AARP serves its bottom line, not Kentucky seniors

January 24, 2013 

The telecommunications market in Kentucky has never been more competitive, with wireless companies vigorously competing over the state's 3.7 million wireless subscribers.

A full third of Kentucky adults no longer even have landlines. Another third get their phone service from cable companies or other competitors to the local phone company. High-speed Internet subscriptions have quadrupled in the past five years.

In this context, the state legislature is considering reform legislation that would free up phone companies in fully competitive markets to invest more in broadband and wireless instead of being forced to maintain their antiquated local copper loops.

And this common-sense legislation is expected to be vigorously opposed by the AARP, as it has been in other states.

In 1999, the American Association of Retired Persons officially changed its name to AARP, which has since officially stood for nothing. Its principal concern appears to be not serving seniors, but selling products.

The most famous example of AARP selling out seniors to advance its own bottom line was in Washington during the health-care debate. Seniors hated President Barack Obama's health-care bill, because they rightly feared its steep cuts to Medicare with no meaningful cost containment mechanism other than denial-of-care.

Among emails released to the public, one from AARP lobbyist Nora Super to a White House staffer on July 23, 2009 said: "We really need to talk. Our calls against reform are coming in 14 to 1."

Yet a few months later, AARP was fully on board and officially supporting the very bill that was overwhelmingly opposed by its members.

Why? Why else? An investigative report from the House Ways and Means Committee found: "The Democrats' health care law, which AARP strongly endorsed, could result in a windfall for AARP that exceeds over $1 billion during the next 10 years."

AARP operates in the same self-serving way in Frankfort.

Last year, AARP opposed much-needed tort-reform legislation that would have required lawsuits to be reviewed by medical experts before proceeding against Kentucky's long-term care community.

Baseless lawsuits are driving major providers out of the state and increasing costs for seniors, but AARP sided with greedy personal injury lawyers. Perhaps because AARP partners with Allstate to run a lawyer-referral service and is compensated by listed attorneys.

This year, AARP is expected to lead the fight against common-sense telecommunications reform.

If AARP were a real seniors group, it would cheer the legislation because, according to its own estimates, more than 89 percent of people over the age of 50 already have wireless devices.

More investment and innovation could easily reach the remaining 11 percent.

But AARP is in the mobile-phone business through a partnership with a company called Consumer Cellular. It offers plans as low as $10 per month — and likely sees hampering its competitors with outdated regulations as a way to keep an edge.

This is America, and there's nothing wrong with trying to make money, even with lobbying for marketplace advantages — as long as it's clear that's what you're doing.

But pretending to be a seniors group while you do it is wrong. It might have stood for something once, but now AARP is just another special interest.

Phil Kerpen is the president of American Commitment, a nonprofit promoting conservative ideals, and is the author of Democracy Denied. Jim Martin, a Perry County native, is the chairman and founder of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative advocacy group.

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