The Constant, Wearying Assault on Elders

AARP's Secret Social Security Meeting

A week from tomorrow, on the evening of 27 March, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand is hosting an “off-the-record, salon-style conversation” at the home of Washington lobbyist, Robert Rabin.

Billed as The E Street Exchange (for that is where Mr. Rabin's home is located), the purpose of the event is to talk about “Strengthening Social Security: Facing Up to the Challenge.” (See the formal invitation here)

Unless you have been under a rock for the past few years, you know that when the words, Social Security, strengthen and challenge are strung together in the same breath or sentence, someone is out to take away your benefit.

According to Huffington Post which obtained a copy of the full invitation,

”The list of invitees to the salon event includes a gallery of powerful Washington establishment figures who are on record favoring cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“The only firm opponent of Social Security or Medicare benefit cuts on the list, the Economic Policy Institute's Larry Mishel, said he wasn't planning to go and wasn't sure why he was listed as a featured guest...

“Other listed invitees included business leaders and deficit hawks who have long argued for the cuts, including Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, John Engler of the Business Roundtable group for corporate CEOs, and David Walker, a noted deficit alarmist and former head of the Government Accountability Office.”

You will recall that last year, as the Simpson-Bowles Commission debated items of deficit reduction, AARP announced that its board had voted to drop its opposition to cuts in Social Security benefits.

Under the weight of a massive outcry from AARP members along with many membership cancellations, AARP backtracked and today, to help burnish its damaged image, the organization is launching a national listening tour titled, “You've Earned a Say and We're Listening.”

Before I tell you anymore, it must be said loud and clear that AARP members have earned nothing – they pay for their say with their annual dues. Even with that, however, what can AARP possibly expect to hear that 90 percent of Americans of all political leanings have not already told them in a zillion polls and surveys: hands off Social Security.

In a followup story on Saturday, Huffington Post published a message it received from a volunteer who attended two days of training classes for the AARP listening tour:

"We were explicitly told NOT to provide any education; furthermore, they want us to urge participants to fill out the surveys at the beginning of the gathering, then as time permits, allow people one by one to express their opinions.

“I am wondering if all of this fanfare with the surveys will just be a smokescreen for the AARP backing cuts in Social Security and Medicare and using the opinions gathered in the 'You've Earned a Say' sessions as the basis for their EVOLVING policy."

You would be hard-pressed (as of yesterday, Sunday) to find anything about this listening tour at aarp.org. There is not a headline, word, link or anything on the home page.

It takes a lot of digging to find the listening tour page and although the URL includes the navigation to the sections, "politics-society/advocacy," there is no link on the Advocacy section front. So here's the link to make it easier for you.

Can you tell I'm pissed off about all this – extending to the bad navigation? I'm not the only one.

When you get to that page, you will find hundreds and hundreds of comments from people like you and me who are as informed about Social Security, the deficit and useful fixes as you and I and who are furious with AARP about the secret meeting and the tour. Here are just a handful of examples:

”I will also be enthusiastically joining a class action suit to recover my membership costs if AARP advocates ANY cuts to Social Security or Medicare.”
”Hey AARP! We didn't just earn a say in what you do, we PAID for it. Most of your membership are smart enough to see the knife poised to go into our collective backs and I expect we will leave in droves.
”I will not renew my membership. The fact that AARP would even consider closed-door sessions to compromise Social Security tells me that a once-vital organization has been corrupted.
”Social Security does not affect the deficit, and will be able to pay out 100 percent of benefits for the next 30 years. If a fix is needed, it's pretty simple: Eliminate the cap on contributions.
”I have been a member of AARP for about 20 years. I will NOT support any cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Look at what happened with Susan G. Komen. You cannot betray the people who are looking to you to represent them.

There are a couple of places where you can add your voice to others who are demanding that AARP CEO A. Barry Rand cancel the secret meeting on E Street - a petition at firedoglake and another at Credo.

Do it. Please do it. Add your voice. Ask your friends to do so. And to those readers who pipe up whenever I write about AARP's terrible track record on support of Social Security and Medicare to say we should ignore the organization, have nothing to do with them: sure, cancel your membership – that's a strong statement.

But it can only hurt us to ignore the wealthiest lobby group purporting to represent elders that has repeatedly misrepresented what nearly 100 percent of its membership wants. It is all too easy to believe silence equals acquiescence.

Hat tip to Darlene Costner

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Car Accident


I am a long-standing member of AARP. I do not want any cuts to the Social Security benefits I receive an, if anything, would rather see a lowering of the age qualification through a "buy-in" that would allow younger workers to both contribute more and get more out of the Social Security program.

How about kicking those out that have millions and billions tucked away in their trust fund accounts.

Simply give them back (in the form of a check) every penny they contributed to SS - and wish them well.

I am beginning see everyday the 'benefits' we have paid for go to those who need it less.

I know of a retired gas-company executive who takes a monthly disability check, receives compensation for the medical bills he has, sends his daughter to the public hospital for her child's birth! Purportedly they have no health insurance - because they can afford to pay for their medical needs!

I am beginning to believe all the harping going on right about cutting the SS and Medicare benefits are from those who know they can live without it. Look at those names going to the meeting. Are they the ones who anticipated SS and Medicare in retirement? Kick'em out! That will reduce the load.

"Let them eat cake . . ."

In a Democratic form of government winning the war is just the beginning. The battle is never over. It must be fought repeatedly. Health care reform, woman's rights and Social Security reform are three battles that come to mind.

We have to be ever vigilant lest the devious opponents sneak something through while we are not watching.

Please make your voices heard on this sneak move by AARP.

