Kevin Drum has the key excerpt from this Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) on the supposed change of heart of the AARP on Social Security cuts.
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 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.
....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....It wants tax increases to fill most of the program's financial hole, and it insists that a deal must be crafted apart from broader deficit-reduction negotiations.
The AARP has responded to this story with a strong denial (via e-mail):
AARP CEO A. Barry Rand offered the following statement in response to inaccurate media stories on the association's policy on Social Security:
"Let me be clear—AARP is as committed as we've ever been to fighting to protect Social Security for today's seniors and strengthening it for future generations. Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security.
"First, we are currently fighting some proposals in Washington to cut Social Security to reduce a deficit it did not cause. Social Security should not be used as a piggy bank to solve the nation's deficit. Any changes to this lifeline program should happen in a separate, broader discussion and make retirement more secure for future generations, not less.
"Our focus has always been on the human impact of changes, not just the budget tables. Which is why, as we have done numerous times over the last several decades, AARP is engaging our volunteer Board to evaluate any proposed changes to Social Security to determine how each might—individually or in different combinations—impact the lives of current and future retirees given the constantly changing economic realities they face.
"Second, we have maintained for years—to our members, the media and elected officials—that long term solvency is key to protecting and strengthening Social Security for all generations, and we have urged elected officials in Washington to address the program's long-term challenges in a way that's fair for all generations....
"Social Security is a critically important issue for our members, their families and Americans of all ages, especially at a time when many will have less retirement security than previous generations with fewer pensions, less savings and rising health care costs. And, as we have been for decades, we will continue to protect this bedrock of lifetime financial security for all generations of Americans."
At the same time, The Hill is reporting that the AARP has "acknowledged it could back some benefit cuts for future seniors to preserve the program."
AARP senior lobbyist John Rother said the AARP has been vetting various Social Security proposals with its board. He said AARP continues to oppose allowing optional private savings accounts in lieu of Social Security benefits as well as using Social Security in any deficit reduction deal.
In the past, Rother has said his organization does not hold the position that no cuts should be made under any circumstances.
It's sort the same line we've heard repeatedly from the White House: no "slashing" of benefits, without the idea of what "slashing" actually means, and only drawing the line at privatization. So consider this issue definitely still in play. Obviously, AARP felt some serious backlash from the story, and they will continue to until there's clarification of where exactly they'll draw the line on Social Security.