To the editor:
Robert J. Samuelson’s Feb. 20 commentary, which suggested that the AARP "rules America," was almost laughable. However, we take the assertion that older Americans don’t care about the future of this country quite seriously — because it’s simply not true.
In fact, in a just-released poll of Nevadans age 50 and over, the state service they feel is most important to protect is K-12 education, with 78 percent valuing education over home and community services that allow older people to age in place (71 percent) or public safety (70 percent).
Does that sound like a group that doesn’t care about the future of this country?
Our national polls, focus groups and conversations with our members and the 50-plus public repeatedly demonstrate that they care about their children and grandchildren. It’s for this reason they are concerned about the federal and state budget deficits.
But the notion that Social Security, which hasn’t contributed one dime to the federal deficit, has to be cut in order to control government spending, is an absolute fantasy.
This safety net program lifts many older Americans out of poverty — and provides those who have lost much of their 401(k) value to the recession with the assurance that they will have some baseline retirement security to rely upon.
In truth, Medicare does have a high price tag associated with the benefit. However, that has more to do with runaway inflation of health care costs than the number of senior adults relying on Medicare for basic health services. Until we figure out ways to contain those costs, all medical care in the United States will be provided at a high premium.
We’re talking about the health and financial security of ordinary older Americans here. We’re not speaking of the very wealthy, who recently got tax cuts which could have been used to drive down the nation’s deficit spending. So it truly puzzles me when a columnist who covers these issues seems not to understand the depth of their importance for older Americans as well as future generations.
Our members have made clear that they want to leave their children and grandchildren a better world than the one they inherited. Making sure our country has a strong economy and fiscal health is an essential part of that goal.
If AARP truly ruled America, we would make sure any debate focused on the health and economic security of average Americans, and that our nation’s safety nets for our most vulnerable remain intact.
The writer is AARP Nevada state director.