the deficit”, BUT EVEN THAT ISN’T REALLY TRUE, all it would actually do is shift the debt on the balance sheet from being owed to Social Security to being owed to someone else.

    Currently the Social Security Trust Fund owns $2.5 trillion of the national debt. Now, when the trust fund goes to collect, if the govt doesn’t raise the revenue to repay it, they will have to borrow it, but its already borrowed!

    It’s like if I loan you $10, and then next week I come to you and say, “hey, I need my $10,” and you say, “I don’t have it,” and I say “well get it,” so you borrow $10 from someone else to pay me. You aren’t now $20 in debt, you are still only $10 in debt, you just owe it to a different person.

    Same here, so Social Security, even if we are talking about indirect effects, CAN NEVER ADD TO THE DEBT, NO MATTER WHAT!

    All that repaying the Trust Fund can do is force us to REFINANCE the debt, and actually, since interest rates are lower now,that shouldn’t even be a problem.

    What opponents of Social Security want us to do is needlessly default on the debt held by Social Security Trust Fund, the portion of the debt most heavily funded by poor and middle class Americans! It’s absurd!

  81. comment number 81 by: Malrubius

    People pay into Social Security their whole lives. The government spends the money enriching the rich through wars, bailouts, and massive tax breaks. And now we have to cut Social Security? How wrong can you possibly be?

  82. comment number 82 by: Fredric L. Rice

    Jane Pauley wuold appear to be another damned corporate liar and shill for the Koch Brothers. The right ringer obviously has zero regard for the health and welfare of actual citizens and sees no problem handing OUR MONEY to her right wing corporate traitiors. Amazing.

  83. comment number 83 by: bruce

    What all these greedy people know, but refuse to acknowledge, is that they have recieved a check plus interest, plus a lot more, for the trivial amounts they put in in past years. So, why not tax the hell out of everyone who actually works for a living to allow those who didn’t prepare for retirement to continue to live in a style they don’t deserve.

  84. comment number 84 by: Hondo

    This is just another Republican shill trying to sale the American people a crock. There’s nothing responsible about this. It’s just social engineering by ultra-right wingers.

  85. comment number 85 by: NoSacredCow

    The AARP is only concerned with what makes the AARP money. If they alienate conservatives that is a huge market-share. After all, once you cross 65 you have become your parents and more conservative. (you can’t help it)
    The AARP sends me invitations regularly and they go directly to the shredder. All of the AARP “deals” (discounts, insurance, etc) can all be obtained without joining and giving them a dime. My bank offers identical deals. (and I only have to pay them for the privilege of visiting my money. Remember back in the good old days when a simple passbook savings paid 5% interest?) But I digress. I do that now that I’m older. ;p

  86. comment number 86 by: John Greenall

    AARP in my opinion is simply an insurance spokesperson, out to bilk the people they say that they are supporting. The AARP IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST SCAMS EVER THOUGHT UP!

  87. comment number 87 by: Jeff

    Anyone who still holds to the belief that social security is solvent long-term is simply stupid. Anyone who understands basic math can see that the number of people paying in now, vs when the program was created under FDR simply cannot support the number of people drawing benefits. Daniel Moynihan tried to get this discussion started decades ago, but the democrats wanted to stiffle his honest discussions on the financial crisis looming. Further, if you still think ignoring run away entitlements do not threaten our entire economic well-being, take a look across the pond to europe.

  88. comment number 88 by: mdw

    I am dropping my membership in AARP, hands off my social security that I paid into for 45 years

  89. comment number 89 by: Mike Franklin

    After reading the 88 comments available to this point, it seems that the consensus is that:
    1. The author of the article above… E-Mom, has either been hitting the bottle or has found a new source of personal income. Namely, the US Government.
    2. People are not buying the tag that Social Security is an entitlement program because they pay into it each payday like they do their various insurance premiums. The idea of gutting SS so that big government can waste it on other things, will not go over. This will decide the next election… and maybe the future of our union.
    3. AARP is a waste of money. They do NOT represent any majority of retired people. To the contrary, they seem to be on the same payroll as the E-Mom here.

