Monday, June 20, 2011

AARP Says to Seniors: Let Them Eat Cat Food

In a 6/16/11 article in the Wall Street Journal, AARP puts its considerable clout and its 30 million members behind Social Security benefit cuts. It’s not enough that seniors are suffering through the disintegration of Medicare; now those making an average of $12,000 yearly on Social Security have the pleasure of wondering which things they can afford: food, shelter or medical care. Pretty soon no one will have to wonder how entitlements can be “affordable”. People trying to survive on them won’t be able to.

It’s funny how the government doesn’t think twice about creating money out of whole cloth to bail out insolvent or close to it banks (aka Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley). But never mind that. Let’s look at several points, listed as “objective” in the article, that are questionable:

1) Nothing can get done if an organization aligns itself with the left:

In an early sign of its new approach, AARP declined to join a coalition of about 300 unions, women’s groups and liberal advocacy organization 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. [John] Rother, [AARP’s long-time policy chief and a prime mover behind its change of heart.]

It’s nice to know that decisionmakers think unions, women’s groups and liberal advocacy organizations stand in the way of decimating the ranks of the elderly and vulnerable. Of course, what can you expect when you have such empathetic individuals who probably don’t have to live on $12,000 a year as part of their board, speaking for its silent membership? Here is one board member talking about AARP’s treachery:

”There was good, healthy discussion,” said John Penn, chairman of Intek Plastics Inc., a member of AARP’s board. “Healthy tension usually results in better answers, but sometimes it’s painful in the process.”

2) Using reductive arithmetic and the supposed gravitas of “conventional wisdom" to justify political decisions:

The program’s actuaries say that by 2036, the program will have exhausted its reserves and will only be able to pay 77% of promised benefits. Between now and 2036, the government, which has spent the money held in reserve, will have to borrow to meet those obligations.

Try to wipe from your mind the billions paid out to the banksters by themselves in bonuses the last few years while your life has cratered. Check out the difference between Mr. Rother’s calculations and that of Thomas Geoghegan in an Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times. They are both discussing the income cap on taxing Social Security benefits. In case you’re not aware of it, here’s some background: the Social Security coffers fill from taxes levied on earned income up to the level of $106,800 a year. In other words, someone making $106,800 per year pays as much in Social Security taxes as someone making $12 million and they both dip into the pool equally. Here is Rother’s take on raising the income cap:

Tax increases wouldn’t be enough to make the program solvent. The leading proposal for raising taxes—increasing the amount of income subject to payroll taxes, the central financing mechanism for the program—would fill less than half the hole.

Thomas Geoghegan, a well-known labor lawyer and author of “Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back”, has this to say:

If earnings above the cap were subject to the payroll tax with no increase in benefits to high earners, there would be no deficit in the Social Security trust fund in 2037, as projected.

AARP knows cutting Social Security benefits will not be popular with its members:

A February Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 85% of Americans age 65 and up opposed benefit cuts. Internal AARP polling shows similar resistance.

But have no fear, you silent and powerless 30 million AARP members, AARP is putting millions behind a push to convince you that cat food is porterhouse. They are sponsoring a roadshow that will allow you, the dues-payers, to offer suggestions on Social Security solvency:

AARP plans to hold hundreds of events for seniors, in every state. At town halls and listening sessions, AARP plans to explain the political and budgetary realities facing the program by playing a game in which participants try to make Social Security solvent.

Our government and private institutions may render unions, women’s groups and liberal advocacy organizations powerless (as long as they’re not the radical right [oops! I mean the Tea Party]), but the AARP is strong-arming its members as willfully as anyone ever suggested the late Jimmy Hoffa did.

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