Budget battle not ‘all about me’

This summer, the country was issued a warning. When Congress failed to deal with our growing national debt in a comprehensive and responsible manner, our debt was downgraded. We were lucky to get the warning.

The country was told to come to terms with its spending habits, escalating deficits and growing debt burdens or risk a debt crisis that would do serious harm to our already tottering economy.

We were given a second chance. Our second chance comes in the form of a so-called supercommittee of 12 members of Congress who must recommend at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving, and then sell its plan to the full Congress.

Given that a debt crisis will push up interest rates and make our weak economy and high unemployment and underemployment levels even worse, you might think Americans would be thankful for the opportunity to make a few sacrifices to avoid it. But no.

Two hundred lobbying groups and special interests are reportedly trying to reach the supercommittee with essentially the same message: “Cut everyone else but me; it’s all about me.”

The special interests don’t seem to care that every serious bipartisan group that’s studied ways to reduce our growing debt burden has come up with the same conclusions: We need way more than $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction to prevent a crisis. Skyrocketing health care costs are the primary driver of our imbalance. We simply can’t fix our economy without reining in our national health care programs, including Medicare.

So it was with great dismay that we learned one of the nation’s largest lobbying groups, AARP, is flooding Washington’s airwaves with a false, misleading and threatening ad.

It states that seniors have paid for their benefits. This is flat false in connection with Medicare’s Part B and D programs, which are heavily subsidized by general revenues. In addition, the typical retiree receives far more in benefits from Social Security and Medicare than they paid in payroll taxes.

The ad also promises to rally the votes of its 50 million members against lawmakers who rein in Medicare. It proposes to punish those who do the right thing for our country, our children and our grandchildren.

We find these ads particularly distressing because we are members of AARP and pay our dues. But we abhor its current false, misleading and self-centered ad campaign.

We want Congress to rein in health care costs. We want it to reform social insurance programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. We want comprehensive tax reform that will raise additional revenue.

We want to stabilize the debt so we can avoid a debt crisis, keep America great, so our collective future can be better than our past. And we are not alone; a large percentage of AARP members would agree with us because they understand that “it’s not all about me!”

It’s time for AARP to pull these selfish, myopic ads. AARP and its 50 million members need to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


David Walker and Lisa Borders are co-founders of No Labels. Walker is the former comptroller general of the United States. Borders is the former president of the Atlanta City Council.

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