    That being said, i am going to write my congress person a letter and detail how I plan to help unelect them if they play fast and fancy with SS.

  90. comment number 90 by: Jim Glass

    See. We’re doomed.


  91. comment number 91 by: AG

    Ithought you repressented Seniors…What were you thinking going along with cutting SS benefits? I am really disapointed. Maybe you don’t value my membership.

  92. comment number 92 by: Tom Guzzi

    Is this your “Christian” view on starving the poor and elderly? On a program that they PAID FOR, not a handout. I hope there is a second coming, your going to have ALOT to answer for. Diane;
    was a Senior Economist on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers during the last year of the Clinton Administration and first 100 days of the
    Bush Administration….economist “mom” my A@#!!!!

  93. comment number 93 by: Tom Guzzi

    Her husband, John, is an economist at the Federal Reserve Board…..nuff said.

  94. comment number 94 by: Tom Guzzi

    You and Jane Pauley can kiss my half Irish ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  95. comment number 95 by: Tom Guzzi

    Good for you Diane Lim, your now an official nazi propagandist!!!!

  96. comment number 96 by: Deborah L Davies

    Here is a link to research while you are at the steering wheel of Social Security benefits
    oh and please remember your grandparents aren’t seeing their grandchildren…we too are punished for State greed spite the Fostering connections Bill

  97. comment number 97 by: Brooks

    Yeesh, nuthin’ like a whole bunch of typical (elsewhere in the blogosphere), drive-by, talking-point dittohead (of both right & left) commenters to turn a comments section into a whole bunch of people yapping and no one listening or thinking.

    I have my complaints about a couple of the regulars here sometimes, but hoo boy, the above sure is a reminder that a comments section can be a whole lot worse.

  98. comment number 98 by: John Schafer

    Deborah just gave the world the proof that the government is taking 6.2 BILLION from Title IV to pay for FOSTER CARE. This is the system that has so far furnished 80% of the population in State and Federal PRISONS. AARP now favors the reduction of SENIOR benefits so the government can fund their PRESCHOOL FOR PRISON. That says a lot about both AARP AND current leadership in Washington.

  99. comment number 99 by: John Schafer

    Want something different? Check out this web site: then join in for some change BACK!

  100. comment number 100 by: Deborah L Davies

    Brooks: do you have a problem with where your Social Security monies are going or reality? Certainly isn’t with me or my post. But then again ignorance is Bliss

  101. comment number 101 by: The Truth

    @ Mick Rossum

    Please seek professional help as soon as possible, ok?

  102. comment number 102 by: Brooks


    FWIW, my comment wasn’t referring to you in particular, but rather to comments as a group on this thread.

  103. comment number 103 by: cheslow yez

    AARP is and has been in bed with Hartford Insurance Co! They no doubt will eventually make a “baby”.

  104. comment number 104 by: cheslow yez

    AARP Sucks and is a scam! Let GW Bush and Company join. I want no part of them!

  105. comment number 105 by: Deborah L Davies

    My appologies Brooks

  106. comment number 106 by: Bill Mead

    You need to look at your own pension and compare it to average Americans. I don’t think you understand how important SS is and how its benefits have already been cut.
    Ask yourself if laid off next week and unable to find work where will the money come from? Are you that set. AARP Board of Directors all are retired from Universities and upper management and are independent of the need for SS. Most of us are not.

    I have been having trouble finding a job in my field at age 60. Yet the new proposals have me and my kids working until 70.

  107. comment number 107 by: Marik

    Pass the pain to the next generation. that’s Washington’s way, and it’s so very good to see that the AARP has joined in. However4, Social Security is not contributing to the deficit. In fact, Congress is using FICA money to pay for expenses other than SS. But the hypocrites in charge can never get enough for themselves. Shouldn’t we raise the income cap on the FICA tax? Wouldn’t that make sense? Oh, gosh, no. That would mean that the wealthy would pay the same percent of their incomes as those in the middle class. That would even affect the Senators and Representatives. And the AARP joins in its support. Jerks.

