Republican Attacks on America’s Seniors Heats Up

By Richard Thayer

Things continue to heat up as Republicans ramp up their attack on the country’s senior citizens. This past Tuesday Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis), the creative genius behind the Republican party’s “Pathway to Prosperity” budget plan, emailed his supporters complaining about  AARP’s recent multi-million dollar ad campaign. The ad accuses politicians of trying to pay off the nation’s huge deficit by proposing reducing benefits to Medicare. By now it’s no secret (although denied by Republicans) that the “new, improved” Medicare system would privatize Medicare, making it a voucher (vulture?)-like private system that would benefit insurance companies much more than it would senior adults.

Ryan’s email says in part: “Last week, (AARP), a left-leaning pressure group with significant business interests in the insurance industry, launched a national ad campaign that intentionally misleads seniors about the Medicare debate.”

In the email, Ryan charges that AARP receives money by endorsing certain insurance plans over others.

In turn, AARP says Ryan’s argument doesn’t make sense. If AARP was being influenced by money it receives from insurance companies, it would be backing Ryan’s budget, not opposing it. Ryan’s plan, if implemented, would shift tens of millions of Americans into the private market and, according to Ryan’s own “logic,” would benefit AARP’s “business interests.”

The Huffington Post notes that Ryan himself is the recipient of money from the insurance industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ryan’s Prosperity PAC received $83,000 in contributions from the insurance industry in the 2010 election cycle and the industry also donated over $234,000 to his 2010 reelection campaign.

This attack comes on the heels of a vulgar gesture and comments toward AARP and its lobbyists made last Friday by Deficit Commission co-chairman Alan Simpson at an event hosted by the Investment Company Institute.

As the Huffington Post article points out, Simpson has been the darling of financial and investment interests because of his acidic views on Social Security and other so-called entitlement programs. They support his views (and obviously his attitude) toward these programs because privatizing them would increase their profits.

ICI represents mutual funds and other money managers who control over $13 trillion in assets.

After an extended rant about how Social Security is nothing more than a “Ponzi” scheme and “not a retirement program” he made an obscene gesture toward AARP lobbyists in the gathering saying, “Are these people patriots or marketers? They’re 1.5 percent of every mailing in the United States. One-and-a-half percent! Gah! Jeez!”

(On hearing former senator Simpson’s tirade against Social Security, Medicare, and the like, one can’t help but wonder if the cartoon character of Homer Simpson’s befuddled father isn’t patterned after him.)

Mary Liz Burns, an AARP spokesperson, responded by Mr. Simpson’s inappropriate behavior by saying, “For over 50 years, AARP has been fighting to protect the hard-earned benefits that Social Security and Medicare provide for millions of Americans today, and we will continue our work to strengthen these critical programs for our children and grandchildren.”

If you would like to contact your senator and express your views on the Paul Ryan email, his budget plan, or Mr. Simpson’s shenanigans, please click here.


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