Friday, June 17, 2011

The Betty White Method of Raising the Retirement Age

Think raising the retirement age to 68 or 70 is unfair?  Well, just get over it.  After all, Betty White is 89 years young and still working, so what the hell is wrong with you, ya buncha wusses!  She wants all those working 50-somethings out there to join the American Association of Retired Persons because you're still eligible even though you are not yet retired. And look at Betty. She is starring in a new AARP commercial proving that 89 is the new 62, She will never retire, and neither should you. The AARP's name has been rendered absolutely meaningless.  Retirement is so yesterday, after all.

The Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link -- they have a paywall) ran a story today claiming that AARP is now open to the idea of raising the retirement age in order to "save" Social Security -- something it had vowed to fight against.  But this lobby, which has become more of a broker for Medicare supplement insurance plans than a real public interest advocate for seniors, is walking back this report in a hurry.  It looks like it may have been one of those coordinated trial balloon leaks to gauge wind direction. AARP is acting very confused about exactly what its position is, and seems to want to have it both ways.

While telling CNN today that that there was some "miscommunication" with the Wall Street Journal, AARP legislative policy director David Certner  acknowledged that AARP believes that Social Security needs to be changed.

"Everybody knows we need to look at a package of different changes to Social Security to make it strong for the long term," he said. "The reality is, we have more people older and who are living longer, so we need to make changes. Everybody recognizes that. And we're certainly willing to talk about a package of changes that will keep Social Security strong."

Even though raising the retirement age does constitute a benefits cut, the 37 million-member lobbying powerhouse launched a national ad campaign Thursday warning members of Congress not to reduce benefits for recipients of Social Security and Medicare.  Raise the retirement age without raising the retirement age -- Paul Ryan must be loving this. It's doubletalking doublethink after his own heart. I betcha he'll apply for a special waiver to join AARP before he's 50.  I betcha AARP will also rope in the Millennials with a special introductory offer to give them a headstart on shopping for voucher plans of the future.  Medicare Part F for Failure, they might call it.

Meanwhile, a grassroots campaign is taking shape urging people to just cut up their AARP cards and demand a refund of their membership fees. Eric Kingson, a former advisor to President Obama on Social Security, is going to burn his.  From his Firedoglake post today:

And so, sadly and with respect for many good people associated with AARP, I have decided to make the supreme sacrifice and “burn my AARP card” and recommend that others consider doing so as well. No more AARP discounts, free Magazines with Katie Couric, Sally Field, Michael Fox, Goldie Hawn, Condoleezza Rice, Robin Williams, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford and others emblazoned each month on its cover– all fine people but hardly typical of the nation’s very diverse population of boomers and elders. Oh well.
Fortunately, there are a couple of organizations out there — the Alliance for Retired Americans and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare — which maintain an advocacy focus more supportive of the protections provided by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. For those also inclined to “tune out and drop out” of AARP, maybe its time for us through our various networks, blogs and organizational involvements to encourage others to do so as well. And, with AARP being so wavering in its support of elders, hopefully, two outstanding organizations — the Alliance for Retired Americans ( and the National Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare ( ) — will find opportunity to further build their already substantial memberships and with it to become even stronger advocates for today’s and tomorrow’s older Americans.

And don't forget Betty White, the new face of the AARP. If you want to figure out what will truly happen to older people once Social Security and Medicare get "fixed," here's the real picture:


mike vogel said...

If you've seen the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", you know what has happened to AARP. It might have the same name, logo, look, etc, but it has been fully co-opted by the insurance companies.

Everyone I know of who has turned 65 is flooded with mailings from the private insurance companies trying to get them to sign on to Medicare Advantage (really disadvantage), and the envelopes come with a huge, deceptive "AARP" stamp on it. Hey, if they support it, it must be kosher, right? Wrong!

The two alternative advocacy groups for seniors should use this opportunity to get out there and tell our senior Americans they are being betrayed by their advocacy organization. Only real competition will get the "new AARP" to recall who it is they are supposed to represent.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

The truth is, many people could and would willingly work until seventy - IF ANYONE WOULD GIVE THEM A JOB!

