Saturday, November 26, 2011

AARP: Turn Away from the Dark Side

This membership organization needs to see the light.

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I'm 50 years old: I haven't retired and won't for some time. So why is AARP recruiting me and other 50-year-olds? Sure – we're potential members, but the "R" in AARP stopped referring to "retirees" more than 20 years ago.  But is AARP driving the dialogue on Medicare and Social Security just to sway potential members and bolster its revenue?

I can't fault AARP for wanting to build the size of its membership: adding members is its motivation. AARP has about 40 million members and revenues (including those from its for-profit arm, AARP Services Inc.) exceed $1 billion a year from advertising revenue and insurance company referrals.

When Social Security was established in 1935, life expectancy in the United States matched the age of eligibility at 65 years. When Medicare was established in 1965 the age of eligibility was 65 and life expectancy was 68 years. Life expectancy is now 76 years but the age of eligibility for Medicare hasn't changed and Social Security has only risen to 67. See the problem for government finances?

Here's my straightforward proposal for Medicare and Social Security.
  • Honor commitments and obligations to current beneficiaries
  • Gradually raise the age of eligibility for future beneficiaries to at least 72
  • Make the system needs-based and phase in a sliding scale for benefit reductions as participant income increases
  • Eliminate Social Security taxes for employees and employers, paying benefits from general revenues
Look – I'm not after AARP, its right to grow a business, or to continue its worthwhile programs. But I am against AARP and any organization – either non-profit or for-profit – from using self-anointed clout to promulgate a political agenda that clearly benefits itself at the cost of commonsense and the nation's fiscal stability.  AARP is acting like a monopoly; I'd like to see it use its clout for selflessness rather than selfishness.

The "R" in AARP used to stand for "retired". I hope – perhaps – it might someday stand for "responsible".