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Andrews: AARP, NRA and the slippery slope
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Michael Andrews

For The Salt Lake Tribune

One might not think that the AARP's Alan Ormsby and the NRA's Wayne LaPierre have much in common. Their blind unwillingness in their respective spheres to address either the Social Security's long-term security or any form of gun control legislation are part of America's malaise and "slippery slope" mentality.

Both refuse to deal with the issues because in one case it's the first step to eliminating Social Security, and in the other, the opening move in the federal government's plan to take away our guns. Basically, they don't trust the political process or their fellow citizens.

Standard CPI tracks prices of specific consumer goods and services. It does not measure changes in consumer behavior triggered by price increases. Chained CPI tracks changes in buying behavior and habits as prices go up. If beef prices go up, for example, do consumers begin buying cheaper meat, such as chicken?

In a Feb. 24 op-ed ("'Chained CPI' will cut Social Security check," Opinion), Ormsby, Utah AARP director, said a chained CPI relies on AARP's fundamental failure to understand the nature of Social Security — it is a social insurance program, not an earned benefit.

I have been retired for 15 years. I have collected almost $300,000 in benefits and never came close to contributing that amount when I worked. If I live another 15 years, I'll collect well over $600,000. I paid for those who went before me; our children are helping to pay for our benefits. That's how the system works.

A chained CPI would lower my allowance by $4 a month, $48 a year. Instituting it would, over a 10-year period, save the system approximately $112 billion. All of the proposals put forth would insulate those who depend on Social Security as their main source of retirement income from its effects.

I and millions of other recipients who have additional sources of retirement income that provide a very comfortable standard of living don't need CPI to assure it. And we certainly won't have our lifestyles altered by $48 a year.

Ormsby also manages to blur the picture by introducing "fear of the inability to deal with medical costs," just as LaPierre manages to gin up the specter of government agents coming for your guns. The recipients Ormsby describes are more than likely also eligible for Medicaid, another program designed to protect the neediest and most at risk among us.

Yes, protect the safety net, but recognize that all of these programs have to be paid for by someone. And while we are at it, let's discuss the question of "means" testing. Does a CEO or hedge-fund manager making $20 million a year really need Social Security or Medicare? Are these proposals any more unreasonable than instituting a background check at gun shows to keep guns out of the hands of criminals?

But if AARP and NRA have their way, we will never have these discussions and our politicians will cower in fear at their alleged political clout. The fact is that neither AARP nor NRA speak for all their members and their fear-mongering serves no useful purpose.

Poll after poll has shown that substantial majorities of Americans want their representatives to make our government work, that they support reasonable gun legislation, that they don't want to eliminate Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

They also show they expect everyone to do their part in addressing long-term debt. I, for one, am ready to do my part. It's time for AARP and NRA to do theirs, to get their heads out of the sand and be part of the solutions. Enough of the "slippery slope" mentality.

Michael Andrews, is a retired school teacher and principal and former chairman of the board of the People's Health Clinic, a non-profit community health clinic for the uninsured of Summit and Wasatch counties. He lives in Park City and has been an AARP member for 27 years.

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