  108. comment number 108 by: Gary

    After the wars are stopped and AFTER we sell the Grand Canyon NP, then, maybe I’ll listen to AARP’s mouth piece for the insurance companies. We have 60 million votes quickly going to 100 million. We paid for SS and we are going to keep it, even if the US has to sell stuff to pay for it. Put that in your pipe and smoke Congress.

  109. comment number 109 by: Betty

    Everyone who pays attention knows the Republicans have taken over the leadership of AARP. That is why I won’t join or give them any money. Until the Republicans are in the minority in the Federal gov’t unable to stop legislation by all means possible (like in California) this country will suffer.

  110. comment number 110 by: BoBobb

    Since EconomistMom is so well set, she’ll be able to pay a raise in taxes to even things out between the poor & indigent, and those who got rich off of the backs of them.

  111. comment number 111 by: Darcy

    How about the fiscal responsibility of the wealthy who won’t give up their tax cuts. Compare the percentage of income they would be paying to the percentage of income the Social Security cuts would be for those who really need it.
    You obviously can’t relate.

  112. comment number 112 by: Patrick R. Sullivan

    I hope Diane is suitably impressed with the high intellectual caliber of her readers.

  113. comment number 113 by: John

    Hello! AARP doesn’t represent seniors, it represents parties that market products & services to seniors. Their support for Obamacare was another telltale sign.

  114. comment number 114 by: Gipper

    I have a challenge to the AARPsters out there who are worried about not getting what they “paid into the system.”

    The SS administration knows how much you and your employer paid in SS taxes over your entire lifetime. Let’s say we pay you 3% compounded interest on those contributions and calculate a figure of your lifetime contribution. Now, make sure that over your lifetime, we don’t pay out more than you contributed. Surely, you wouldn’t want to get paid something you don’t deserve, correct?

    And if you die early, then you can designate your heirs to get whatever you did not receive during your lifetime. Are you OK with that?

    Because what we have no is a bunch of free-loading geezers who will be getting paid a lot more than they paid in to the system if they live to 85 or 90 years old. And you are the same jerks who voted for FDR and the other Democrats who created SS and boosted your benefit formulas that are now bankrupting this nation.

    If you’re too poor, then all you friggin’ Democrat leeches can eat a vegan diet, which is cheaper than eating cat food. I was a vegan for 15 years, and you can do it too.

  115. comment number 115 by: Gary

    Hey Gipper…If any other institution managed the FICA tax money the way congress has done, they’d be in jail for embezzlement. Same for medicare.

    Where in the world did you come up with 3%, maybe you mean 3% over inflation?

  116. comment number 116 by: Gipper

    I came up with 3% as good proxy for the average yield on a publicly held basket of US Treasuries over the past 70 years.

    But going forward, this is a simple system to set up. Give each SS contributor a mutual fund account. The SSA takes the FICA contributions and purchases US Treasuries on the open market to match the average duration of the outstanding supply. You are issued shares in the mutual fund according to your contributions. Interest earnings and principal payments are re-invested with additional purchases of Treasuries and you’re issued more shares to reflect this reinvestment of earnings.

    Essentially, this program would convert the Trust Fund into publicly-held debt where each taxpayer will know exactly the value of his nest egg, and there is an explicit, legal contractual obligation to pay this debt to the individual investors with shares in the mutual fund.

    We convert SS from a defined benefit plan into a defined contribution plan that caps the obligations owed by future taxpayers to a known amount.

    Now when the AARPsters talk, they talk as if this is the way the system is currently structured. But it’s not. If it were set up like this, then Congress couldn’t “take away” what was owed unless they decided to default on the debt or inflate the currency.

    If you don’t trust Uncle Sam to manage this mutual fund, then hire Bill Gross from PIMCO to handle it. He knows what he’s doing.

  117. comment number 117 by: Gipper

    Another benefit of this system I described above is that we don’t have to worry about setting a “retirement age.” Everyone can work as long as they want because they’re only going to withdraw what they paid in.