Isn’t that the REAL problem? The only reason Betty can work until 89 is someone in Hollywood has offered her the work! Where are all the other Hollywood actresses and actors of her generation? I don't see them being offered great or even small acting parts. I think Betty White is a great example of what happens to people who get old - the world only wants ONE or TWO for show and the rest are left to live off their savings and Social Security.

I know people in their late forties and fifties who can't get anyone to give them a job. One of my best friends was laid off at 58 - She was doing a great job and brought in more money for the company than any other salesperson. For no reason other than she was due a $60,000 bonus - the company downsized her the month before the contract she had worked to secure for-a –year-and-a-half was signed. NO BONUS - NO JOB. She didn’t have the money to take them to court and even if she did they have lawyers on retainer who could drag the thing out until she ran out of money. So my bright and intelligent friend just decided her best bet was to go looking for another job. She has applied for every job she could possibly find - even applied for Teach for America. The only work she has had in four years was a short stint with the Census Bureau. She is now selling her modest home in order to get enough money to live off of until she reaches 65 - Same with a friend who was an economist with a Master's degree who worked for Starbucks. Laid off at 56 couldn't get work anywhere and he had a heart condition so he was really screwed.

Age discrimination was addressed in the NYT and the comments were heart breaking. Person after person wrote in with a story of being laid off in their 50’s or early 60’s and not being able to find work. They were scared and discouraged and hanging on, taking any bit of piecemeal work they could get, until they qualified for SS and MC. One guy, who worked for HR in a big company, wrote in sadly said it was FAR WORSE than even the commenters realised.

Until we address the lack of jobs in America and especially the age discrimination, we absolutely should NOT consider raising the age of retirement in this country.

Janet Camp said...

Ha! I never joined AARP! I found out the CEO was a republican and I "just said NO". If I want to look at their little rag, I go to the library. I'm not really interested in picky little discounts on this and that--it all amounts to a lot of targeted advertising I can live without.

VLT is totally correct. I too, know many over 50's who are doing very menial, part time work with Master's Degrees in relevant fields. They've mortgaged their homes to the hilt and now are desperately trying to keep up the payments. They didn't take second and third mortgages for cars or vacations, but to pay their taxes and buy tickets to their parents' funerals. It's very sad. Some of them had to volunteer a LOT before they were hired and then it was only temporary "depending on funding". Another had to be "on-call" and drive 50 miles each way at a moment's notice for two years before getting on--part time! One of the women, who is 64, signed on to clean houses for barely over minimum wage.
None of these jobs has any benefits and if they did, the people would never have been hired since their health insurance premiums would be prohibitive for almost any employer. They are all taking SS at 62, and continuing to work the maximum hours they can without losing their SS. They spent their savings and 401k's long ago when they naively thought that they would land a job and be able to rebuild their savings.

My friends are ordinary people who have worked hard, spent a lot on furthering their educations to remain employable. They never dreamed they would face discrimination of this kind. It has crushed them and their spirits. Some have sold their homes and are living a much diminished lifestyle.

Guess wha?--I'm one of my friends. Luckily, I have a spouse--one with no pension and who just had his health insurance dropped. He works hard, physical work which he has always loved, but he cannot do this work until he is 70.

What really galls me is the same thing as with health care. The people proposing this crap have lifetime pensions and healthcare guaranteed!

So, burn those cards if you have 'em. And let's all start looking for some eager lawyer to look at a class-action airtight age discrimination case. It's one of the most difficult things to prove, but there must be something we can do as a group.

4Runner said...

Folks, forget AARP. Instead, join BURP (Billionaires United in Rampant Profiteering). It's much less taxing!!

Anne Lavoie said...

There is simply too much money to be made by the private sector from any or all parts of the public sector they can get their hands on.

