The debate on entitlements reform got a jolt today when the Wall Street Journal reported what it sees a major shift in policy at AARP: The group will no longer oppose cuts in Social Security benefits. Given the group's massive clout, the story raised a ruckus on Capitol Hill and prompted advocates of cuts to press legislators to take quick advantage. AARP itself released a statement calling the story "misleading" and denying a policy shift. The statement, however, suggested that AARP would be open to future cuts, notes Ben Smith of Politico, with lines like this: "It has also been a long held position that any changes would be phased in slowly, over time, and would not affect any current or near term beneficiaries."
Talking Points Memo's take: "Conversations with insiders suggest the Journal story, while mostly on point, underplays a key part of the story. What AARP decided doesn't necessarily constitute a change in policy, but rather a major strategic decision to announce their acceptance of those cuts now ..." The New York Times talks to the group's policy chief and concludes that AARP is open to modest cuts as long as they don't affect current recipients. “You have to look at all the tradeoffs, and what we’re trying to do is engage the American public in that debate," he says.