November 16, 2005


America's Most Dangerous Lobby (Robert Samuelson, 11/16/05, Washington Post)

Anyone who's watched the steel and auto industries can visualize the AARP's America. In those industries, companies and unions unrealistically agreed to overly generous pensions and retiree health benefits that, as the number of retirees multiplied, overburdened the companies. Now, past promises collide with present economic realities. Workers and retirees suffer. Wages and jobs are cut; so are pensions and retiree health benefits. On a much larger scale, that may be America's fate. [...]

The AARP suggests that it's trying to balance the interests of retirees and workers. It has just released a report called ``Reimagining America'' that rightly poses these questions: ``Can America afford to grow older? And can we do so with intergenerational fairness -- that is, without burdening our children and grandchildren with the bills?'' It then spends 41 pages not answering those questions. On the one hand, it concedes that ``as a nation, we are not now ready for the retirement of the baby boomers.'' On the other, it argues that ``the problem is overstated.''

Overstated? Well, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid constitute more than 40 percent of federal spending. Given the baby boom, longer life expectancies and rising health costs, these programs are projected (by the Congressional Budget Office and others) to grow by about two-thirds or more during the next 25 years. To cover these costs, we'd have to do one of the following: raise all federal taxes by 30 percent to 50 percent (depending on whether today's budget were balanced); eliminate defense spending and 30 percent of other federal spending, excluding interest payments; run budget deficits three times present levels.

Of course, we aren't going to get to that point, but the middle option is entirely feasible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 16, 2005 5:52 PM

So's the third option, but it'll be some combination of the middle two.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 16, 2005 6:37 PM

... of the last two.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 16, 2005 6:38 PM

I do my retirement planning assuming that my investments have to provide an adequate retirement. The pension, to the extent it will exist, will go for luxuries. Social Security? Lap dances.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at November 16, 2005 9:31 PM

No penny of mine will ever go to AARP.

Posted by: Kirk Parker at November 17, 2005 12:53 AM

I was grateful to Mr. Samuelson. I had been meaning to write letter to those people explaing why they could take me off their mailing list.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 17, 2005 3:06 AM

Can anyone explain why the AARP gets a big chuck of our tax dollars? A lots of geezers around here think it's a quasi-governmental body.

Posted by: erp at November 17, 2005 7:14 AM

All we need to know about AARP is that it makes common cause with the united front of gun-grabbers, baby-killers and schoolteachers.

Most seriously, this outfit buys into the left-wing party line. The simple fact is that the elderly are more inclined to be gun people. That this organization should be pro-gungrabbing means that it is not considering the interests of its members, but that of other components of the VLWC, as if a sinister (sic) bargain has been struck.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 17, 2005 9:24 AM

All you really need to know about AARP is that it was a failing insurance company before it turned itself into a faux activist organization. Now it's a booming insurance company with a clever marketing scheme.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 17, 2005 10:28 AM