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Where We Stand: We’ll Get Through This

We enter 2009 facing a world much different from a year—or even six months—ago. Our economy is in turmoil. Many financial institutions and other businesses are on life support. Americans are losing their jobs, their homes, their health insurance and the pensions and savings they’ve worked a lifetime to attain. Consumer confidence is very low. People need help.

As we work our way out of this economic mess, it’s clear that the decisions the Obama administration and Congress make in the next few months will have an impact on us for decades. Our government has already committed more than a trillion dollars of taxpayer money to shore up failing institutions, provide relief to workers and get the economy moving. Still, the tab is likely to get bigger.

In addressing these challenges, we have a great opportunity to build a strong economy, an affordable health care system and sound pension programs. If we pass up this opportunity, we will spend massive amounts of public funds in the hope of short-term gain instead of investing in the future.

We need to make some tough choices. Should we, for example, let some of our industries and companies go under, taking with them the men and women who helped build them as well as many others who depend on them for business? Or should we use taxpayer funds to help them survive and hopefully rebuild? Neither option is perfect, but making bad decisions could be very costly

We can’t fix the economy without an overhaul of our broken health care system. As health costs soar, many people are missing out on care or are left with staggering medical bills they can’t afford. Without reining in costs, health care for workers and retirees will become less accessible.

As for retirement security, it’s critical that workers get the pensions they’re working for or have already achieved. Congress must ensure that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. is financially sound. And we have to make it easier for people to save, and take action to strengthen Social Security. Imagine where we’d be now if we had allowed Social Security privatization.

I am an optimist, as are most Americans. I believe we’ll move from this crisis toward a better America. My parents and their generation came through the Great Depression, and we’ll come through this economic mess, too. Our new leaders, starting with our president, know that people are willing to do what it takes to get the country on track. And I have personally told the leadership that 40 million AARP members want to be part of solutions that will serve all generations. As we go through this difficult period, AARP will be there:

Informing and listening to our members, so we can all better understand the choices we face as a nation and our own financial and health options.

Advocating, to offer potential solutions and a public policy agenda that will steer us through the current crisis and into a more secure future.

Engaging members and volunteers in activities to help their neighbors.

We’re working in Washington and in states to reach commonsense solutions to these problems. We don’t yet know what all of those solutions will be, but you can count on AARP helping to build a better America for our children and grandchildren. Please join us in this effort

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