    The only thing we have to worry about is setting a minimum age below which you cannot begin withdrawals. There would also have to be some regulations insuring that you did not outlive your savings and blow the entire account in a couple of years. But aside from that, it’s much simpler operationally and politically than the current monstrosity.

  118. comment number 118 by: Jim Glass

    Some time ago I suggested that fiscal reformers instead of talking to each other as the do on and on, should instead go onto the AARP message boards and talk to AARPers. As I used to do.

    Well, when you don’t go to the AARPers sometimes they come to you!

    Point is, *these* are the people fiscal reformers have to win over to get the fiscal reform we need.

    And it doesn’t seem that fiscal reformers have found a message that reaches them yet, eh?

  119. comment number 119 by: Vivian Darkbloom

    Re: Comment 118

    Does that mean you are volunteering? If you “used to” do it, that seems to suggest that you are aware what a mounumentally frustrating task that would be.

  120. comment number 120 by: Gary

    make it 3% over inflation, and make it like a Roth IRA,& make it so I don’t have to stay in Treasury instruments, I’ll support it.

    Now that SS is solved, how do we fix medicare and get out of the wars and occupation of Germany, Japan, Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, England, Belgium, Philippians, and many more countries?

  121. comment number 121 by: Gipper


    If the FICA contributions don’t continue to go into the federal general fund, then the deficit problem gets really, really, really big. Sorry, Treasuries is where they must go. Until we figure out how to shrink the federal government to 10% of GDP, a privatized SS option is a pipe dream.

    3% over inflation? Nice try, but that’s too expensive, and it’s not a fair reflection of historical yields on Treasuries. Sorry, but SS was a very bad investment, and it’s your generation’s fault. You pay the price.

  122. comment number 122 by: Gary

    We have paid the price for 30 years after the largest tax increase in history. Congress spent the money on crap and gave us IOU’s.

    Now Congress has to pay the price and maybe it means selling a lot of real estate? I don’t know but blaming us is dead wrong. I think you know it but just don’t like it. A deal is a deal and can’t be broken just because it is not convenient.

  123. comment number 123 by: RonKH

    The problem is that AARP is no longer an association promoting the welfare of the elderly, but the executives of the AARP have created a new purpose of promoting and reelecting Obama.

    The AARP agreed to Obamacare, which cuts $500 Billion out of the funding for Medicare in the next 10 years — allegedly because the feds are going to save that much money by cutting “waste, fraud and abuse.”

    That political crap has been sold since 1994 when Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House. The problem is, you cannot cut money out of a bureaucracy — you have to de-fund it, which will never be done.

    The AARP president is a big buddy of Obama and maybe they both have roots in Kenya. Whatever, AARP members get reamed while the execs live high on the hog.

    This is another insult. I’m changing to another association that does not sell out its members — or sleep with Obama.

  124. comment number 124 by: Gipper


    You talk as if “Congress” made a deal with seniors. The money comes from “us” not Congress. So you talk to me, and your fellow citizens when you want a handout, not to Congress.

    SS is a Ponzi scheme whose success depended upon a population age cohort with a large number of younger workers at the base supporting a narrow apex of retirees. Unfortunately, the pyramid has gotten narrower and the model is unsustainable. You will have to pay the price for believing in a stupid, Ponzi scheme. It was a promise that couldn’t be kept, and if your generation was too stupid to face reality, then that’s just too bad.

  125. comment number 125 by: Vivian Darkbloom


    You wrote:

    “If the FICA contributions don’t continue to go into the federal general fund, then the deficit problem gets really, really, really big.”

    But, didn’t we already just reach that point? Current FICA contributions are no longer able to support current benefits such that, in effect, we are now drawing from the “general fund” (i.e., the “general fund” is borrowing in the market and/or printing money to repay the SS trust fund). This is one of the biggest reasons that our deficit has now reached the tipping point. Of course, all of this was perfectly foreseeable.

  126. comment number 126 by: Gipper


    I was responding to Gary’s suggestion of privatizing SS and allowing FICA contributions to be directed into private investment options. That would blow are huge hole into the deficit. For the forseeable future, FICA contributions must continue to flow into the general fund where they’re not even able to support the SS outlays for current retirees.

