Jewish World Review March 8, 2005/ 27 Adar I, 5765
The liberal world of AARP
For a bunch of old fogies, AARP sure gets into a lot of trouble.
The Bush administration is mad at the country's largest organization of retired people because it's fighting the president's call for Social Security privatization.
The conservative media watchdog group Accuracy in Media (AIM) is mad at AARP for hiring an admitted (and unrepentant) former drug user to edit AARP The Magazine, which has a 22 million circulation.
And now the Drug Policy Alliance which favors an end to the War on Drugs is mad at AARP for supposedly bowing to pressure from AIM and other anti-drug forces to spike a scheduled magazine article about medical marijuana.
AARP, in case you're too young to be subjected to its direct-mail barrage, is the discount-club-for-people-over-50 formerly known as the American Association for Retired Persons.
It has 36 million members and claims to speak to government for all of them on important political matters like tax policy and health care. AARP also claims to be nonpartisan, which is what liberal special-interest groups that push for more government in our lives always say.
AARP's powerful propaganda machine, media allies and army of faithful voters are a big reason the push to allow working Americans to divert a third of their own payroll taxes into private investment accounts is in such trouble.
You'd think AARP would be more open-minded about finding ways to give individuals some control and ownership of their own pension funds. And since most of its members anyone over 55 are immune to the president's reform proposal, why the big fuss and worry?
Yet the bosses at AARP are not just stubborn and stupid, they're hypocritical. They insist they don't want to introduce risk into the current pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme even as they market 38 mutual funds to their membership through Scudder Investments.
Unfortunately for our grandchildren, AARP's side the Democrat side is probably going to win. President Bush's modest pipedream has been AARPed and every Republican invertebrate in Congress who wants to be elected again is back-pedaling.
Only hardened GOP gunslingers like Tom DeLay dare call AARP's selfish opposition to Social Security privatization what it is "incredibly irresponsible."
Compared to Social Security, the hissing match between Accuracy in Media's conservatives and the Drug Policy Alliance's libertarians over AARP's position on medical marijuana is a silly footnote.
So far, all AARP did was last fall ask 1,706 adults over 45 what they thought about medical marijuana for an AARP The Magazine article planned for the March/April issue. An AARP spokesman insists the story was killed purely for editorial reasons.
Poll results, once posted on AARP's Web site, were mildly encouraging to anti-drug war forces: 72 percent of plus-45s think adults should be allowed to use medical marijuana with a doctor's OK and 23 percent say pot should be legalized.
AARP's board of directors has taken no official position on medical marijuana and aren't about to anytime soon, according to the AARP spokesman.
But even if AARP came out for legalizing pot, completely privatizing Social Security or free hip replacements for anyone over 80, I'll never join it. To loosely paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't join any organization that thought it could speak for me and 36 million other members.
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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2005, Bill Steigerwald