There was a hearing today at the House Ways and Means Oversight and Health Subcommittees on a fairly touchy subject – namely, the organizational structure and finances of AARP – one of the five largest lobbying groups in Washington. A report released this week, “Behind the Veil: The AARP America Doesn’t Know,” exposes the conflict between the organization’s drive for profits, the best interests of its members and its tax-exempt status.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette), who chairs the Oversight Subcommittee at Ways and Means, laid out what’s going on in his opening speech at the hearing…
The back story behind the AARP probe is the fact that the organization, which is supposed to lobby on behalf of senior citizens, backed Obamacare despite its de-funding Medicare to the tune of $500 billion. One would have expected AARP to fight tooth and nail to preserve Medicare funding, but one would be wrong – the reason AARP did so was that the main victim of Obamacare was Medicare Advantage, which is effectively eliminated. As such, the Medigap insurance plans AARP sells now become essential; prior to Obamacare those plans weren’t really all that competitive.
It’s a crooked, rent-seeking bargain AARP made with the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, and Boustany and two other congressmen – Wally Herger (R-CA) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) – are taking them on as a result.
Whether they can get a bill through the House to strip AARP of their tax-exempt status at the end of this effort is a question. Whether they could get one through the Senate and/or past the president’s desk is an even more dicey/impossible proposition.
But that having been said, AARP is dirty here and Boustany is right to at least bring it to light. And if the effort ultimately forces AARP into an unabashedly leftist stance rather than the faux-centrist one they play at currently, that’s progress. Because the vast majority of the people who pay dues to AARP are not lefties and don’t support Obamacare. So if action which exposes that fact to the membership ultimately results in the diminution or destruction of that organization as a dominant force in shaping policy toward senior citizens, that’s a good thing. Because reforming Social Security and Medicare so that something will be available in 20 years for the people who will be ready to retire then is going to depend on stopping status-quo defenders from demagoguing the issue – and AARP’s lobbyists and ad execs are some of the worst offenders on that score.