The cabal of the wealthy pay for the Presidential campaigns, they own or are huge advertisers for the national media, and as long as Obama can fool the naive and trusting folks that he is looking out for their interests, the fix is in for Privatization. The handwriting is on the wall, but as they say 'There are none so blind as those who will not see.'

AARP is probably already formulating its menu of annuities or whatever they propose as a private option to Social Security. Since Obama is always looking out for the rich and powerful cabal which he euphemistically calls 'The Economy', he will hand that one to them before any negotiations start. I think we know his game by now. He has to do it for The Economy.

There is likely to be a two-tiered system for awhile as they transition to complete elimination of Social Security. Same with Medicare, existing alongside Obama's privatization scheme (Obamacare) before it too is folded in.

Those payroll tax cuts that Obama gifted to The Economy sure is helping the Social Security situation. Good thing he gave those up without any concession from the other side. It really is helping sell the solvency of Social Security. Not. And I hear they are discussing more payroll tax cuts in the current budget talks. That should help The Economy even more.

Jobs? I guess those don't help The Economy. The Economy can get its work done cheaper elsewhere without paying for benefits or something. And think of all those seniors who have to work until they are 80 or so. They'll work for cat food. Sounds like a good Capitalist scheme to me.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Karen mentioned the real power behind the throne of the AARP, and Mike expanded on it nicely above. Allow me to pile on. The AARP is an arm of Big Insurance. ¡Final de la historia!

The AARP Board eases the organization this way and that way, like a creaking ship, to the confusion of the members and naive bystanders, but always back to the harbor of Big Insurance. There were reports about these shenanigans a dozen years ago, naming names of the insurance companies steering the organization.

Follow the money, to coin a phrase. Sad that so many seniors still don't realize they've been had by the board of their own advocacy group. Good to hear there's a movement afoot to tear up AARP membership cards and walk.

In addition to the alternative senior groups mentioned above, see also the Gray Panthers, a collection of growling progressives if ever there was one. With apologies to Wikipedia, here's what the Gray Panthers stand for. Compare & contrast with the AARP.

Wiki: "The organization [Gray Panthers] supports a single-payer system of health-care, as well as an increase in welfare payments, supporting peace activity, life-long public education, the rights of workers, reproductive rights, abolition of the death penalty, legalization of same-sex marriage, the legalization of medical marijuana, and environmental activities through advocacy, education and action."

My kinda cats!

Anonymous said...

Always thought there was something funny about separating people out by chronological age, so I never did join AARP.

I'm 69, widowed, worked for many years, now jobless because of losing funding at the nonprofit I worked for. Trying to make it on my SS (just covers the rent) and UI, which will be running out soon. I paid all my working life for SS and Medicare.

And yes, yes, yes, there is employment discrimination!!


VLT said...

Update on my friend.

She just wrote to me that she sold her house, for far less than she had hoped. She has also sold all the furniture to save on moving costs. She is putting a brave front about not being tied down by material goods - but it seems to me that someone who is 62 or 63 who has worked and paid taxes her entire adult life should have a modest home, few familiar possessions and a modest retirement income to show it. My friend was a first class English teacher, truly one of the very best educators I ever knew. Her contribution to society was big. And look what has happened to her! This isn’t her own doing! She did nothing to deserve this! She played completely by the rules. This is all SO WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

All those older Americans who have traditionally voted Republican had better wake up and see what is in store for them. My heart breaks for my dear friend and the many Americans in the same boat. Margie and Janet – you are so right.

Karen Garcia said...

Many of us are in the same boat, some leaking worse than others, but still leaking. I am just grateful I was able to sell my home at a modest profit four years ago, just before the housing meltdown, and become a renter. So many people are simply losing their homes outright, due to medical bankruptcy, job loss, any number of reasons.

