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April 1 2011

AARP Betrayal: Same Old, Same Old

Charlotte Hays

Were you shocked that the AARP--which supported the Obama administration's health care legislation--stands to reap untold financial benefits from the law? AARP's boon will come from the pockets of older people it claims to represent. Unfortunately, AARP's betrayal of older people is an old story.

Dale Van Atta's Trust Betrayed: Inside the AARP, which came out in the late 1990s,may be hard to find but it's worth a trip to the public library if you really want to know how this giant nonprofit acts. Van Atta's book came out after AARP had supported Hillarycare, with less success, but the explanation of how the organization works is still of interest. It is not a pretty picture. 

"[M]y biggest gripe is that they act as if they are speaking for their membership when it is impossible that they could be. Unless you are willing to accept the idea that all older people belong to one party, or one philosophy.With other senior organizations, it is clear who they are representing," Van Atta explained to Human Events two years ago, when the organization's ties to Obamacare were surfacing.

AARP was more successful with its support for Obamacare, which features provisions that end the popular Medicare Advantage program which many seniors buy to enhance their Medicare coverage. Older people who want additional coverage will have to buy Medi-Gap, the sale of which is far more lucrative for AARP. Some estimates put the take for AARP at $100 million a year.

Investors Business Daily has a good piece on AARP today. It notes:

This morphing of a touted seniors service organization to just another lobby feeding at the federal trough for fun and profit has Republicans questioning the group's tax-exempt status

I've searched high and low for my copy of Dale's book, and I can't find it (perhaps I'll unearth my copy eventually in my Collier Brothers squalor!). This is pretty good description, though:  

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) purports to represent the interests of 33 million senior citizens, but its real agenda is something else entirely. In a new book called Trust Betrayed, excerpted in a recent issue of the national conservative weekly Human Events, free-lance journalist Dale Van Atta charges that the AARP "actively promotes causes seniors neither like nor find beneficial. Some even run counter to their interests, especially the AARP's relentless support of ever higher taxes, disastrous health-care legislation that threatens seniors, and a whole litany of other liberal causes."

Despite its neglect of, and opposition to, the genuine interests of senior citizens, the AARP continues to rake in millions in membership dues. But that's not the only source of its funding. "In 1993 and 1994, AARP's revenue was around $470 million," Van Atta reports. "Less than half of that comes from membership dues. A hefty chunk of it comes from . . . the American taxpayers, in the form of federal funding." The AARP also enjoys "special nonprofit rates from the U.S. Postal Service -- a rate they sometimes abuse for unjustifiable purposes."

The AARP seems to appreciate those governmental goodies more than it does its own member support. "The AARP's dependence on federal largesse has made it an active lobbyist for everhigher taxes and entitlement spending," Van Atta charges. He recalls that the AARP was "a vigorous supporter of the Catastrophic Health Care Act, which would have cost many senior citizens an additional $800 a year in taxes. When senior citizens realized the bill's financial impact, there was a historic revolt of the AARP's rank and file. In a highly unusual reversal, Congress repealed the act."

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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