AARP’s Social Security Bombshell


The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the nation’s most powerful lobby when it comes to Social Security is changing its position. The AARP, which has long fought efforts to overhaul the entitlement program, is now willing to discuss reforming the system:

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.

The shift, which has been vetted by AARP’s board and is now the group’s stance, could have a dramatic effect on the debate surrounding the future of the federal safety net, from pensions to health care, given the group’s immense clout.

As the Journal notes, this is a very risky move. The obvious question is how the AARP’s congressional allies, who have opposed entitlement reform, will react to the news. Not to mention the group’s 37 million members. For the AARP, it remains to be seen what the real cost of a seat at the table will be.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.