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How AARP Can REALLY Help Seniors and Retirees

9:36 am in Uncategorized by Brian Sonenstein

In response to AARP’s narrow questionnaire and possible leanings toward supporting benefit cuts, Firedoglake has teamed up with CREDO Action, National Organization for Women, Social Security Works and other organizations to launch our own version of the AARP’s “You’ve Earned a Say” survey, slightly modified to be more precise and more inclusive of all views on the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Firedoglake collected over 9,000 responses this weekend, and we’re running ads and circulating the survey to hear from as many people as possible. Once we’ve all collected our responses, our coalition will publish the results in full– but until then, I wanted to offer a peek at some of the results we’ve received thus far.

If you haven’t taken our survey on the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, you may do so here.

Question #4 on AARP’s Survey reads:

When it comes to securing the future of Medicare and Social Security, which of the following do you expect:
A: More funding will be needed to maintain the same benefits
B: Benefits will be reduced
C: Either A or B
D: None of the above

This question is one of the most skewed on AARP’s survey, offering no opportunities for the individual to expect or hope for benefit increases– only a status quo described as hard to maintain, or worse. The question also lumps together Social Security and Medicare – two different programs with different needs. These are not good baseline options for defending Social Security and Medicare, and its hard to imagine this question producing an honest response from participants.

To get a better idea of what people really think about the future of Social Security and Medicare, we broke it in two: one on Social Security, one on Medicare. We also asked what folks wanted on this issue from AARP specifically, as well as added an option for people to express their desire for expanded benefits and cost controls – not just the same benefits, less benefits or higher taxes.

Here’s what came back:

When it comes to securing the future of Social Security, which of the following do you want AARP to fight for? AARP Member Non-Member Overall
More funding to maintain or possibly increase benefits 86.7% 89.6% 87.9%
A combination of tax increases and benefits cuts. 4.4% 3.4% 3.9%
Benefit cuts without tax increases 0.2% 0.4% 0.3%
None of the above 8.8% 6.7% 7.9%

 

When it comes to securing the future of Medicare, which of the following do you want AARP to fight for? AARP Member Non-Member Overall
Reduced benefits 0.2% 0.2% 0.2%
Expanding benefits by requiring everyone to pay somewhat more. 21.5% 24% 22.6%
Stronger and better cost controls on insurers, and hospitals, and other health care providers 72.6% 69% 71.1%
None of the above 5.7% 6.8% 6.2%

I was unable to locate any published results of AARP’s “You’ve Earned a Say” online questionnaire, but it’s clear from our sample that regardless of membership in the organization, folks aren’t content with the status quo and they certainly don’t want less. In fact, they want the nation’s largest, wealthiest elderly advocate to go out there and demand more on their behalf.

Our survey is still wide open, so click here to fill it out if you haven’t already. We’ll continue to monitor AARP’s “You’ve Earned A Say” tour and will keep you updated on results from our coalition survey.

The Survey AARP Doesn’t Want You to See

10:50 am in Uncategorized by Brian Sonenstein

I previously wrote about how the survey accompanying AARP’s “You’ve Earned a Say” listening tour does not provide members with an adequate opportunity to voice their opinions on the future of their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

If you’re an AARP member, it’s obvious why this is a problem, but if you’re not a member, consider the fact that AARP is the nation’s largest elderly advocate with over 40 million members. AARP’s insurance arm rakes in billions each year and they do quite well off kickbacks from business partners. AARP routinely meets with Washington elite, many of whom support benefit cuts, and spent $15 million on lobbying in 2011 alone – a particularly ‘light’ year for them if you look at their history.

Therefore, which side of the line AARP chooses to be on when benefit cuts return to the table is something that will affect all Americans – not just AARP members. If they drop their opposition, it will provide cover and an air of legitimacy to the notion that benefit cuts are inevitable and necessary, and further promote the fallacy that Social Security is on the brink of collapse. Look no further than AARP’s resignation to benefit cuts last year around the time of Bowles-Simpson, which had it not been for significant public outrage, could have been disastrous for seniors and retirees.

So, is AARP only providing this survey to appear interested in the desires of their membership? Or are they truly looking for their members to voice their opinions?

In an attempt to answer this question, we took AARP’s survey and slightly modified it to include important response options that were left out of questions about the future of Social Security and Medicare. We included options for people who might not think we need major or minor “changes” (read: cuts) to Social Security and Medicare – but instead may want AARP to push for expanding benefits, or to oppose cuts of any kind.

We’re working with CREDO, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and others; contacting over 50,000 AARP members with our own version of the “You’ve Earned a Say” survey – and we’re running Facebook and Google ads targeted at AARP members to get as many people to take the survey as possible. When it comes time for AARP to choose sides, we will compare our results.

This is only the first step in a broader campaign to follow AARP closely and potentially expose new attempts to get the organization’s weight behind benefit cuts and ultimately unnecessary hardship for our seniors and retirees. But for now, please take a moment to fill out our version of the “You’ve Earned a Say” survey, regardless of whether or not you’re an AARP member. While this is by no means a scientific poll, your response will be helpful in providing a contrast between what Americans want and what AARP might be trying to do.