AARP grows up. Sort of.

I’m 32, but I’ve been getting AARP prospect mailings for several months now.  (As one might expect, my young trophy wife gets a kick out of that.)  Up until last week, joining would have been unthinkable even if I was of eligible age: for all the discounts, for all the membership benefits, the fact remains that AARP’s dabbling in politics more often than not resulted in advocacy for positions I disagreed with – specifically, their support for Ponzi schemes like Social Security.

Why would I pay my hard-earned money to people who wanted to separate me from my hard earned money?

AARP, though, has gone Romney on Social Security.  Last week, America’s voice for (some) seniors said it would be open to cuts, a position it has since waffled a bit on.

If AARP decides to take a firm stand, the facts and popular opinion are on their side.  Social Security is untenable as it exists now, and people understand that completely retiring at 65 is a pipe dream – unless, of course, they have taken the steps necessary in their youth to prepare for that.  A recent study that AARP commissioned showed that four of five Baby Boomers expect to delay retirement for five years, one in seven doesn’t believe they will be able to retire.

People are starting to get how dumb the idea of government-sponsored retirement starting in what is now middle age is.

I’m not running out to join AARP anytime soon – after all, they are still complaining about other entitlement programs – but their flip on Social Security is significant.  On the surface, it looks like the group realized just how bad the program’s situation is right now.  Supporting Social Security and perpetuating the Ponzi scheme does nothing for me and the other folks in their 30’s already getting AARP mailers.

Incidentally, this is a great opportunity for an offensive from the supporters of small government.  Private and public thank you notes to AARP might help their flip go mainstream and show other people just how dangerous rampant entitlement spending can be.

After all, if AARP can be convinced, maybe there’s hope for the population at large?




Messaging Social Security

The Washington Examiner’s Chris Stirewalt correctly writes today that Republican lawmakers have to craft a better, pro-active message to take advantage of voter disillusionment this year.  Townhall’s Maggie Gallagher throws a wet blanket on an issue that gets many on the right-of-center side excited: Social Security reform.

Gallagher claims that any effort to include an overhaul of social security into the talking points would meet with utter doom, citing President Bush’s failed 2005 effort as evidence that the American people are not on board with the concept:

[P]olls showed the more he talked, the less Americans liked it… “Three months after President Bush launched his drive to restructure Social Security by creating private investment accounts, public support for his program remains weak, with only 35 percent of Americans now saying they approve of his handling of the issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll,” The Washington Post reported on March 15, 2005. “Moreover, 58 percent of those polled this time said the more they hear about Bush’s plan, the less they like it.”

And this was before the stock market crashed, and ordinary people at or nearing the age of retirement lost huge chunks of their investment portfolios. Yet in 2010, one of the GOP’s bright young stars, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, pulled together a deficit reduction plan that called once again for the partial privatization of Social Security, and leading conservatives piled on the praise.

Gallagher may be right that Social Security is a difficult election year, but it isn’t impossible.  Entitlement reform is tricky, with demagoguery from parties who feel they will be injured.  But remember that the American people were for Social Security reform before they were against it.  And entitlement reform will have much better traction in the current political environment if properly framed

Bush’s mistake in 2005 was that he was left vulnerable to a coalition of labor and senior voices.  The effort to make the necessary reforms will need a few new messages and strategies, such as:

  • Accurately positioning reform as the creation of the retirement system of the future, versus the retirement system of 1930.
  • Appeals to seniors that promising to protect their benefits while allow their children and grandchildren more freedom for their own retirement.
  • Engagement of young (age 22-35) members of the work force, who have the most to lose from a government-run retirement plan.
  • Tracking and satirizing Democrat, union, and AARP efforts to smear the plan.
  • Putting a real face on the people who stand to benefit from reform.

Gallagher is dead-on, however, in identifying Social Security as a probable Democratic talking point in 2010 (why stop now, after all?).  It has already started in the Nevada Senate race.  The need to counter this messaging is critical for Republicans.

Golden Years? Well, maybe bronze…

I got my 401k statement the other day. The timing couldn’t have been better – I needed a good scare just before Halloween.

With a good 40 years to go before I’m retirement age, I’m not all that worried. I still have time to continue a long-term retirement plan. Of course, that plan doesn’t include Social Security, which will not be available to me. All of the promises of Obama and others to “protect social security” is a transparent vote grab – and a reasonable one, because seniors tend to vote more often. I’d pander to them too. But here in the real world, I have to figure out how to save for retirement while flushing 7.5% of my paycheck down the crapper for a government-mandated retirement plan that’s about as dependable as an Enron pension.

As Election Day draws near, Republicans across the country will be accused of wanting to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs – as if these programs worked.

George Mason Economics Professor Walter Williams has a great line about government entitlements. Professor Williams points out that the facets of American Society that people are most satisfied with – the Internet, the availability of retail goods, etc. – are items in which the free market has been allowed to flourish. But the more regulations and government control exists, the more people tend to be dissatisfied – as they are with education, roads and traffic, fuel supplies.

I know I’d be a lot happier if I could bolster my 401k by saving 7.5% of each paycheck, instead of throwing it away.

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