Behind its new ad to pressure the Super Committee to leave Medicare and Social Security untouched.
I’m not a number. I’m not a line item on a budget. And I’m definitely not a pushover. But I am a voter. So, Washington, before you even think about cutting my Medicare and Social Security benefits, here’s a number you should remember: 50 million. We are 50 million seniors who earned our benefits, and you will be hearing from us — today and on Election Day.
So blusters the retirement-aged gentleman in the AARP’s new TV ad.
AARP is not just taking a partisan gamble with this brazen threat against reformers, most of whom are Republicans; they’re threatening our whole nation’s financial future. The organization makes an enormous amount of money from selling insurance policies that are desirable to its members precisely because the current system is as it is. Thus, the AARP has a multi-billion dollar financial interest that is separate from, and arguably contrary to, the interests of its members.
Indeed, earlier this year the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on whether the overlap between AARP’s insurance business and its lobbying and advocacy efforts is appropriate: “there is good reason to question whether AARP is primarily looking out for seniors or just its own bottom line.” A report by Republican congressmen Wally Herger (CA) and Dave Reichert (WA) entitled “Behind the Veil: The AARP America Doesn’t Know” is a damning indictment of the organization’s inherent conflicts of interest, including:
• “AARP is in fact a large, complex and sophisticated organization with over $2.2 billion in total assets and had revenues in excess of $1.4 billion in 2009 alone.”
• “AARP is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies and by far the largest provider of Medicare plans to seniors.”
• “AARP is also one of the most powerful and active lobbying groups (in terms of dollars spent) in the country.”
• “The missions of [AARP’s subsidiaries] appear in direct conflict with one another and, as such, it is very difficult to determine which interests are being represented — those of the ‘non-profit’ or the ‘for-profit’ arm of AARP.”
• “The Democrats’ health care law, which AARP strongly endorsed, could result in a windfall for AARP that exceeds over $1 billion during the next 10 years.”
It’s not the first time the AARP has run such an ad. A similar one, with the same actor, came out in July also emphasizing the group’s 50 million members as an unveiled threat against members of Congress.
AARP spokesperson Tiffany Lundquist spent some time discussing the issue with me, including saying that the ad “was designed to bring attention to the discussions now taking place in Washington on proposals which may include cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.”
When asked whether the release of this ad was timed to influence the discussions of the “Super Committee” that is attempting to negotiate deficit- and debt-reduction policies to bring before Congress, Ms. Lundquist responded “definitely.”
I suggested to Ms. Lundquist that I was unaware of any plan that would cut benefits for current retirees or even near-retirees, to which she replied that the AARP has members as young as fifty and that the organization “works for the interests of our younger members as well.” Further, she named a particular idea that the AARP is against: a change in the formula to calculate Social Security’s annual cost of living adjustment (“COLA”).
In particular, there has been discussion for many years of changing which version of the Consumer Price Index is used to calculate annual benefit increases. It has been suggested that changing to a “chained CPI” which more accurately reflects how people actually spend money, in part by assuming that people will substitute out of items which are increasing in price if they can, will slow the growth of entitlements’ cost.
Going back many years, some of the most credible economists in America have argued that the current CPI calculations overstate inflation and thus increase Social Security payments more than they should, putting tremendous pressure on the federal budget — not least because each over-generous increase is compounded by the next. In 1997, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan stated that “We know with near certainty that the current CPI is off. There’s a very high probability that the bias ranges from half a percentage point to 1 1/2 percentage points per year.” And Alice Rivlin, a Democrat and then Vice Chairwoman of the Fed, said that “The way we measure inflation, the way we measure productivity are flawed,” repeating in a 2004 book that “Research has shown that the consumer price index overstates inflation somewhat.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?