gilbert-raiford-web.jpgIf there is ever an organization that has the power as well as the duty to protect the elderly, it is the American Association of Retired Persons. I do not know of any other vested interest organization in this country with a membership that exceeds 40,000,000.

The AARP is assumed to be the voice of senior citizens, a voice that promotes and protects not only the rights of the elderly but their general welfare, as well. Additionally, the organization is composed of the most faithful voting block in the nation. Yet, it has done little to use its potential power to benefit this largely oppressed group. In fact, the converse is more likely to be true. Here are some disturbing facts:

First, for the second year in a row, the AARP has sat quietly by while Congress boldly reduced the standard of living for older people and elevated the wealth of those who cannot spend all their money if they lived lavishly for hundred of years.  It is no less that criminal that Congress has subverted the law to rob the elderly of their investment in the Social Security program.

This is only the beginning of the erosion of earned benefits that should accrue to retirees. Without an effective voice, Congress will continue to scapegoat any category of people in the name of “balancing the budget.”

Second, the AARP has sat quietly by while conservative vested interest groups waste no time in convincing the elderly that a balanced budget should be their top priority and that taxing the rich will hurt the poor.   

Third, the AARP sat quietly by while the state of Florida uses the meager Social Security income of its retired state employees to subsidize the meager state pension.

It is grossly unfair that employees of the state have to pay full Social Security taxes but cannot receive full Social Security benefits. The state justifies this on the ground of some spurious concept called “double-dipping.”Any amount of protection from an organization as large as the AARP could have nipped this unfairness in the bud, so to speak.

I reserve my biggest complaint again the AARP for last. Instead of exposing the lies that are fed seniors by those with a hidden agenda aimed as preventing this nation from having an effective national health insurance policy, the AARP did little or nothing, leaving unknowledgeable people to believe those fear-producing lies and, therefore, sabotage their best interests.

Many news analysts have referred to this as one of the greatest public frauds of the year, if not the decade. The national health insurance policy is designed to help the elderly and defeat those who rob the country in the name of providing healthcare while preying on those, mainly the elderly, who are victims of healthcare provider scams.

There is very little information to account for the acquiescence of the AARP with regard to the first three items.  However, the last item shows a clear conflict of interest.

While masquerading as an advocacy association, the AARP is big business, insurance business. It is definitely to the advantage of the AARP, as it is to every health insurance conglomerate, that we do not have a strong national health insurance policy. That is the main reason why the public option had to be taken out of the bill.

The elderly, as well as the general public, were led to believe that government was attempting to take away “the right to chose” and substituting it with a mandate. The fact that government was trying to make quality healthcare more affordable for every American was buried under the clever appeal to the naïve notion that the federal government was meddling in personal rights.

With a membership of more than 40,000,000 and an estimated annual income in of more than $1,000,000,000, the AARP has the potential to be formidable and certainly in a position to protect the elderly. Whether it does so or not depends upon the extent to which its members hold its administrators accountable for carrying out the original mission of the organization.

It is an elementary understanding that the main sources of power are money and large numbers of people. The AARP has both. Yet, it seems powerless to effect positive legislation for its members.

Shame on the AARP.

Gilbert L. Raiford, a member of AARP for more than 25 years, is semi-retired after a career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He lives in Miami where he volunteers at homeless facilities, the Opera House in Miami and after-care school programs as a fund-raiser.