In a classic example of weasel words from the AARP, they have come out strongly against changing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) as part of the Gang of Six proposal, but made sure to leave the door open to supporting it in the near future. From AARP press release about the Gang of Six:
“While details about the latest bipartisan deficit reduction plan are limited, we remain concerned that the latest proposal from the “Gang of Six” would cut deeply into Social Security and Medicare benefits as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills. As an example, more than one-fifth of the immediate deficit reduction savings outlined in yesterday’s proposal will come from reducing Social Security benefits by lowering the cost of living adjustment (COLA) immediately. Social Security did not cause the deficit, and cutting Social Security benefits should not be on the table as an option to reduce the deficit.
“Specific proposals such as the chained CPI should not be considered as part of the debt ceiling or deficit reduction negotiations. As the chained CPI would result in a lower COLA each year, reducing the COLA even by a small amount is a harmful cut for many retirees. Any discussion of proposals that would affect Social Security should occur only in a separate debate on strengthening Social Security and improving retirement security, not on balancing the budget.
Despite AARP claiming this “harmful cut” shouldn’t be part of a deficit plan, they didn’t actually say they completely oppose reducing the COLA. They carefully phrased this press release so as to leave the door open for supporting a switch to the chained-CPI, just as part of a different future piece of legislation.
Since the AARP knows switching to the chained-CPI would be a “harmful cut for many retirees,” and they claim to be the defenders of retired people, it is unconscionable that they don’t clearly state they will oppose the change being part of any new law. Such a statement would go a long way to preventing the idea from being brought in as part of any trial balloons in the first place.
Changing the COLA is bad policy. It is bad policy whether it is part of a “deficit package,” a “grand bargain” or separate bill only about “strengthening Social Security.”