Groucho Marx famously quipped that he wouldn’t want to belong to any group that would want him as a member. Perhaps from the great beyond Groucho can take heart in the fact he’d feel perfectly comfortable as a member of today’s AARP, whose embrace of “Obamacare” once again demonstrates their complete indifference toward their 35 million dues-paying members, if not outright hostility toward seniors everywhere.
Those of us who have followed the AARP closely over the years (as I’ve been doing since 1962, leading me to dub them the “Association Against Retired Persons”) are hardly shocked to find them siding against seniors in order to curry favor with the liberal politicians who subsidize them to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here are the facts: In the coming decade, the ranks of those eligible for Medicare will swell by 30%, yet the AARP cheerleads healthcare “reform” that would cut over $500 billion from the program and doesn’t add a single doctor or nurse to attend to patients.
Obama and the Congressional Democrats promise these cuts won’t lead to any reduction in benefits, or to rationing, or to reduced services of any kind. But those who believe the “savings” can be made up for in reform and government efficiency would have to be the same people who believe the post office is a well-oiled machine.
Try this analogy: If you belonged to a health club that told you they would add 30% more members and not expand their staff or equipment, all the while making cuts in their operating budget, do you think your experience there would be more ‘efficient?’ Of course not. You would get in the habit of keeping thick novels handy while waiting for a worn-down treadmill to become available. The limit of this hypothetical of course is that there is a big difference between waiting for a treadmill and waiting for a doctor to provide life-saving, quality care.
One would think that such a clear and direct assault on the resources of a crucial seniors program would prompt strong opposition from the most prominent senior’s organization in the nation. Well don’t hold your breath, because the AARP actually publicly thanked the bill’s author, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA).
The AARP has taken the position that they won’t support any legislation that cuts benefits, but this is patently untrue. President Obama stated before an AARP forum July 28 that he plans to cut $177 billion from the Medicare Advantage program, a supplemental insurance option for seniors that is extremely popular with those taking part. A recent survey revealed 97% of those in the Advantage program are happy with the care it provides, yet cuts would force these seniors to either make up the difference from their own pockets, or go without the preventative care they currently receive.
Combine the billions in cuts to Medicare with the legislation’s infamous “death panels,” where government bureaucrats looking for healthcare “savings” counsel the elderly on when to refuse medical treatment and even nutrition, (pp. 425-446) and you have a bill that is nothing short of an assault on older Americans.
But putting the wishes of Washington’s liberal politicians before the interests of their own members is nothing new for the AARP. Though billing themselves as “non-partisan,” the AARP is marinated in Washington’s liberal culture. This is a group that honored liberal Harry Belafonte as “AARP Man of the Year,” and consistently promotes their liberal celebrities.
Why, you may ask, does a senior’s advocacy group take positions in favor of gun-control, amnesty for illegal aliens, and even the death-tax? Easy, the same reason Nancy Pelosi included the AARP in a July 31 memo calling on friendly groups to mobilize support for the President’s healthcare agenda; they are big-government liberal activists eager to ensure that the grants and subsidies keep flowing, and eager to keep their Democrat pals in Washington happy.
The AARP’s new President, Barry Rand, is an ardent supporter of President Obama and contributed the maximum to his campaign, as did many top executives of the organization. A look at campaign finance records shows that AARP affiliated executives gave to Democrats over Republicans in 2008 to the tune of 10-1, $49,000 in contributions to about $5,000. So much for being “non-partisan.”
Rand bills himself as a “son of the 60s” and says his “passion” as head of the AARP is to forward “social change” in America. Apparently he is confusing heading the AARP with a Woodstock concert, but at least Mr. Rand is honest enough about his true agenda to help explain why he and his organization continue to abandon the seniors they have been charged to defend.
Thankfully, America’s seniors are extremely well-informed and have taken notice of the AARP’s desertion of duty. Polls from both the Pew Research Group and Kaiser show support among those 65 and older for the Obama/Waxman plan at less than 30%. And it has been seniors and their families who have stormed the town hall meetings to ensure the facts about this legislation had a public airing before Obama could ram it through Congress prior to the August recess.
To Barry Rand and the bunch at the AARP, the needs of their members have always come after the wishes of their pals in Washington on the left. Their continued claim to be a senior’s organization is a bad comedy that has opened the eyes of millions and led to thousands of AARP cards being torn in half. So long as they align themselves against seniors, there will be more and more Americans abandoning them as they themselves have been abandoned. I’m sure Groucho would be proud.
Martin is president of 60 Plus Association, a non-partisan seniors’ advocacy group founded in 1992 as a counter to the AARP. 60 Plus has more than 5.5 million citizen-activists.