I am totally in agreement now with those who will not be voting for Jay's TLOTE. The Obamabots at Netroots Nation are using that as a campaign selling point, seriously -- that he is the lesser of two evils. Having just read the two Times articles -- one on his disregard of advice from his own DOJ on the Libyan love fest that is not war, and the other on the trumped-up espionage charges being brought against govt workers, I will keep speaking out for a third party candidate or primary challenger. That does not mean I am "for" the Republicans, either -- that particular argument is no longer tenable. Choosing between two evils is no choice at all.

Anonymous said...

That is strange. I always knew that AARP was primarily selling insurance to retirees and in the past supported the Democrats. That is why I never joined. Now I find out they are really shills for the Republicans! Well I still won't join. Kaiser Healthcare is the best value for healthcare insurance if they offer it in your area and they sell direct.


Anonymous said...


I am sure you know that Jerry Brown vetoed the budget bill the California legislature ginned up and sent to him. Gov. Jerry cut a deal with the two or possibly three Republicans left in Sacramento to support a cap on spending and limit retirement benefits in exchange for Republican support in continuing a temporary tax increase for an additional five years. The Dems didn't like the deal so they passed their own budget with illegal tax increases.

Governor Jerry is done in California but has always wanted to be President. He is also one of the best diviners of public sentiment ever.
Do you think it's even possible that he is setting himself up to be the fiscally responsible Liberal capable of working with The Evil Republicans, just in case the need arises?

Just dreaming


Neil Gillespie said...

Thanks all for the great comments. I agree AARP has become an insurance and marketing agency. And the celebrities on the cover of the AARP magazine don’t resemble any of the senior citizens I know. It is nice that Betty White can earn actor’s wages at her age, but that is the exception. More and more seniors will face lives of diminished returns and destitution. Thanks Karen, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Yes, AARP has pushed me over the edge. I am done with the propaganda that comes from that insurance driven organization.

Keep up the good writing Karen!!! Love your blog.

-- From-the-Heartland

Anonymous said...

Except - we might not be living longer:

Dying Is In Vogue: Americans' Life Expectancies Dropping

BTW, your comment in the NYTimes was spot on and brought me here. Consider yourself bookmarked and forwarded! Thanks

mac gordon said...

I read your blog just after I'd started to read Susan Jacoby's excellent book, "Never Say Die - The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age".
She espouses the notion that, in the US, we focus on the 'exception' eg. Betty White, as the 'typical' old age person, and ignore the realities of getting old. Increasingly fraility, and dependence, a diminished income, and social isolation.
AARP certainly appears to support that halcyon view.
Raising the retirement age will be a nightmare for many, if not most people.
I was trained as a Clinical Social Worker, but spent many years in the restaurant business. I could not possibly conceive of continuing that kind of brutal, physically enervating work.
And, even as a professional, the thought of being forced to work until close to 70 is daunting.
As I watch what's happening in America, I'm reminded of the 1980's surrealistic movie, "Brazil". The movie depicted utopian billboards, masking the dreadful reality of the poverty stricken masses.
I fear we are rapidly approaching such an age.

Bob said...

I came across your blog after reading your astute response to Joe Nocera's column on the Glass-Steagall act in the NY Times. You've convinced me not to join AARP, and I will look into the others you've recommended. I completely support your lack of a link to the WS Journal -- you could also add that there is no link simply because WSJ is owned by Murdoch. I never click on any link if it goes to something he owns, nor do I ever watch any Fox channel, including his entertainment channel. His destructive organization should not receive a dime from anyone who cares about truth and justice. Anyway, I look forward to following this blog.

VLT said...

My mom and dad have been paying for supplemental Medicare insurance for several years. When I was last at their house, I called on behalf of my mom to see if the insurance covered any home care for my dad who suffered from Alzheimer’s. My call was routed to a call centre in a foreign country. Not only did the person have an accent (which would have made it difficult for an older person with any hearing problem to understand over the phone), she was clearly reading off a script on a computer screen. I had done my homework and read all the paperwork ahead of time that was sent to my parents when they signed up - with truthfully wasn't very much. So I assumed that the person I called for "help" and "more information" would know more than me. Either these people (because I called several times) are instructed to never admit they don't know the answer to a question or it is a cultural thing. But the people I spoke with kept me going in circles for about an hour each call. When I finally had had enough and demanded to speak to a supervisor, the supervisor didn't know anything either. After that, there was no one I could speak to about the call centre supervisor so I was left to make the assumption that the insurance didn’t cover home care.

