A couple of days ago, TGB reader Jeri Reilly emailed to ask about an editorial in the most recent issue of the AARP Bulletin which I had not read:
”It struck me,” she wrote, “as a stealth message against Social Security and Medicare...Am I imagining things? So, of course, I wondered, What Would Ronni Say?”
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before I go any further, there is a point that must be made clear:
Many TGB readers – including me – have had serious doubts about the commitment of AARP to using their influence to preserve Medicare and Social Security. In mid-2011, for example, they announced the organization's support of cuts to Social Security that were then being touted in Congress.
The negative response was so swift and abundant that AARP was forced to backtrack but as with all betrayals, it is hard now to relax one's vigilance and completely trust that the organization has its members' backs.
However, there is an distinction to be made:
I work with several local social service groups that benefit elders in Oregon and the state affiliate of AARP does terrific work on its own and in partnerships sharing expertise, organizational skills and money to support viable projects that can be crucial in this era of cuts to so many programs.
I don't know if all AARP state affiliates and their executives are as committed as Oregon's but it is important to acknowledge their good efforts on behalf of elders in my state and keep that separate from the group's national policy in Washington, D.C.
Now, back to that AARP Bulletin editorial.
It is written by the publication's editor, Jim Toedtman, and titled, “The Magic Fountain of Youth.” It appears on page three – the first thing in sight when first opening the paper.
After repeating some of the same misleading figures about population and budget priorities that billionaire Peter G. Peterson and other anti-Social Security crusaders employ, Toedtman tells the heartwarming story of his grandfather:
”For 23 years, he was a speech and drama professor at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. In 1950, he turned 70 and was forced to retire. The next day, he applied for a job as custodian at the college gymnasium...
“He retired but didn't want to stop working. So he learned new work skills and spent 15 years as the custodian at the college gym.”
Jeri is not wrong. The message is clear: Any old person not keeping up with Toedtman's grandfather is a drag on the economy. You can read the editorial here. [AARP membership and website registration are required to view it.]
Further, it is easy to conclude (god knows I tried to read it otherwise) that the editorial is a first step or, perhaps, a trial balloon by AARP to test the idea with its members of accepting cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
It is offensive enough to hide such a move behind a feel-good tale of late-age pluck but more so coming from the premier organization that says it represents the interests of old people. The editorial lacks sincerity, it fudges statistics AARP certainly knows, ignores the physical and health realities of old age and just for good measure, tries to manipulate with trite sentimentality.
AARP is a powerful force in Washington, it has a lot of money to spend and it is editorials like this give House and Senate members cover to cut earned benefit programs.
As for you and me, now we have another group that may be out to fix the nation's budget on the backs of old people. Let's keep a sharp eye for what comes next.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: The Perks of Nearing Eighty