A book review by Dale Coberly

ONE NATION UNDER AARP  The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security, and America’s Future
by Frederick R. Lynch

I was asked to write a review of this book, perhaps because I sometimes write about Social Security. But I had to completely rearrange my perspective in order to even understand what the book is about. I believe that I know that the “Social Security crisis” is essentially a lie. Lynch assumes that the crisis is real and writes about AARP’s efforts to make itself the spokesperson for the Boomers in the “generational war” that will follow from this “fact.”

Given that politics has nothing to do with facts, Lynch and AARP may be on the right track.
Lynch introduces his book by describing a conference hosted by AARP… “to demonstrate to…boomers that AARP… is no longer their parents’ AARP… A rebranded AARP is actively recruiting seventy eight million graying baby boomers. The mating dance of these organizational and generational giants has enormous implications for the nations’ political future. … half of the voters in the 2008 and 2010 elections were over fifty… and half of them were members of AARP… the nation’s fourth highest spending lobby…”

Okay, that’s why. But then Lynch just assumes “…an epic fight over…Medicare and Social Security is being forced by the ballooning national debt.”

In fact Social Security has nothing to do with the “ballooning national debt.” And Medicare so far has had nothing to do with that debt and need not do so in the future. The ballooning national debt has been caused by tax cuts, military spending, and a deep recession caused by unregulated banks “too big to fail” indulging in reckless if not criminal activity.

Social Security is paid for by the workers who will get the benefits. Medicare can and should be organized so workers pay directly and transparently for their own health insurance. The huge cost increases predicted for Medicare are driven by the huge cost increases predicted for medical care. Only a fool would decide that if we are expecting huge medical costs we need to cut our insurance. Even if we can’t control costs… and we can… we are still going to have to pay for them. The easiest way is to pay a little at a time each month while we are young and working. It doesn’t make much sense to “save” the cost of insurance now and be faced with unpayable costs when you are old and no longer working. Only Medicare allows people to pay in advance this way AND to finesse the problem of “medical inflation” with pay-as-you-go financing. But “only a fool” is what we have in Washington these days.

But IF Social Security is being blamed for the deficit, however falsely, THEN boomers will need leaders to defend it. The most likely candidate is AARP.

Lynch says his book examines three key issues:
1.) Are the boomers a sleeping political giant? Can they be organized to determine the policy that will shape the future of Social Security?
2.) Is AARP going to lead the boomers… or “stimulate boomers’ age awareness to entice them into becoming members and purchasing AARP products and services…?”
3) Will boomers and AARP “negotiate an increasingly competitive global super-capitalism… in which “working class Americans feel threatened” but “the nation’s elite — highly educated professional and managerial classes — embrace the new Post American Order?”

I may be the wrong person to be reviewing this book because I cannot get past the premise. Lynch ASSUMES “generational war,” ASSUMES that “Younger Americans will be asked to subsidize aging baby boomers’ entitlements.”

And this is simply not true. The boomers will have already paid for their Social Security and Medicare. “Younger workers” will be asked to pay, in advance, for their own Social Security and Medicare. That’s how insurance works. It is only the success of the Big LIe that has convinced them… and the Washington “elite”… that “pay as you go” means you are paying for someone else’s greedy grannies.
Apparently these people think that when you “invest” in a stock, or just put your money in the bank, it lies there breeding interest like bugs in a drawer. The fact is that ALL “saved” money has to be used… spent… by someone else to earn interest. What is important is that you get the money back when you need it. Social Security provides the best guarantee in the world that you will get your money back… and more, if you need it. That’s what makes it insurance.

It is worth noting that even the Big Liars are always promising that “if you are over fifty five, your Social Security will not be affected.” That pretty much eliminates “paying for the boomers.” It is the “young people’s” Social Security that they are trying to kill.

Perhaps the boomers, and the young people who may someday grow old in spite of themselves, will need AARP to represent them. But it is by no means clear that AARP understands Social Security or cares about the interests of old people. Instead, perhaps, it just wants a seat at the table, the power that that represents, and of course the business that comes their way as a result of being seen as the retirees representative in Washington.

I don’t know.

But if Lynch is right and AARP is the best hope we have in the game the “elite” are playing with our retirement security, then others more attuned to real politics than I am may want to start by reading his book.
And maybe they can see if there is a way to influence AARP’s influence on the phony “generational war.”

They would have this much going for them: Lynch quotes AARP CEO Bill Novelli,

“But when you get down to the level of needs, everyone needs health and healthcare and they need long-term financial security. Then, when you get down to the level of values, all generations are the same: they want a better world for their children and grandchildren; they want to leave the world a better place and to leave a legacy. These are common values, and that’s what we’ve built upon.”

And what they would have going against them is that unfortunately these values are not shared by the “elite” leaders of both parties and their sponsors, who want only what’s in it for them, here and now. And know how to lie to get it.