  127. comment number 127 by: Vivian Darkbloom

    OK, I didn’t follow the whole string. But, technically, “general fund” is not the “SS trust fund”, so for the forseeable future money flows from the general fund back to the SS trust fund (to repay loans the general revenue fund has made from that trust fund) and then it goes to retirees to pay benefits.

  128. comment number 128 by: Arne

    “success depended upon a population age cohort with a large number of younger workers at the base supporting a narrow apex of retirees”

    There were a large number of younger workers supporting the first retirees because the act did not make every retiree eligible. The high ratios at the start are an artifact of the startup of the program, not a feature of the program. It was always obvious that the ratio would drop to 3 to 1.

    The ratio is going even lower beause more people are living longer. That means that they will get more (AWI adjusted-dollars) out than their grandparents did.

    Like a Ponzi scheme, it requires more generations, but unlike a pyramid scheme, it does not need to grow faster than is possible.

    I think a key quote from the linked article is “AARP declined to join a coalition of about 300 unions, women’s groups and liberal advocacy organizations created to fight Social Security benefit cuts.” The reality of longer retirements means adjustments are required. The current debate is too heavy on cutting, but to refuse make any change is to make your own voice meaningless, because change is inevitable.

  129. comment number 129 by: Gipper


    You are confusing life expectancy at birth with life expectancy at age 65. The latter has only increased by 4 years since 1945, and it didn’t occur overnight. These are the inevitable problems that come about with government sponsored defined benefit plans. The problems of SS as a drag on the budget won’t be solved until it is converted into a defined contribution plan as outlined in my prior post.

    Otherwise, we get the kind of political browbeating, bleating, whining, and victimization rants seen above from the AARPSTers who are making demands on other people’s money. It’s their generation’s fault for tolerating a structurally unsound retirement plan. I have nothing but contempt for their greedy and selfish pleas.

  130. comment number 130 by: Arne

    “You are confusing life expectancy at birth with life expectancy at age 65.” Not at all.

    Life Expectancy at 65 for men
    1940 - 11.9 2010 - 17.5 delta=5.6 years
    for women
    1940 - 13.4 2010 - 19.9 delta=6.5 years

    Not far different from your number, but still a 47 percent increase over 70 years. If life expectancy at 65 had stayed at the 1983 level, the trust fund would never run out.

    Pay-as-you-go social insurance (against outliving retirement savings) solves problems that a defined benefit plan cannot solve by itself. SS (with small adjustments) coupled with Roth IRAs and 401(k)s create a total system that makes sense.

  131. comment number 131 by: Jim Glass

    Re: Comment 118

    Does that mean you are volunteering? If you “used to” do it, that seems to suggest that you are aware what a mounumentally frustrating task that would be.

    Oh, yeah. But not “would be”, is. For work I need to communicate with both professionals and lay persons — sometimes extremely lay — so I used to spend time on the AARP boards learning what ideas, and what ways of presenting them, register effectively with the people there, and which don’t. That naturally got me into various SS discussions … wow.

    Over this past weekend I strayed into one of these on where somebody was damning all the “scary projections” about SS as being whipped up by cranks who want to destroy SS. So I gave a link to the projections in the most recent SS Trustees Report. Which recieved this response:

    Why do you think that Social Security Trustees are pro Social Security? I would think it more likely that they are rich financial types who tend to be neocon or far-conservative types who hate social programs and want to destroy them.

    There is no unfunded liability. But it seems like you want to see SS destroyed and you want to believe the lies being spread about it. So, arguing with you seems to be pointless.

    Geeze. :-) or :-( ?

    And that wasn’t AARP — the average Redditor is age 25 and skews libertarian!

    Now here’s my point: Professional budget watchers have had all the info on SS’s future, and all plausible *solutions* to it, since at least the days of 1993 Advisory Commission. There have been literally scores of reform plans scored by CBO as doing the job. As Moynihan used to say, “Social Security is simple, if we can’t even solve that…”

    So why does this “AARP lunacy” of denial that a problem *even exists* still continue en masse, and how has it been able to block *any* of those plans from even being considered (apart from the object lesson of the Bush fiasco)?

