Mrs. Salad, bless her, was a dues-paying member of AARP, and (somehow) I got dragged in too. So I get mail from them. The magazine and newsletter are OK, although I wouldn't pay for them. But—omigod—AARP's "advocacy" mail sets my teeth on edge.
I thought I'd share a recent sample. I scanned the pages, cropped into convenient segments, and I'll intersperse my own comments in between. Click on any image to embiggen. Kind of like a fisking! Enjoy! If you like that sort of thing.
Yes, we are apparently on a first name basis. Someone even scrawled a personal note to me up there by the letterhead.
I'm totally charmed by such personalization!
But I'm not in love with the language. As is usual with such tedious blather, it wallows in redundancy. They not only want to "protect" Social Security and Medicare, they want to "protect" and "save" it. Will "saving" do something extra that "protecting" will not? Vice versa? Hard to tell.
More redundancy: that old Congress is not just "deeply divided along partisan lines". It's also "embroiled in political conflict". Chaos and confusion! AARP, aren't those the same thing? My eyes are already getting tired.
Also note the flattery: "You've read the headlines." They think I'm paying attention to important stuff! They think I'm smart!
Well, as it turns out, they don't actually think that. As we will see.
There are nefarious folks at work: "some". They are "considering cuts to Social Security and Medicare". These evildoers are not named. Why not? Because then the recipient of this mail might actually check out what they are actually proposing and see some arguments that AARP might not want them to see.
But leave it at "some", and it's just a scare tactic.
In fact, there are no serious proposals in Congress to "cut" Social Security and Medicare. True enough, once upon a time, in pre-Trump years, Republicans were brave enough to propose fixes and reforms that were quickly labeled "cuts". No longer. From a Brian Riedl article at the Dispatch:
Earlier this year, when the Social Security and Medicare trustees declared their trust funds to be just a decade from insolvency, President Biden and congressional Republicans competed to see which side could most vociferously rule out Social Security and Medicare reforms. Biden’s budget proposed another $2 trillion in spending hikes, and simply chose not to include the cost of trillions of dollars in endorsed tax cut extensions. Republicans offer empty rhetoric about runaway deficits while taking off the table any cuts to two-thirds of all spending (Social Security, Medicare, defense, veterans, and most infrastructure), and proposing new rounds of tax cuts. Donald Trump continues to emphasize that Social Security and Medicare will not be touched in a second presidential term. Even the more fiscally conservative GOP candidates promise no Social Security changes until the 2050s, and produce budget plans that add trillions in deficits.
Politicians are pandering to the large majority of voters who have responded to trillion-dollar deficits by demanding that Congress expand Social Security and Medicare—as well as hike spending on education, broader health care, infrastructure, poverty relief, border security, and child care. And yet polls also show that a strong majority of voters refuse to accept paying even one dollar in new taxes to close the deficit or finance their exorbitant spending demands. To put it gently, these demands are untethered from reality.
With mail like this, AARP is encouraging continued fiscal delusion. They should know better. They probably do know better.
You may want to wait on thanking AARP for those bargains. If you're not persuaded by the general argument that price controls are a bad idea, first read Megan McArdle: Medicare can lower drug prices only by eliminating future medicines. Then move on to Allison Schrager: The Biden administration’s plan to limit Medicare drug prices may cost us all more in the long run.
Hey, but cheer up: you could die before any of that bad stuff happens.
Even though there's no realistic chance for entitlement reform in the near future, AARP considers this a "crucial moment", one that requires me to fork over some dough to them. So they can "act on the interests of Americans 50+". Somehow.
Note the unstated implication: if you are an American 49-, AARP isn't gonna be interested in acting in your interest.
Back in 2010, the Social Security overseers estimated that under then-current law, sometime around 2035, benefits would be cut by about 25%, thanks to drained "reserves".
Well, nothing was done to fix that little problem, thanks to (among others) AARP. And so the latest report moves up that date to 2034 or so. But (hey, good news) they estimate the benefit cut would "only" be about 20%.
AARP, as you see, is a huge advocate for keeping seniors dependent on government, at the expense of the young. They want to cram more goodies into Medicare, even while it is, like Social Security, also going broke. An excerpt from the Cato report on Medicare:
Congress finances Medicare spending by taxing younger workers. The program currently spends roughly $1 trillion per year to subsidize health care for 64 million enrollees who are elderly, are disabled, or who meet other criteria. In dollar terms, Medicare is the largest purchaser of medical care goods and services in the world—in part because it pays excessive prices to health care providers and wastes hundreds of billions of dollars on medical care that provides no value to enrollees.
Perhaps worst of all, Medicare is junk insurance. For more than 50 years, Medicare has had a negative impact on the quality of health care that both enrollees and nonenrollees receive. When researchers complain about fee‐for‐service payment, wasteful care, low‐quality care, harmful care, medical errors, health care fraud, excessive profits, high administrative costs, federal deficits and debt, the time bomb of entitlement spending, special‐interest influence over health care, or the lack of innovation in health care delivery, evidence‐based medicine, electronic medical records, accountable care organizations, telemedicine, or coordinated care—in every case they are complaining about Medicare.
It's popular, though. Gotta admit that. Giving away lots of money with few questions asked is always popular.
Another language gripe with the above: I've been getting Social Security for a few years now, and it's pretty easy to observe that I'm not, despite AARP's phrasing, getting the money I've "earned".
The taxes I paid in while I was working went back out Uncle Stupid's door pretty quickly, sent to people older than me.
And the money I'm getting now is not "earned" by me; it's taxes coming in from younger working people. It's money they earned.
And part of the game since the 1980s is: if I have too much money coming in from other sources in a given year, I have to give some of that Social Security back. Even though I "earned" it.
And those poor saps who die before they got old? That money they "earned" goes… well, to other people. Certainly not their heirs. (There's a survivor's benefit, but again, that has little relation to the taxes paid by the deceased.)
Reader, guess my answer to that question.
I don't want to be accused of selectively quoting AARP, but this is getting real repetitive.
My answer hasn't changed since you asked a couple paragraphs ago, Jo Ann. It's still a "no".
We're almost done! We've finally reached the stuff you're supposed to return!
I figure if AARP knows my name and address, there's no point redacting it from you.
I also assume drawing the little star on the $15 option has been designed by behavioral psychologists to generate the most revenue from the checking accounts of the aged. (I wonder if they bump it up if you're a known sucker?)
Note the "please do not detach" bottom line: it refers to those petitions previously mentioned in the letter. There are three, two for our state's senators, one for my CongressCritter, Chris Pappas. All identical except for the targeted pol. Here's one:
This is the real intelligence-insulting part. AARP will get around to sending this to Senator Jeanne when they feel like it. (I assume they will cash your check much quicker.) You are not encouraged to write Jeanne with your own words; AARP assumes you're too lazy (and probably too unreliable) to do that. Stick to the script, you mindless drone!
And of course that's exactly the message AARP wants to send to Jeanne (and Maggie, and Chris). They will dump the collected petitions on their desks and say: Look at all these mindless drones, who will reliably do whatever we ask, no matter how stupid. You don't want to get on our bad side, do you?