Epic: AARP signals that it's willing to accept benefit cuts in Social Security

I’ve been sitting on this story all day just because I can’t bring myself to believe that the Death Star of entitlements might actually be willing, however grudgingly, to do the right thing. There has to be an angle. Maybe they’re conceding a tiny bit on Social Security to seem “reasonable” so that they can then leverage that reasonableness into an all-out defense of Medicare against Paul Ryan and the GOP?

This can’t possibly be as sane as it looks. Can it?

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

“If they come around and say they’re ready to do something, it will be like the Arctic icecap cracking,” said former Sen. Alan Simpson, co-chairman of a White House commission on the deficit. He has frequently assailed the group as a barrier to progress…

To win [its members] over, AARP is preparing coast-to-coast town-hall meetings to explain the problem and the possible solutions

There are limits to how far AARP is willing to go. The group will accept cuts, but won’t champion them, and it is particularly leery of certain concepts such as eliminating benefits for wealthier recipients.

They want to expand the payroll tax to help pay for part of the S.S. shortfall but they’re finally, finally willing to bend on benefit cuts too in the interest of compromise. So dicey is this move for the group — one poll taken a few months pegged seniors’ opposition to benefit cuts at 84 percent — that they’re already issuing panicky statements insisting that their position on Social Security hasn’t changed. Follow the link and read the statement, though, and you’ll see that they never quite deny the Journal’s claim that they’re willing to support cuts. All they really say is that they’re focused, as always, on the program’s long-term fiscal solvency, which of course is the same logic Paul Ryan’s been using to justify his Medicare plan. And in fact, the NYT confirmed the Journal’s account in its own story later this afternoon.

The most significant part of this, I think, is the town halls AARP is planning, assuming they have the nerve to go through with them. The left’s Mediscare tactics depend on convincing seniors that the fiscal crisis isn’t sufficiently dire that we need to go digging into entitlements, that the GOP is exaggerating the magnitude to fulfill its agenda of dismantling the welfare state. That becomes much harder to do once you have seniors’ own lobbying arm telling them, no, in fact, we really are out of money and need to move towards reform in order to maximize benefits long-term. It’s a huge boost to fiscal hawks’ credibility with the most critical demographic on this issue. And yet … I still can’t help wondering if there’s a racket here. InstaGlenn is quite right that AARP is less of a lobbyist outfit these days than an insurance broker. That’s where most of their financial growth is, so it’s borderline suicidal for them to take a position that might anger thousands of members and lead to mass cancellation of AARP plans. I’m encouraged, yet mystified.

Via Andrew Stiles, this was uploaded to YouTube by AARP just two days ago. Dude?