All I could think of, as my frustration grew and my questions were not being addressed, was how would an older person without my energy and mental acuity take on people like this to advocate for him or herself? They couldn't. I knew the call centre people were talking around my questions, so I kept bringing them back, but people who are easily confused because they doubt their hearing or they simply are getting older would have given up. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe that wasn’t the point.

I was outraged that a government agency would make use of a foreign call centre - and then I realised, that it wasn't a government agency. It was a for-profit insurance company and I believe it was the Medicare Advantage insurance being pushed by the AARP.

Some advocate for the elderly!

VLT said...


I am just wondering your age and how long you have been with Kaisar. Do you know if there is a cut-off age to sign on? Do you know where its funding comes from? Is it a non-profit?

I am as curious as you are (If it is as good as you say.) as to why the model wouldn't be duplicated if it is so successful.

Anonymous said...

Sorry this is off topic but it is pretty chilling. It's the Republican pledge they are seeking from their candidate.

I PLEDGE that I will only support candidates for President who are committed to protecting Life. I demand that any candidate I support commit to these positions: FIRST, to nominate to the U.S. federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench;

SECOND, to select only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health & Human Services;

THIRD, to advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions;

FOURTH, advance and sign into law a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.


Marie Burns said...

The worst victims of raising the retirement age are people who have "real" jobs; i.e., their jobs involve physical labor of some kind. Betty White may be in her ninth decade, but she has stunt doubles do the physical stuff. (If you think that was White getting sacked in that Snickers ad, I've got a football team I'd like to sell you.) Firemen, construction workers, janitors, assembly-line workers, check-out clerks (try standing one place for 8 hours) do not.

I hope unions, such as they are today, will come out in full force against this widespread movement to raise the Social Security eligibility age.

The Constant Weader

VLT said...

Marie is right. My forty eight year old brother is an auto mechanic. The last time I saw him he looked like an old man. He has two torn rotator cuffs and the pain of doing that kind of manual labour has aged him far beyond his biological years. I can't imagine my brother working that hard for another twenty or so years. His heart mignt be willing, but his body won't take it. I'm wondering how he will last until sixty-two, let alone seventy.

In response to Ned's comment. Why don't WE have a pledge we make our politicians sign? How is it that a bunch of irrational ninnies can demand things from their politicians and get them and we can't? There is something VERY wrong with this picture.

Tommy Bones said...

I don't think AARP has ever been anything but a shill for the insurance industry anyway. I joined AARP 10 years ago when I turned 55. The only change I noticed was a unbelievable flood of sales pitches for insurance and travel which I couldn't afford. This flood didn't abate until I let my "membership" expire a year later. So now we have AARP officially abandoning the elderly just like the Democratic Party abandoned the working class 30 or so years ago.

Anonymous said...

And then there's my mother, a really excellent teacher (so good they transferred most of the problem children into her classes), who wanted to continue teaching, but had to retire at 67 due to...losing her hearing and the hearing aids just didn't work well enough for her to attend to all that was going on in the classroom.

Then there's me, who was downsized from a large borg and...couldn't get a job in my fields. Then came cancer, treated and I tried again. Then I was not only older, but, obviously, a cancer survivor and could possibly have to be treated again. So, too old, too potentially expensive.

Too bad Obama didn't go with Medicare for All, Expanded and Improved. It would have helped with the high costs of health care and would have helped both businesses and workers. would not have helped the coffers of for-profit private health insurance companies.

I know, I know--he had to weigh the good of the many against the good of the few, including politicians who really need those big corporations to give them big donations....

