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By Frank Kaiser
Arguably half the $186 million Bush spent getting elected in 2000 was used to promise us seniors an effective Medicare drug benefit.

Of course, Bush's first act in office was to pass the massive $1.35 trillion tax cut which he knew would bleed dry funds for a drug benefit — or any benefit that didn't benefit the wealthy.

Bush's "comprehensive" drug plan has morphed into a hollow, legally questionable discount drug card, Bush's way of topping Reagan's catsup as vegetable.

Today, as the issue takes on new urgency, Bush fiddles while drug prices soar.

What really gets my gut rumbling are the e-mails, letters, and calls I get from readers, seniors unable to afford vital medicines. So many of the 14 million Medicare recipients without any drug coverage struggle each month to pay for both food and medicine.

This is nothing less than political criminal negligence.

How many unnecessary American deaths result? Ten thousand? One hundred thousand? Probably more. Plus immeasurable suffering and misery.

Thing is, Bush & Friends are only doing what we knew they'd do.

The real culprit here is AARP.

$Billion Budget. $0 to Battle for Seniors.

This organization, to which 39 million of us seniors belong, has done little to help push real Medicare reform. Oh, they talk a lot. Just the other day, John Rother, AARP's head policy honcho, claimed "We are doing our part on a grass roots level to keep the cost of prescription drugs down."


By budgeting $10 million to convince Medicare clients — you and me — to ignore drug ads on TV.


If AARP had lent its considerable weight exposing Harry and Louise for pandering and lying, we wouldn't today have 48-million uninsured, and I wouldn't be receiving tearful letters from desperate seniors. [I've later learned that it was none other than current AARP CEO, Bill Novelli, whose firm, Porter Novelli wrote and produced those Harry and Louise commercials! Frank]

AARP's has 10 times the members of the National Rifle Association. Yet the NRA is thousands of times more effective for its members. Do you think the NRA would have allowed Harry and Louise to ban assault weapons?

While the NRA gets everything it wants at every level of government, our wimpy AARP asks for and gets nothing.

Hey, AARP! Demand decent drug coverage for your members. (Eight in ten Americans 45+ consider it "very important.") Activate our massive voting block. Spend some of our dues money lobbying.

Do you think Congress will say anything but, "Yes, Sir! How high, Sir!"?

Why won't you help us?

The usual suspects, greed and fear.

If Only Our AARP Acted More Like the NRA

According to BusinessWeek (3/14/2005) at least $379 million of that billion dollar income comes from the sale of insurance and other financial services to members. (AARP advertises health insurance on Suddenly Senior's Web site.) That's the greed part.

How can we expect AARP to vigorously represent us in issues like prescription drug coverage with such a glaring conflict of interest? Even the $10 million of our membership dollars it spends to convince us to use generic drugs will no doubt have a positive impact on their insurance bottom line.

The fear part? Since AARP lowered the age of membership to 50, it has been attracting members that are more conservative. AARP fears antagonizing the poor things.

Can you imagine the NRA worrying about antagonizing anyone?

If only AARP would represent seniors as well as the NRA represents gun owners. Instead, we get discounted motel rooms.

To be fair, AARP's executive director and CEO, William D. Novelli, says an affordable and meaningful prescription drug benefit is the organization's top priority.

We've heard that before.

If he's really serious, Novelli will ask Congress and the President to freeze those portions of last year's trillion-dollar tax cut that go to the very richest of us, raising $665 billion. Additional billions would come from aggressive cost-containment measures.

And, if money is needed — a good Medicare drug benefit will run about $800 billion for 10 years — grab some of the $125+ billion that's doled out in legalized federal rip-offs for corporate welfare every year.

That alone would more than pay for the drug benefit. And might just save democracy by taking legalized bribery out of politics.

Think about it!

Get a generous drug benefit?

Help save democracy?

AARP is a sleeping giant that, with 35 million members and tons of revenue behind it, can accomplish just about anything.

All it needs is the balls to do it.

© 2005 — Frank Kaiser

    AARP Alternatives to Investigate

The Alliance for Retired Americans is an advocacy organization, NOT am insurance company. Dues are 10.00 per year, includes spouse, www.retiredamericans.org

FOR FLORIDA www.flara.org Tony Fransetta, 12773 W Forest Hill Blvd, Suite 1213, Wellington FL 33414. 561-792-8799

Another alternative to AARP is the
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. 10 G Street, Suite 600 Washington, D.C. 20002-4317 1800 966 1935
$10 annual. National. About 5 million members.

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