    Because the “fiscal responsibility” groups of economists and mavens have done absolutely *nothing* — zip, nada, zero — to engage with these people in their own language and in terms of their own concerns.

    And because the buget mavens haven’t even tried, they have no idea how to communicate with these people — and have had exactly zero effect on them in 20+ years. So the political situation is totally unchanged, still driving us to the cliff.

    Take a look at Concord’s home page. Do you see *anything* on it that might grab the attention of and engage with any of those first 100 commenters above?

    If Concord, Peterson, Brookings, etc, want to affect the politics of the issue, the *last* thing needed is yet more panel discussions and position papers explaining that we have to deal with X% of covered payroll over Y years, and if we don’t it will become >X% of covered payroll over Z years.

    What we *need* is Robert Bixby, Economistmon, et. al., *personally* going right into the lions’ den, facing the lions, and dealing with them like this.

    Yes, it can be “mounumentally frustrating” for sophisticated, informed people to deal with rubes like that. Which I am sure is the reason why 99% of them don’t do it and much prefer to deal only with each other.

    On the other hand, it is these rubes who have all the influence in budget politics, and the sophisticated budget mavens who’ve accomplished zip over the last 20 years. So maybe the mavens should inconvenience themselves by taking the rubes more seriously.

    And it can be both *fun and rewarding* when you start turning those AARP types around. Which is possible, I know for a fact, because I’ve managed to turn around a few myself in just my spare time.

    But to do it one has to speak to them in their own terms, and go through the frustration of learning how to do it.

    Nuthin’ frustrated, nothing gained.

  132. comment number 132 by: Brooks

    Jim (Glass),

    I appreciate the point you’re making. I’d say that advocacy groups can make important contributions on both the analytical, “white paper-ish” end and on the popular education end (yes, speaking in terms that register with laypeople — at different levels of “layness”, as perhaps you’d put it, since obviously different levels of sophistication can best suit different segments of laypeople ), and I see groups like Concord doing both. Perhaps you’d prefer to see a greater portion of their overall effort focused on the lay end and in particular the “layer” segment(s) and perhaps targeting them better via what you consider more efficient/effective media, which I’m not saying is wrong (I’d have to review more info to have a strong opinion).

    Anyway, I’ll add, re: “denial that a problem *even exists*”, as I think you’d agree, there is a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of what the problem is that has relatively little to do with projections of SS “solvency” and “gaps”. The existence and measure of the size of the problem related to SS is not the size of the projected “gap” in projected SS spending vs. bookkeeping SS-dedicated revenues (plus “repayment” to the “trust funds). Put differently, if we shifted around our tax structure (in a revenue-neutral way overall) or if we passed some law saying that the general fund would fill the projected SS “gaps” such that SS were projected to be fully “solvent” forever, we’d still have exactly the same problem we have: projected overall fiscal imbalance, and the size of that overall imbalance would not have changed one bit. So all the focus on the size of the “gap” and the degree of “solvency” and when the “trust funds” are “exhausted” yadda yadda, is really just mass nonsense.

    If we want to spend as much as projected on SS we can, and we can do it without any tax increase or increase in deficits. We’d just have to spend less on other things. The same is true of future spending on anything else. The fact that a program has a dedicated tax (is currently by law “self-financed” — yeesh) doesn’t change that basic reality.

    Conversely, even if SS were projected to be solvent forever, reducing projected SS spending could still be part of reducing our long-term fiscal imbalance. To avoid perpetual SS “surpluses” we’d probably want to just lower SS FICA taxation to meet the new, lower spending level, and raise other taxes to yield overall revenue-neutrality, resulting in no change in overall revenue, lower overall spending, and thus lower deficits.

