If AARP is really opposed to cutting Social Security benefits as part of a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit, you’d think they’d come right out and say it. Instead, they’re just recycling all of President Obama’s weasel-word tactics about “supporting” the public option (and we all know how well that worked out).

Here’s their latest missive to their email list, promoting their new damage-control ad:

Poetry for zoo animals. Shrimp on a treadmill. Federally funded pickle technology?!

It may sound ridiculous, but these are real programs receiving federal funds – while Congress is pushing for harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Bush-era tax cuts, the bank bailouts and three wars take a bigger bite out of the federal budget than zoo poetry, but I guess they don’t want to piss off their fellow “grand bargain” oligarchs (well not much of a limb really, the CBO says just that in the chart above).

Instead, here’s AARP:

Congress should be focusing on cutting tax loopholes and wasteful spending, including high health care costs – not critical programs like Social Security and Medicare. That’s why we’ve created a new ad to remind them what they should be cutting, instead of the hard-earned benefits millions depend on.

The whole frame is as anti-government as you’ll find at any Tea Party rally.  Their form letter to members of Congress says “it’s important that we work together to address the nation’s long-term debt.”   Really?  Then where was AARP when they were extending the Bush tax cuts, which created the deficit problem they now find so alarming?

You guessed it.  AARP signed off on the Bush tax cuts.

But more importantly, do they really expect people to believe that cutting pickle technology is going to make up the difference for the hole that the AARP-approved tax cut extension punched in the deficit?

Like most Americans, we opposed extending the Bush tax cuts. Like most Americans, we oppose the wars in the Middle East.  Like most Americans, we opposed TARP.  Without those expenses, the deficit would be a small fraction of what it’s projected to be.

AARP got $18 million in stimulus funds for a “work training program for mature workers.”  I wholeheartedly support the goals of the program.  But the project is listed as “completed” and the jobs created is listed at “0″.   If AARP wants to cut wasteful government spending, maybe they should start with themselves.

The email continues:

There are just a few weeks left before the vote, and it’s up to us to make sure Congress keeps its priorities straight. From pickle technology to tax loopholes, there are plenty of places Congress can make real cuts – but your benefits shouldn’t be one of them.

Okay, good to know. AARP didn’t have to come out right now and announce their support for benefit cuts, and the fact that they did was a real tell:  they believe that cuts to Social Security benefits could be a part of the upcoming vote to raise the debt ceiling.

AARP’s public support for benefit cuts in the Wall Street Journal is making members of Congress a lot more comfortable with the idea.  Sure they did the predictable yo-yo and tried to reel it back in to do damage control, but we saw that tactic get a good work-out during the public option debate: Yes we do, no we — uh — well, we never said that. Exactly.  Just kind-of.  The people they were sending the signal to got the message.  Now they’re trying to hoodwink their members and salvage their brand.

If AARP wants credit for protecting Social Security, they actually need to do it.  That means drawing a line in the sand, and saying “absolutely no cuts”  — not hiding behind weasel-words while they sign off on some Joe Biden/GOP grand bargain behind closed doors.

Protect Social Security from AARP – sign the pledge to fight for Social Security benefits.