The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has become a powerhouse in American Politics since its founding in 1958. By extending its lobbyists and its social programs and services far and wide, the AARP affects all age groups, not just the aging baby boomer generation.
Among the AARP’s largest interests are Social Security and Medicare because of the size of these programs and their direct affect of seniors across the nation. In 2012, when congress was debating budget cuts to avoid the fiscal cliff, the Washington Post reported that the AARP lobbied against raising the age of Medicare from 65 to 67 and against changes that would limit Medigap coverage and force seniors to pay more in copays. At the time, AARP launched “You’ve Earned a Say” as an educational campaign informing citizens of the proposed cuts, as reported by Money. The AARP has also lobbied against the privatization of Medicare and Social Security.
Yet many Americans under 50 may be unaware of AARP’s behemoth influence.
Frederick Lynch, author of “One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security, and America’s Future” (June 2011) calls the organization the “900-pound invisible gorilla in the room.”
“They have a lot of clout but they love to stay out of the spotlight,” Lynch said. “All they have to do is whisper because they have a grassroots organization that can be activated at a moment’s notice.”
AARP’s impact is easy to see for those who look. The AARP weighed in on Obamacare with an amicus brief, as reported by Forbes. On the AARP website the organization reports on its progress with the CARE Act in Hawaii. Journal Star published AARP’s letter expressing their “dismay” at Nebraska’s failure to pass the Wellness in Nebraska Act, proving that the AARP’s opinion matters even when their lobbying fails.
No political event or comment is too small for the AARP. In 2013, the AARP released an official statement when controversy developed over one candidate called the other “grandpa” [Video].
The AARP also keeps itself influential by offering many services to the elderly, including free tax filing, safe driving classes, and Complete Streets. Recently, they launched a new travel website and rightly praised themselves as women’s advocates for Women’s History Month.
If that’s not proof enough of the AARP’s relevance, consider that First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated turning 50 by tweeting a photo of her AARP membership card. AARP Magazine does interviews with celebrities like Susan Sarandon. The organization even weighs in on movies like “Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit” and has hosted the annual Movies for Grownups Awards for the last 13 years.
With such a detailed level of involvement, its no wonder that the AARP boasts 38 million members and a $1.8 billion operating budget. Anyone who has ever paid a social security tax out of their wages has reason to keep themselves abreast of the AARP’s activities.