    So the fixation on degrees/length of “solvency” and size of the “gap” as the measures of the size of the problem are just nonsense, yet many experts and advocates (on both sides) perpetuate that nonsense, and frankly, I think it might be quite a challenge to get a lot of people to get it straight conceptually. It’s probably a lot easier to just point to the bookkeeping “gap”, which is probably why advocates on both sides maintain that focus when communicating to both the public and politicians.

    Thanks for that Friedman video. Enjoyed it. Good stuff.

  133. comment number 133 by: Vivian Darkbloom

    Jim Glass,

    Your point is very well taken.

    But, I think there is another element to the problem of lack of awareness among the general populace. If you want to go into the “lion’s den” as you call it, armed with just facts and politically neutral arguments, then you are not only facing the lions, but also a couple of other gladiators who are armed with partisan-flavored rhetoric. There is nothing more powerful than appealing to the confirmation bias of those lions (even the truth, I’m afraid).

    The larger problem is our hyper-partisan political culture and media in which 90 percent of the population is not going to believe anything you say unless you first show them your party membership card. Once you do that, assuming it’s the right color, anything you say will be believed. So, for example, a very sophisticated economist and one who is quite aware of the issues facing social security, can give a very simple (and welcome) message that there’s no problem. And, he will be believed. I’m speaking, of course, of PK. There are no shortage of people on the other end of the spectrum who will do the same to obfuscate the issue.

    None of this, of course, detracts from what you are saying. In fact, I think, it confirms it, because you referred to ‘“fiscal responsibility” groups of economists and mavens” which I view as a politically and ideogically neutral group. However, you must be aware that this description, by itself, would be considered by a large segment of the population, including the sophisticated economist referred to above, as just a group of right wing conspirators. So, while I agree with your approach, this only adds to the frustration.

  134. comment number 134 by: Brooks

    Vivian and Jim (and all),

    Indeed, we do face the huge problem of bias that Vivian describes and to which Jim alludes. To adapt a quote (I think by H.L. Mencken), many people these days use sources of news & opinion as a drunk uses a lamppost: more for support than illumination. And it’s supported by what I call the “partisan-industrial complex” of media, politicians, and other groups who profit from perpetuating and manipulating the mentality and approach that Vivian describes.

    I recommend this book as an analysis of this problem.

  135. comment number 135 by: Hugh Campbell

    Cuts with Increasing Tax Revenue Barred, is Unconscionable !!!

    With all the live testimony presented to the President’s Fiscal Commission during its 9+ month life in 2010, I don’t recall one representative from AARP testifying. With all the tens of millions of dollars they collect from members, this is unconscionable! Now that the Fiscal Commission has set an agenda with Medicare/Social Security cuts are under serious consideration, AAPR is scrambling trying to raise fund from its members to fend-off the very real treat of cuts. By definition, whatever cut materialize, they will be much more than if AAPR made the Fiscal Commission’s agenda a 2010 election issue and gave the Tea Party a fight. As the saying goes, “A stich in time saves nine”. For AARP to agree to cuts with increasing tax revenue remaining off the table is unconscionable.

    The Tea Party thanks you, AARP!!!

  136. comment number 136 by: Gary

    Debate the PR all you want but until we SEE the options of tax increases, stopping wars and foreign occupations, vastly improved fiscal management at the federal levels AND the liquidation of Federal assets to raise cash, on the table and implemented, then you will never get our 70,000,000 votes. It’s that stark. I understand it’s not convenient but that’s the way it is. Call me whatever you want. Average layperson or graduate engineer with as much knowledge as has been exhibited here so far.

    After this generation is dead and gone, you can operate with different priorities but until then you cannot.


  137. comment number 137 by: Gary

    OBTW, Gipper, we did make a “deal” with congress and the congress violated the agreement. If you need the FICA taxes to operate the government, too bad, you’re not gonna get ‘em. Congress had decades to get ready for this and spent ate the cookies.

    Now, the main option I see for congress is to start having a huge garage sale to raise cash. Let’s see, let’s start with a few billion acres west of the Mississippi River. Then a few billion sq ft of office space east of the Miss River.

    talk about facing reality, this is it.

    thanks, G