The Aarp: America's Most Powerful Lobby and the Clash of Generations

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9780812927535: The Aarp: America's Most Powerful Lobby and the Clash of Generations
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The co-author of Computer Wars tells the story of how America's largest and most powerful lobby--the American Association of Retired Persons--overcame its shady origins to become a prominent--and responsible--player in the great debate over Social Security and Medicare.

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Review:

In Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old? Peter Peterson lays out in chilling detail the coming fiscal crisis that threatens to bankrupt the United States when the baby-boom generation slips into retirement. In The AARP, Charles Morris explains why. The culprit? The American Association of Retired People (AARP). According to Morris, until the television program "60 Minutes" blew the lid off of AARP in 1978, the organization was basically a front for selling overpriced insurance to the elderly--its political activism on behalf of retired people largely a cynical effort to establish credibility. Although the organization has clearly put those days behind it, AARP has yet to become an advocate for sound policies that would benefit society as a whole. As a result, this 800-pound gorilla of American politics may be dragging the country toward a monetary quagmire the likes of which it has never seen.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A cursory analysis of the structure and financing of Social Security and Medicare masquerading as an unveiling of the AARP. Morris (Computer Wars, not reviewed) focuses briefly on the American Association of Retired Persons' tawdry beginnings as a hawker of insurance for Colonial Penn, looks at its present organization and activities, and concludes that it is now one of the most responsible lobbies in Washington, although it's at risk of becoming ``merely another remnant of the shrinking forces of the . . . paleoliberal left.'' He then turns to his real subject: how Social Security and Medicare came to be the way they are and how these senior entitlements can be sustained, an issue he believes is the major public policy question facing the country. He focuses briefly on the reform attempts of the 1980s and '90s, including the successful restructuring of Social Security by the Greenspan Commission in 1983 and the failure of the Bush-Darman deficit reduction package in 1990. In Morris's view, Social Security is fundamentally sound and its actuarial integrity can be maintained with a little astute tinkering. Medicare, he admits, is a bigger problem but by no means a crisis. Arguing that continued rapid growth of the health care industry is good for the economy, he issues repeated warnings against unrealistic attempts at comprehensive health care reform. Instead, policy makers should take the unglamorous approach of hammering out practical, piecemeal reforms. Not wanting to leave these to ``the boys in the back room and the silk-suited corporate lobbyists,'' he offers his own list of suggested reforms. Although the promise of the title is not kept, tucked away in an appendix are some informative assessments of AARP's principal products, such as various types of insurance, mutual funds, and travel discounts. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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