Thursday, October 20, 2011

AARP's Misguided Medicare Advocacy

AARP has produced a strong television advertisement threatening any legislator who considers cuts to Medicare.

The ad shows an army of folks around my age marching and looking tough, while the narrator/leader intones:
"Washington, before you even think about cutting my Medicare's a number you should remember - 50 million. We are 50 million seniors who earned our benefits, and you will be hearing from us, today, and on election day."
Here's what an ethically guided ad would say:
"Washington, before you even think about cutting Medicare benefits, think about fairness. We 50 million seniors want to do our part to ensure a healthy future for America. But we want to be part of a team, and that means everyone sharing the burden, including adding new revenues..."
I'm insured through my employer, but I'm Medicare eligible. When I'm insured through Medicare, please tell me to wash my mouth out with soap if I call it "my Medicare." It's not just "mine," it's "ours." My payments into the Medicare fund from 1965 on paid for the care of my elders, including my parents. When I'm a beneficiary, my care will be paid for by the younger generation. Medicare is a matter of communal responsibility, not the private property of the 65+ generation.

Age is supposed to be a source of wisdom. Calling for teamwork and shared sacrifice is what my generation should be advocating for. The AARP advertisement invites definition of the elderly as "greedy geezers." AARP is making itself part of problem, not the solution.

(For the Concord Coalition critique of the AARP advertisement, see here.)


jamzo said...

i am puzzled by your use of the concord coalition to make an "ethical" statement about aarp's political pressure advertisement on medicare

the concord coalition mission is hardly a poster child for good will

"educating the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, the long-term challenges facing America's unsustainable entitlement programs"

"doomsday" politics

seems to be an organization dedicated to political criticism
certainly not an organization with a positive, mutually advantageous vision of a future state

Jim Sabin said...

Hello Jamzo -

Thank you for the excellent question you raise.

I see the Concord Coalition comment about the AARP (and the organization itself) as a vehicle for strengthening our frayed national sense of community. As wealthy as we are as a country, if we're not going to dump impossible economic problems on future generations (an unethical thing to do) we need to make tough choices now, done in a thoughtful manner. (That's the focus of the book Norman Daniels and I wrote - "Setting Limits Fairly.")

If the Coalition only focused on programs like Medicare and Medicaid (I prefer to call them "public commitments" rather than "entitlements") I'd agree with you that the Coalition shouldn't be cited as part of an ethical argument. But their stance, as I understand it, calls for shared sacrifice.