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Thursday, 17 January 2013

Scaring the Pants Off Elders – Part 2: AARP Bulletin

(Part 1 is here)

category_bug_politics.gif 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


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I’m not so sure that I trust their health advice either after reading their article about http://www.aarp.org/food/healthy-eating/info-11-2012/the-new-american-diet.1.html”>The New American Diet in their latest AARP magazine issue that recommended eating 2-3 servings of fish each week without saying a word about possible mercury tainted fish that has long been a problem. Feeling good that my diet consisted of more “brain food” fish I recently discovered that http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57563739/study-finds-unsafe-mercury-levels-in-84-percent-of-all-fish/”>a new study has found that 84% of ALL fish contain unhealthy levels of mercury.

The editorial should have examined age discrimination in the work force. Instead, it reinforced the idea that intellectually stimulating jobs with decent salaries and health benefits should be reserved for people younger than an arbitrarily set age. I have seen professors continue in their jobs, full-steam-ahead, well past eighty. I know other people whose health began to deteriorate in their fifties, through absolutely no fault of their own. The editorial missed a great opportunity to initiate an important discussion.

I think 'accept' is not the right word. Whether or not we like it, cuts are most likely going to happen. And, assuming they do occur, what are we going to do about it? Revolt? Vote out the current President and Congress? We don't have that many votes. Who cares about us, once we can no longer work and make the rich richer. However, I'm not suggesting that we don't protest. I suggest we protest AND do whatever we can to prepare for the inevitable. Speaking of the inevitable, I have a neighbor who is 59, has been on kidney dialysis FOR YEARS, and, because of her age (she has never smoked, doesn't drink, have never done illegal drugs), she knows she won't get a kidney transplant before she dies because of her age. And she is coming to accept that and she is preparing. Not being able to get a transplant is not fair -- but it is reality. And I suggest we protest -- and prepare as best we can for the reality ahead, for less SS and less and more expensive Medicare medical care.

How about now using all that education to push a broom? I don't think so. I personally found that article a highly offensive and sly beginning to a new propaganda stance.

Not all older folks want to do their post doc work pushing a broom, perhaps they did it to earn their BA's or MA's and now are suffering arthritis as a result. Then there are all the gramma's and grampa's working Guest Service positions or security for the various sports venues. They wouldn't be doing that if there was any retirement or SS funds to get them out of there. It's not fun to stand next to a wall for 22 innings or locked in an elevator till an hour past the end of the game if you are in your 80's.

Please send your column to the AARP Editor. Thank you.

Boy did this article hit home with me today. Nearly two years ago I left a position I had held for nearly ten years, in order to care for my 90+ year old MIL with dementia. She passed away in December, and about a month later I came across a posting for a part-time job in the same organization for which I had been working two years earlier, in the same department, doing essentially the same work, only on a lower rung, and part-time. I submitted my resume and cover letter, per directions in the post, and yesterday received a letter from the person who now holds my previous position, whom I had considered a friend, and with whom I had worked for several years and recommended as a successor when I was preparing to leave. I am 62 and this woman is about 25 years younger than me. The letter she sent me was rather cold, impersonal and basically a rejection letter telling me that "returning in a subordinate role for which your previous experience at this agency makes you overqualified is not going to work for me. I hope you understand."

Well, I don't understand and I don't appreciate it. This is the first snub of this sort that I've received and, quite honestly, it hurts, and I really don't know what to do about it.

Many of us cancelled our AARP membership when they stopped being for elders and helped the politicians in D. C. make cuts in S. S. AARP got the message then. Maybe it's time for those who have since rejoined to cancel their membership once more.

I dropped my AARP membership a while back. I don't like their politics in Washington, I don't like their health care advice, I didn't like their stance during the ACA debate, and worst of all, they've partnered with certain insurance companies to the exclusion of other equally good companies.

I think Fran, who suggests that we continue to protest but also prepare (as best we can) for some reductions to S/S (and Medicare but that's another subject), makes a great deal of sense. I've always strongly opposed means testing for S/S. Philosophically, I still do. However, IF--and that's a big if--it's true that many Baby Boomers are planning to retire in their 60s (although they may well live to see their 90th birthday) it's possible that S/S MAY not be 100% sustainable in its current form, especially if there's a smaller workforce paying into the system. The question then becomes how to ensure that S/S continues to exist.

The first step would be to eliminate the earnings cap so that high earners are taxed on all earned income. There must be NO benefit cuts for current retirees or anyone within 8 years of retirement. Beyond that, a gradual, phased-in reduction in benefits for those with a projected retirement income of $175K/year or more might need to be considered. Alternatively, benefits to wealthy retirees could be capped at the amount they and their employer(s) paid into the system.

However, if some form of means testing is inevitable, there would need to be exemptions for retirees with extraordinary medical expenses not covered by Medicare (huge healthcare bills can easily bankrupt even well-off older adults). Retirement at 62 must remain available for people in their 60s with physically demanding jobs who can no longer do those jobs and for older workers who are laid off through no fault of their own and exhaust their unemployment benefits with no job in sight.

BTW, at 76 I still work P/T. Although it's great that the AARP editor's grandfather was ABLE to work and apparently found his 2nd job rewarding, we must be viewed as exceptions, not the rule!

The comments say it all. When people turn 65 or 70, they may face compulsory retirement. If not, they may be laid off to make way for younger, less-costly workers.

In either case, people in the 60 to 70-plus age group face obvious age discrimination--
often couched in terms of being "over-qualified" for a particular position.

And it's supposed to be inspiring when a Professor Emeritus takes a janitor's job. It's not inspiring; it's pathetic, and the AARP should be ashamed of itself.

You can't means-test or cut benefits for wealthy people without turning SS into welfare. It is an earned benefit, and if you happened to earn more pay than others, your benefits are still yours. It's unfortunate the 1930s wonks called that an "entitlement," as the word now has a pejorative connotation all too easy to exploit. Raising the earnings cap on payroll taxes is the easiest, fairest way to ensure SS viability.

Lee, I totally agree with you on the earnings cap and especially on the terminology. SS is NOT--I repeat NOT--an "entitlement! It has been earned by all of us who worked hard for 30-40-50-60+ years.

The only thing I can't quite reconcile in my own mind is this: if future generations can be expected to live 30 years beyond retirement, and there is a smaller, perhaps less well-paid working population paying into the system, can it survive? I believe that it MUST survive, but I'm just not sure how.

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