Thus far all the action and commentary in the GOP primaries (and the eventual confrontation with Obama and the Democrats) has been about the Establishment’s choice of Mitt Romney versus the more middle and working class GOP members’ preference for a more “Up the Establishment” figure such as Ron Paul or the combative Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum has momentarily grabbed attention, but he likely will not last due to lack of resources and a “boots on the ground” organizational network.
What is going to be the real story by the end of the month is the dance nearly all the GOP candidates will have to do in Florida when its legions of retirees begin asking questions about recent threats to Social Security and Medicare. Nearly all the GOP presidential candidates have endorsed some sort of voucher or privatization system for Medicare ( a la Congressman Paul Ryan’s successful legislation in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives). On Social Security, they profess worries but offer no answers. They’ve been able to largely duck these two time-bomb issues so far, but the long-term prospects for these programs will be very much on the minds of Florida voters and are sure to be articulated by members of the media no matter how hard the candidates try to dodge taking public or strong positions on reforming the two programs.
There are two other major political forces which may also have to respond to the questions raised about Medicare and Social Security beginning with the Florida primaries: Barack Obama and AARP. As former Medicare Trustee and policy expert Marilyn Moon recently observed, Obama was quick to put on the bargaining table moderate to major compromises during the autumn budget dispute battle with the Congress. Obama is a cool pragmatist and an opportunist and I would not be surprised to see him offer major compromises after the elections. Indeed, as I noted in my New York Times Op Ed last summer, he offered these compromises within a week or two of major Wall Street Journal stories on AARP’s apparent willingness to consider reforms in the two major programs. AARP has remained steadfast in its opposition to consider changes to Medicare or Social Security within the zero-sum framework of the wider debate over the national budget deficit. Nevertheless, AARP sent out several new emails to its grassroots members (of whom I am one) including a survey form asking “how soon do you think we need to make changes to Social Security?” and “Do you favor or oppose raising the Social Security beneficiary age to 70?” Clearly, the giant organization is trying to gain a genuine sense of how its members feel, but is also likely warming up for what its leaders feel will be inevitable compromises–as I argued in my book ONE NATION UNDER AARP.
Brief BioFrederick R. Lynch is Associate Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College. His newest book is One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security and America’s Future (University of California Press, 2011). His previous books include The Diversity Machine (Transaction Paperbacks, 2001) and Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action (Praeger Paperbacks, 1991). He is the author of dozens of articles and book chapters ranging from “Social Theory and the Progressive Era, Theory and Society (1977) to a 2011 chapter on “Politics of Aging Boomers” in Robert Hudson’s new edition of The New Politics of Old Age Policy. A frequent panelist at professional academic conferences, he has been profiled and interviewed by most major newspapers, television networks National Public Radio, etc. Lynch received in B.A. in Sociology at the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside. His popular CMC courses include: “Inequality, Politics and Public Policy,” (Gov 113), “Organization of Health Care and Public Policy” (Gov 105) and “Juvenile Delinquency and Public Policy” (Gov 109).
One Nation Under AARP
The Diversity MachineNow available at Amazon.com
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Articles and Interviews
Op-Ed Contributor NYTimes: How AARP Can Get Its Groove Back
Examiner.com: Will the real AARP please stand up
High-Stakes Battles Target Social Security, Medicare
Written by: Mark Miller
New book looks at the organization's role in future inter-generational warfare as budget resources shrink.
Will the deficit battle put old against young?
One Nation under AARP- Youtube Clip