AARP Blasts Obama’s Historic Plan To Cut Social Security

One recent AARP advertisement

Today the White House confirmed that their budget proposal would include a major cut to Social Security in the form of a shift to chained CPI.

The Chained CPI reduces the growth of benefits by using a different index to measure inflation.

The AARP, one of the nation’s most powerful interest groups for people aged 50 and over, is prepared to mount a counter-assault. 

Shifting the cost of living adjustment to chained CPI serves as a major long-term cut for Social Security benefits. It has infuriated liberal groups and members of Congress, but raising the ire of AARP — a key supporter of his health care reform — could turn a previous ally of the President into a powerful adversary.

Cristina Martin Firvida, the director of financial security at AARP, told Business Insider Wednesday that Obama’s plan to toggle with Social Security benefits is potentially historic.

“What’s so surprising about the momentum behind chained CPI is its the only time anyone has put on the table a cut to current benefits for deficit reduction. It’s not a phase-in. You’re already retired.

According to Firvida, if the Obama budget immediately implements chained CPI without a gradual phase-in period, it would be the first time a White House budget cut benefits across-the-board for people who were already retired. 

Chained CPI had been discussed as a potential fix as early as the summer of 2011, but has reached a fever pitch over the past several days following the official announcement that the President has included the measure in his budget as a concession to the GOP. 

Opponents of the chained CPI have been laying the groundwork to mount a major opposition. Firvida told us the AARP has been preparing their response for months, launching online advertising campaigns, surveys, and dialling up their grassroots. 

“We will be taking this proposition seriously,” Firvida told Business Insider.

Perhaps more than other progressive groups, the AARP is well-positioned to mount a fight.   

The organisation has 40 million members — about 13% of the U.S. population — and well over $1.6 billion in assets, according to their tax forms.

The AARP is also a major player on Capitol Hill. Last year, they spent $10 million lobbying Congress, according to The centre for Responsive Politics, employing fifteen lobbyists at six lobbying firms in addition to their own 40-person  in-house government relations team. Of those 56 total lobbyists, 22 are former hill staffers. 

Even more, the group has the data proving that their base — which coincidentally is one of the highest-turnout demographics in the United States — definitively opposes the Obama policy. 

On Monday,  the AARP released a poll of voters over the age of 50, which found that 70 per cent opposed using a chained CPI for Social Security and 78 per cent said they oppose using a chained CPI for veterans benefits.

“The chained CPI reduction snowballs over time and would increase taxes for most taxpayers – at the same time that it cuts benefits for children, veterans, widows, retirees, and people with disabilities,” AARP president Nancy LeaMond said in a statement.

“As this survey shows, older Americans oppose the chained CPI and they’ve historically made their opinions known to their elected officials.”

But while the AARP has formidable resources and a fired-up base of support, it’s unclear exactly how they plan to fight the policy.