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Rebuilding the Middle Class: A Blueprint for the Future

AARP CEO A. Barry Rand offers a plan for financial security

There are a lot of things we can do to ensure that Social Security remains solvent and provides an adequate benefit now and in the future, but the proposed use of the chained CPI is one of the worst.

Why? Because it cuts the benefits of those who are least able to afford it — the oldest, poorest and most vulnerable among us. The “chained CPI” would cut one full month’s income from a 92-year-old beneficiary’s annual Social Security benefits.

Social Security was designed more than 75 years ago at a time when many women didn’t work, most marriages lasted forever, and people generally didn’t live as long.  We need to make sure that the program serves the needs of our changing demographics for the next 75 years.

The chained CPI doesn’t do that.  We need a robust national debate focusing on the role of Social Security in helping future generations achieve a secure retirement.

Over the last year, we’ve been reaching out across the country to our members and people 50-plus to get their ideas on securing Social Security and Medicare for future generations.  The initiative is called “You’ve Earned a Say,” and more than 6.3 million have responded so far.

They have considered a number of options, but two points are clear.  First, they do not believe that Social Security should be cut to deal with problems in the rest of the budget.

Second, they believe Social Security is important to their retirement security, and they are willing to increase contributions in order to maintain benefits.

That’s why we must address the future of Social Security as a separate process with a goal of strengthening it to help people achieve a secure retirement, not to reduce the budget deficit.

AARP is ready to have that discussion right now.  Whenever Congress is ready to address the future of Social Security as part of a broader discussion on helping people to achieve a secure retirement, we will engage in that debate.

AARP is not willing, however, to discuss the future of Social Security as part of a deficit reduction debate.

My point is that budgets matter, but people matter more.  Yes, we do need to make adjustments to Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid — and AARP members realize that — but we need to do so without compromising the health and retirement security of the American people or undermining the values that we all cherish.

That’s why we need a full-blown national discussion of how to ensure that Social Security continues to contribute to the retirement security of older Americans in the future — not in the context of reducing a federal deficit it did not create, but with the goal of helping people achieve retirement security.

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