AARP holds its fire on Social Security reform

He told an audience at an Urban Institute event organized on Capitol Hill that he thinks the commission’s proposal relied too heavily on benefit cuts in its effort to make Social Security solvent over the long term.

The debt commission recommended altering the way benefits increase due to inflation as well as raising the retirement age to 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075. The commission’s plan would also increase the amount of individual earnings that can be taxed for Social Security.

Rother praised the debt commission for recommending special minimum benefits for the poor to offset the changes to the inflation indexing, and said he favors using the debate over making Social Security solvent to increase benefits for those who rely on it most, such as the oldest Americans.

Rother predicted that Obama would not “spring” a major Social Security reform proposal on the public on Tuesday, having learned from the mistakes of former President George W. Bush, who announced a reform effort quickly after being reelected. That effort went down in flames.

He said the president at most would call for a national conversation about entitlements. He said the relevant economic advisers in the White House mostly hail from the Clinton administration, where they had sought to prepare the public for changes to entitlements long before attempting any changes.

Rother said he believes Obama will use the State of the Union to make the case again that his healthcare reform initiative was worth it.

“He needs to remake the case to the American public. His future depends on that,” Rother said.

This week, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare announced a $1 million advertising campaign opposing any effort to curb Social Security benefits.

Rother said that AARP is not part of that coalition and is taking a more moderate approach, somewhere in between the debt commission and the National Committee position.