Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 22, 2001 / 29 Shevat 5761

Morton Kondracke

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

AARP's agenda at odds with Bush priorities -- OFTEN rated Washington's most powerful lobby, the AARP assembled its official 2001 policy agenda last week - and its main points are bad news for President Bush.

The AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, doesn't make campaign contributions, doesn't endorse candidates and rarely plays hardball. But it is definitely putting its muscle behind priorities that preclude Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut.

On other major issues, the group will resist any Social Security reform that reduces guaranteed benefits and Medicare reforms that force seniors into managed care. Moreover, AARP is staunchly backing Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) push for campaign finance reform.

Nothing in the group's new four-inch-thick agenda book breathes a word of hostility toward Bush or his legislative agenda. In fact, the AARP is rigorously non-partisan. It lays down "principles," not hard positions. And its lobbyists always "work with" people with whom they have differences.

However, with 34.5 million members who theoretically could be mobilized in a crunch, the AARP usually gets heeded by Congress on its issues.

It is also in the process of retooling itself - the name change is part of it - to expand its influence. The organization wants to be the voice not only for 35 million "seniors" over 65 but for the 78 million-strong baby-boom generation that is gradually turning 50.

In major magazines and on television, the group is "rebranding" itself with ads featuring vigorous-looking 50-plus business owners, environmentalists, educators and rock climbers rather than "retired persons."

The organization just launched a glossy new magazine, My Generation, sent free to those ages 50 to 55. Its redesigned standby, Modern Maturity, goes to members over 55.

The remaking of the AARP is a project initiated by the group's 13-year executive director, Horace Deets, who is retiring next January. A nationwide search is under way for his successor.

One internal candidate is Bill Novelli, who sold his powerhouse public relations firm, Porter Novelli, in 1990 to start a second career in public service, working first at CARE and then leading the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Novelli has been in charge of the AARP's advocacy and public affairs activities for 13 months and envisions the group becoming "the No. 1 organization in the country working for social change," including better education, upgraded standards for long-term care facilities, and tax credits for long-term care insurance.

As part of Deets' reorganization, the AARP is establishing offices in all 50 states, up from 22, to lobby legislatures and stay in touch with local groups.

Only 10 percent of the AARP's $450 million budget is spent on lobbying and advocacy - still a huge amount. The rest goes to volunteer and service work.

For four years running, the AARP has headed Fortune magazine's list of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, beating out such groups as the National Rifle Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the AFL-CIO and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

The AARP's clout-wielding reputation is partly based on a mistaken legend. In 1988 the organization backed so-called "catastrophic" prescription drug coverage for seniors, which passed Congress.

But well-off seniors and those with pre-existing drug coverage raged against the mandatory program for its increased premiums, famously banging on the car of then-Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), chief sponsor of the measure.

The AARP's board and Washington office urged that the program be kept alive, but Congress got scared and repealed it in 1989 under massive pressure from rank-and-file seniors, many of them AARP members.

That was evidence of the power of the membership, though, and AARP lobbyists bring it silently to bear when they visit Members to talk about their issues.

Last week the AARP's board decided that the group's "principles" this year would include "balanced" use of the federal budget surplus, with enough money available for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, expanded health insurance for children and new education spending as to preclude Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut.

Moreover, the group wants tax cuts to be targeted - reducing (though not eliminating) the inheritance tax, providing a credit for caregivers and expanding IRAs - rather than across the board, as Bush proposes.

The AARP will support Bush's idea of a Social Security commission - but oppose the kind of partial privatization proposals he backed in the campaign, "carve outs," which called for a reduction of guaranteed benefits. The AARP favors a new voluntary savings plan being added to Social Security.

It's not clear where Bush will end up on Medicare, but the AARP prefers a much more costly drug benefit than Bush seemed to favor in the campaign and wants to keep traditional fee-for-service Medicare, not push seniors into HMOs.

The AARP has a genteel atmosphere about it that fits right in with Bush's less confrontational Washington. But their differences leave them with a lot of "working with" to do.

JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.


02/20/01: When will Dems finally say Clinton is unfit leader?
02/14/01: McCain won't run against Bush again, just differ on issues
02/12/01: Is Joe Lieberman tilting left toward 2004?
02/07/01: The controversy starts: Bush orders HHS study of fetal, stem cell issues
02/05/01: Dems move toward bush on taxes, but ...
02/01/01: Bush should be open with press
01/30/01: Bush Should go for broke early on education
01/23/01: Clinton ain't going away, folks
01/19/01: Bush should try for legacy as 'Great Reconciler'
01/16/01: Left-Center Rift Re-emerges For Democratic Leaders
01/12/01: Clinton doing Bush no favors in Mideast
01/09/01: Bush and Democrats can deal
12/14/00: Will Daschle make it his business to get along with President Bush?
12/08/00: GOP is in danger of ruining record on medical research
11/27/00: Some fascinating stories about how and why people voted
11/22/00: GOP Survived health bullets, but one is left
11/20/00: Can next president and Hill deal?
11/15/00: With nation split, leaders must reach across party divide
11/07/00: The Envelope, Please:Bush Beats Gore, GOP Holds Hill
11/03/00: Parties appeal to two 'gospels'
11/01/00: Lurking in the shadows
10/26/00: What's Gore's Social Security plan?
10/18/00: While Bush, Gore debate surplus, Congress spends it
10/16/00: Two debates leave lots of questions
10/03/00: What questions should be debated?
09/28/00: Gore and Bush should prepare to lead
09/19/00: Bush let values issue slip away
08/25/00: Gore hands center to Bush
08/22/00: AlGore, look to future, not to Bubba
08/08/00: 2000 race could leave high road for low
08/03/00: Convention must point Bush to center
08/01/00: GOP Readies 'Debt Lockbox' As 2000 Strategy
07/27/00: Cheney adds heft to GOP ticket
07/25/00: Foreign, Defense Policy Deserves Full 2000 Debate
07/20/00: Truman Show: Gore Replays 1948, But Bush Isn't Dewey
07/18/00: Bush Must Fight Gore's Drug Plan As 'Bad Medicine'
07/13/00: Mexico's Election Supports U.S. Action On NAFTA, Bailout
07/10/00: Abortion is good for something --- just ask AlGore
07/06/00: Meet Steve Ricchetti, Bubba's secret weapon
06/30/00: AlGore is down, but is he out?
06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
05/26/00: PNTR Vote Could Tell Which Party Fits 'New Economy'
05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore
05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
05/09/00: Bush Could Score With Charge That Gore's Too Partisan
04/28/00: Reno's force aids Clinton, not Elian
04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
12/16/99: Prospects improve for campaign reform
12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
11/09/99: Is GOP isolationist, or just partisan?
11/04/99: Gore, Bradley Run Opposite Races On Style, Substance
11/01/99: GOP, Clinton could reach deal swiftly
10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
09/17/99: Candidates turn attention to poverty
09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

©1999, NEA