And, oh, I just made it to Medicare age -- and bought AARP's supplemental because it was the best package for me in my area. And I had to join -- now I wish I'd chosen some other package.

Or that we had Medicare Expanded and Improved For ALL.

Anonymous said...


I am not with Kaiser, it is one of the choices our Union offers. I worked for Kaiser back in the early '70s and was not impressed, I worked for Kaiser in the late '70s and could see a lot of improvement. Both times I worked as a contractor. Kaiser as all HMOs of which Kaiser is the largest with almost 9 million participants do better with children and health maintenance than they do with acute care. That said Kaiser is the best choice if it's all you can afford. I am the same age as Marie, kaiser accepts those over 65. Here is a link.

mac gordon said...

Just to add another comment about Kaiser. I had a policy with them for several years, and was well satisfied in my dealings with them.
However, they suddenly announced they were 'no longer doing business with the state'.
Leaving policy holders very much at a loss.
Needless to say, I wasn't impressed.

DreamsAmelia said...

And to realize these heartbreaking comments are the horror stories of our current para-retirees even PRIOR to the dismantling of Social Security and Medicare!

Marie--add NURSES to your crucial list of frontline workers who can't afford to retire after age 65, since the "industry standard" is 12-hour shifts-- routinely without a second to sit, eat, or use the bathroom, in truly frantic mode the whole time.

Karen, just want to add more thanks for Bloombergville post (but few comments there, so adding here)-- a New York Times reader responded to my comment on Greek bailouts, I sent him your link, and he went to Bloombergville--

He (Christophe) writes about his experience and how great the group is on his blog-- be sure to scroll down far enough to
"Updates--June 19,2011--PROTEST !!!"

His blog is:

It is just beyond sad to read about the English teacher liquidating her assets to survive in retirement. My English teachers, every one of them, remain the everlasting heroines of my life. Every red ink correction on every paper I ever wrote was a mark of love, teaching me to think, re-think, re-phrase, and KEEP WRITING no matter WHAT happens in life!!! If you have no money, no home, and are dumpster-diving for food, writing may truly be the last thread to sanity and partial community you have.

We forget that so many many many millions of "hoboes" rode the rails in the Great Depression before effective protest was mustered-- and even then it took 3 terms, or 12 years, to assemble all the New Deal programs that finally brought some tangible relief to dire poverty and Grapes of Wrath levels of starvation. We should not have to submit to such levels of desperation again before we at last reinstate a government that works for all of us, not just the rich.

VLT said...

Too bad Paul Ryan isn't passing copies of the Grapes of Wrath instead of Ayn Rand. Two of the big things I noticed missing in "No Child Left Behind" (AKA No Teacher Left Standing)is the lack of attention (testing) given to great literature and history. Someone once wrote - and I am sorry I don't have the quote - (S)He reads because he has only one life to live. Through literature, (s)he can walk in someone else's shoes and see the world through someone else's eyes. All that compassion and outrage at injustice that is engendered from reading great literature is lost on so many young people.

As for history, I am quite sure THAT was intentional. We can't have people pulling facts out of history to counter arguments for endless wars and the Patriot Act. "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I am pretty sure that IS a quote.

VLT said...

I meant lost TO so many young people - it isn't lost on them because they aren't getting the opportunity to read great books like The Jungle and Lord of the Flies and to debate issues of injustice and poverty.

I taught primary school for over twenty years and if there is one thing that offends all children it is unfairness. Even the most selfish, spoiled child in my class would occasionally be moved by something he or she was reading and comment, "Why is he so mean?" "That is just plain wrong!" "That is cheating!" Young people gained a great deal from learning about history and reading those classics. And much of that translated into becoming responsible citizens.

I was at a luncheon yesterday and an Australian woman spoke of her son who had a good job in L.A. He told his mother he was horrified by the callous attitude so many of his colleagues had about the elderly, the unemployed and the uninsured. He just assumed decent people could all agree that a society has some obligation to help its weakest members. When did narcissism become such a socially acceptable quality?