18 June 2011

My letter to AARP today

The organization is publicly claiming that it has not changed its position on Social Security, but it is being widely reported, without any clear contradiction, that AARP is "in play" on raising the retirement age. This is totally unacceptable to us, the membership, and we DEMAND that AARP clearly enunciate the truth about Social Security immediately and clearly state that it and its membership will FIGHT any attempt to cut benefits, COLA adjustment methodology, or raise retirement age.

Social Security benefit cuts or further increases in the Retirement Age are simply out of the question. The ONLY acceptable reform for Social Security is to raise or eliminate the cap on income subject to payroll taxes.

People have PAID for Social Security; it's off budget and it's FLAT OUT immoral to ask people to accept DEFAULT on that debt to them to fix a debt they didn't create. AARP needs to say this, and make clear that we will not tolerate cuts to this vital social program.

The national debt was almost entirely created by lowering taxes on the rich under Reagan and both Bushes, and Republican spending on unpaid for wars, unpaid for military buildup, even the unpaid for Pharma giveaway Medicare prescription drug program under Bush II. AARP needs to make the point that it was largely the Republicans that created this big debt, and they did it by allowing the very rich and corporations to go without paying their fair share of the "price of civilization" ... taxes. You should point out that if we were to return to the tax rates of the 1960s we would be able to afford all investments and benefits on the books and proposed, and still pay down the debt.

Current deficits are the result of the current Great Recession, not its cause. The Republicans are fobbing a giant deficit hoax on the American people. The solution to deficits is to get people working again, just as the Great Depression was ended by employment programs and ultimately by the more than full employment of WWII. The percentage of GDP of debt, which was 35% during WWII, is nowhere near that now, and it's just a myth that the US cannot afford to do something about long term unemployment, or keep its realatively meager social programs, namely Social Security and Medicare, intact.

It is particularly galling that the Right, and now apparently with the tacit complicity of AARP, is attacking Social Security. Social Security is not in deficit. It is, moderately, taking in less than its paying out, but it holds massive bond debt and is the most fiscally solvent social program in history. As I noted above, increasing taxes for Social Security would fully resolve the long term financial problem of this program, and nothing else is acceptable. AARP members DEMAND a strong stance from the organization on this issue.

Medicare, too, requires strong support. There are many ways to reduce the excessive cost of medical care without cutting benefits, and AARP should insist on this as well. Tax rises for the richest Americans and eliminating subsidies and sweetheart deals for Pharma, agricultrue, oil, and Finance, would eliminate the deficit entirely; and sensible cost controls for the medical reimbursements from the public sector could easily restore Medicare and Medicaid to full fiscal health. AARP must stand for and defend these programs, which are absolutely essential for America's seniors, especially those of lower income. 

America is not broke, it's just that too much of the money has gone to its richest citizens and too many corporations have been allowed to offshore assets and otherwise avoid taxes. AARP must strongly communicate this message, and defend the essential programs on which its members depend.

Thank you.

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