I dpn't belong to AARP because, after my trial membership, I realized that they weren't on my side. The ads were all geared to people with a lot more money than I'll ever have which told me that I'm not their kind of gal. I am firing off letters to every legislator I can think as they are cutting assistance to elders like me who are living on a low income.

I am extremely angry over the way this meeting has been arraged !!

Have sent your blog out to many friends, posted all of these links to FaceBook, and written personal messages to the AARP.

I, too, am angry and shall cancel my membership if this meeting goes forward without opening it to other AARP members and the press so that we can see for ourselves how this man is representing our organization.

It is a deformed democracy when the basic rights to health and well-being of the people are continually under threat. If anything we should be engaged in discussions about increasing retirement and health benefits for the American people. I would like to know how it has become politically acceptable and credible for both parties to talk about Social Security as an "entitlement" and to advocate cuts as if that would help alleviate the current economic crisis. We don't hold the banks to account for our economic woes, we would punish instead the retired people!

What's the size of the club, not secret, that Kay Dennison and I belong to? Along with others, I burned my card some years ago to protest AARP policies out of sync with needs of membership.

Older Americans share a big challenge: how do we get media to accept that AARP does NOT speak for us? Thanks again, Ronni. Let's support your efforts and ourselves by signing every petition out there!

I dropped my membership several years ago. Like all monolithic organizations, AARP is only in the business of protecting itself. I'll sign those petitions. Damn AARP and all its ilk!

I just received an email today from AARP with a survey on this topic. Looks like they are reaching out and asking for members' opinions.

AARP is too big and too compromised. I never have belonged to it.
Although I could get by without my SS, I'm glad to have it. It gives me a measure of financial independence I would not otherwise have. And I earned it.

AARP is an insurance company posing as an advocate for elders when in fact it is exploiting them. Remember their support for the mess that is Part D? That's when I canceled my membership and why I throw away, unopened, every missive they send me.

I am so glad you posted about what AARP is doing. I received an alert via email from an organization that keeps an eye on irresponsible acts. I signed the petition. With your large following it will really get the word out about their shenanigans. -- barbara

I am so glad to finally see this outburst.

But to me, there are no surprises here. Sigh.

In this day and age, a REAL association of retired persons would have to be a web-based community organization minus any profit motive.

The OWNERS of AARP just got there first by co-opting a likely name and wheedling in with a LOT of expensive PR.

I feel it is high time to replace this monster they created reminiscent of some werewolf with the name of Jesus.


AARP is a business. They make money selling insurance. And the sheep costume has come off the wolf. Yeah, I know, AARP is filed as a nonprofit. Below is a quote from the NASW:

"It sells 17 types of insurance . Founded in 1958 to provide health insurance to retired teachers (its co-founder was a New York insurance salesman), AARP has faced disputes with the Internal Revenue Service and the postal service dating back to the 1980s over income from insurance marketing deals (Johnston 1999). Today AARP is a major broker of health insurance programs, pulling in almost $500 million in 2007 from its insurance partners' royalty and revenue payments (Cohn and Preston 2008). As CEO of AARP Inc and Secretary of the AARP Foundation, William Novelli received well over $900,000 in 2006, putting him in the upper half of the American Institute of Philanthropy's list of top 25 compensation packages for "nonprofits" (American Institute of Philanthropy 2008). Novelli's deferred compensation, reported in the AARP Foundation's IRS Form 990 for the same year, amounted to a handsome $1,797,751."

We explored the 'Advocacy' page and the listening tour listings a bit. We noticed something--Only one of the events was in 2012. All of them were long past. It seems to me they don''t really want to hear from us.

Mary Walker and others...
There is, as of today, finally a direct link on the home page of AARP but only to the survey - which is way to general or mean anything.

There will be in-person meetings throughout the country over the coming months but I'll be damned if I can find where I saw that on their site.

I don't understand why they are making it so difficult to find the details of the tour.

Internet Explorer shuts down whenever I try to access the AARP "we are listening" web page--maybe it's trying to tell me something? Like they don't really want to hear from me!

Maybe AARP was closer to what they purported to be 25 years ago when I joined at age 50. However, looking at the list of invitees to the "E Steet secret meeting", serves to reinforce my loss of faith that AARP will ever represent me or anyone else who may actually NEED Social Security and Medicare to live decently in their advanced years.

Hooray for whoever originally suggested kicking the top "one percenters"--maybe even the top "five percenters" off--after reimbursing them for whatever they contributed, of course! They can afford to pay for their own retirement and health care--most of the rest of us can't. Yet, they want to change the rules and mandate cuts for us. Is THAT what "shared sacrifice" means?

I figured out the color of AARP's flag several years ago and haven't belonged since. Only joined for a few years to begin with.

Cowtown Pattie has their number as being an insurance company as I've cautioned here before. Whatever health care positions they take will be in the best financial interest of AARP. Remember their previous stance? An after-the-fact apology in an effort to pacify upset members didn't sound wash with me. What will be the excuse this time?

I joined the exodus from AARP a couple of years ago because I didn't like their politics and their cozy partnership with certain insurance companies. I renewed a month ago just so I could get a discount on an upcoming purchase. After seeing this story, it's a cinch I won't be renewing next year. AARP purportedly represents and looks out for us, but they obviously don't. If they won't even defend our Social Security benefits, they are worse than useless.

I am leaving AARP because They
say they are the only one's speaking ouy for the Elderly aand poor all I have seen is
increased rayes for AARP membership to Buldge their ppockets .
Personally in the last two years my Medicare incresed and
benifits decrese, Social
Security pay per month has
decreased 20%, Insursnces as
such Med.Sup.,Home,Car,Life,
has increased Rates 100%.
Lets not leave out That it
cost the same to the Lower
Clas poor to Live buy Gro.,Electric,ETC as it dose
the Millionaire.
Explain this AARP

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