In February 2011, an AARP survey showed that 44 percent of Floridians age 50 and over were so concerned about the state's struggling economy that they planned to delay retirement. Of those who said they planned to delay retirement, one in four said they planned never to retire.
That's a grim picture, showing an older Florida that's pessimistic about its retirement security. Yet if AARP took that same survey again today, it might show even more pessimism. And it could be justified, if Congress cuts a political deal to pay the nation's bills that could permanently sour your retirement dreams.
Right now, the President and Congress are considering a deal to pay the nation's bills that could cut billions from Social Security and Medicare benefits for today's seniors.
To help reduce the deficit, some in Washington want a deal that includes raising Medicare premiums, co-pays and deductibles for today's seniors, shifting costs to seniors rather than lowering costs throughout the health care system.
Another proposal would force better off seniors to pay more for Medicare as if it were a welfare program. These seniors already pay more for their Medicare and AARP is deeply concerned that means-testing benefits could erode the popular support that has helped keep Medicare strong for more than 45 years.
Washington is also considering including a proposal that could cut Social Security by $112 billion over 10 years by permanently reducing Social Security cost-of-living increases. This proposal is particularly galling to older Floridians, who have seen shortcomings in the current Social Security cost-of-living formula leave them struggling with no cost-of-living increase despite two years of steadily rising costs for fuel, food, prescription drugs and medical care."
AARP is fighting hard to keep Congress from making cuts to your retirement benefits. In mid-July, AARP state-level leaders and top-ranking volunteers traveled to Washington to meet face to face with Florida members of Congress and senators. AARP volunteer Ken Reinhardt and I urged Florida's elected officials to attack waste, fraud and abuse in the federal budget, rather than targeting your retirement benefits.
From all over America, AARP members have poured more than 600,000 calls, e-mails and petitions into the Capitol. AARP is running an aggressive series of national television advertisements to urge our 37 million members nationwide to raise their voices on this issue. AARP also is mailing information on this urgent issue to tens of millions of Americans 50+.
AARP's position is clear: Congress should attack waste, fraud and abuse in federal spending rather than targeting the Medicare and Social Security benefits you have earned. As the national discussion over reducing our budget deficit goes forward, it is very important that you raise your voice in this debate. Call 1-888-722-8514 to be connected to your member of Congress toll-free and urge them to attack waste and fraud in federal spending, rather than targeting your Medicare and Social Security benefits.
No one disputes that deficit reduction is very important. But older Floridians worked a lifetime for the benefits they receive. They deserve to be able to count on them.
Jeff Johnson is AARP Florida's interim state director.