Some good news! On Monday’s editorial page, the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that “[a]nyone who remembers the way ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’ smeared John Kerry last fall must have felt a sinking feeling this winter, when an affiliated group announced a similar campaign against AARP, the nation’s biggest organization of older Americans.”

AARP dared to oppose President Bush on Social Security and quickly found itself the target of a mean and preposterous Internet attack.

So it is fascinating and highly gratifying to learn that AARP hasn’t suffered a bit from its willingness to challenge the White House over Social Security. In fact, a spokeswoman told reporters last week that the organization is gaining new members faster than expected this year. … More below:

The Star Tribune‘s June 6 editorial continues:

There are certainly times when AARP charts the wrong course, placing the narrow interests of elderly Americans above the broad public interest. But that’s not the case in its analysis of Social Security. After surveying its 35 million members and holding countless forums, AARP has spelled out a series of sound principles:

  • Washington should address Social Security’s solvency problem before toying with private accounts. The program faces a potentially sobering gap between outlays and revenues starting in a few decades. Closing that gap is more urgent than creating yet another form of private retirement account for American workers.

  • Congress shouldn’t subvert Social Security’s role as a social safety net for retirees and the disabled. Yes, private saving is important. And yes, many affluent retirees don’t need the check from Washington. But millions of Americans spend their lives laboring at the edge of poverty, and without Social Security they risk destitution in retirement.

  • Congress should use incremental repairs, rather than wholesale remodeling, to address Social Security’s financial problems. A mix of small changes would spread the necessary sacrifice across the broadest constituency, while causing the least disruption to the system’s core role.

If AARP is as serious about Social Security’s solvency problem as it seems to be, it needs to offer its own plan — or several plans — to close the gap. So far, it’s halfway there. It has published a helpful menu of revenue and benefit options, together with their advantages and disadvantages. AARP should now take the next step and demonstrate how some mix of those plans would honestly and fairly restore the system’s long-term solvency. …

I personally know of at least a dozen very progressive people who — when AARP began its spirited opposition to Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security — forgave the AARP for past grievances, and became members to signify their hearty approval of AARP’s efforts.

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