A week from tomorrow, on the evening of 27 March, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand is hosting an “off-the-record, salon-style conversation” at the home of Washington lobbyist, Robert Rabin.
Billed as The E Street Exchange (for that is where Mr. Rabin's home is located), the purpose of the event is to talk about “Strengthening Social Security: Facing Up to the Challenge.” (See the formal invitation here )
Unless you have been under a rock for the past few years, you know that when the words, Social Security, strengthen and challenge are strung together in the same breath or sentence, someone is out to take away your benefit.
”The list of invitees to the salon event includes a gallery of powerful Washington establishment figures who are on record favoring cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
“The only firm opponent of Social Security or Medicare benefit cuts on the list, the Economic Policy Institute's Larry Mishel, said he wasn't planning to go and wasn't sure why he was listed as a featured guest...
“Other listed invitees included business leaders and deficit hawks who have long argued for the cuts, including Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, John Engler of the Business Roundtable group for corporate CEOs, and David Walker, a noted deficit alarmist and former head of the Government Accountability Office.”
You will recall that last year, as the Simpson-Bowles Commission debated items of deficit reduction, AARP announced that its board had voted to drop its opposition to cuts in Social Security benefits.
Under the weight of a massive outcry from AARP members along with many membership cancellations, AARP backtracked and today, to help burnish its damaged image, the organization is launching a national listening tour titled, “You've Earned a Say and We're Listening.”
Before I tell you anymore, it must be said loud and clear that AARP members have earned nothing – they pay for their say with their annual dues. Even with that, however, what can AARP possibly expect to hear that 90 percent of Americans of all political leanings have not already told them in a zillion polls and surveys: hands off Social Security.
In a followup story on Saturday , Huffington Post published a message it received from a volunteer who attended two days of training classes for the AARP listening tour:
"We were explicitly told NOT to provide any education; furthermore, they want us to urge participants to fill out the surveys at the beginning of the gathering, then as time permits, allow people one by one to express their opinions.
“I am wondering if all of this fanfare with the surveys will just be a smokescreen for the AARP backing cuts in Social Security and Medicare and using the opinions gathered in the 'You've Earned a Say' sessions as the basis for their EVOLVING policy."
You would be hard-pressed (as of yesterday, Sunday) to find anything about this listening tour at aarp.org. There is not a headline, word, link or anything on the home page.
It takes a lot of digging to find the listening tour page and although the URL includes the navigation to the sections, "politics-society/advocacy," there is no link on the Advocacy section front. So here's the link to make it easier for you.
Can you tell I'm pissed off about all this – extending to the bad navigation? I'm not the only one.
When you get to that page, you will find hundreds and hundreds of comments from people like you and me who are as informed about Social Security, the deficit and useful fixes as you and I and who are furious with AARP about the secret meeting and the tour. Here are just a handful of examples:
”I will also be enthusiastically joining a class action suit to recover my membership costs if AARP advocates ANY cuts to Social Security or Medicare.”
”Hey AARP! We didn't just earn a say in what you do, we PAID for it. Most of your membership are smart enough to see the knife poised to go into our collective backs and I expect we will leave in droves.
”I will not renew my membership. The fact that AARP would even consider closed-door sessions to compromise Social Security tells me that a once-vital organization has been corrupted.
”Social Security does not affect the deficit, and will be able to pay out 100 percent of benefits for the next 30 years. If a fix is needed, it's pretty simple: Eliminate the cap on contributions.
”I have been a member of AARP for about 20 years. I will NOT support any cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Look at what happened with Susan G. Komen. You cannot betray the people who are looking to you to represent them.
There are a couple of places where you can add your voice to others who are demanding that AARP CEO A. Barry Rand cancel the secret meeting on E Street - a petition at firedoglake and another at Credo .
Do it. Please do it. Add your voice. Ask your friends to do so. And to those readers who pipe up whenever I write about AARP's terrible track record on support of Social Security and Medicare to say we should ignore the organization, have nothing to do with them: sure, cancel your membership – that's a strong statement.
But it can only hurt us to ignore the wealthiest lobby group purporting to represent elders that has repeatedly misrepresented what nearly 100 percent of its membership wants. It is all too easy to believe silence equals acquiescence.