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One Nation under AARP

One Nation under AARP: The Fight over Medicare, Social Security, and America's Future

Frederick R. Lynch
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    One Nation under AARP
    Book Description:

    This book provides a fresh and even-handed account of the newly modernized AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)-the 40-million member insurance giant and political lobby that continues to set the national agenda for Medicare and Social Security. Frederick R. Lynch addresses AARP's courtship of 78 million aging baby boomers and the possibility of harnessing what may be the largest ever senior voting bloc to defend threatened cutbacks to Social Security, Medicare, and under-funded pension systems. Based on years of research, interviews with key strategists, and analyses of hundreds documents,One Nation under AARPprofiles a largely white generation, raised in the relatively tranquil 1950s and growing old in a twenty-first century nation buffeted by rapid economic, cultural, and demographic change. Lynch argues that an ideologically divided boomer generation must decide whether to resist entitlement reductions through its own political mobilization or, by default, to empower AARP as it tries to shed its "greedy geezer" stereotype with an increasingly post-boomer agenda for multigenerational equity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94890-7
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Not Going Quietly
    (pp. 1-18)

    On an October Friday night in 2006, the rock band “Splash!”—whose members were in their twenties and thirties—loudly belted out hits of the 1960s and 1970s. Most of the four hundred or so people listening and dancing to the music were in their fifties and early sixties—aging baby boomers who did not necessarily think of themselves or their music as “golden oldies.” Yet this musical happening at California’s Anaheim Convention Center was hosted by AARP, part of a three-day “Life @ 50+” megaconference that drew twenty-five thousand registered attendees.

    The Anaheim megaconference would be one of the...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Boomer Basics: Generation, Culture, Demographics
    (pp. 19-43)

    In the pre-2008 glow of prosperity and optimism, the buzz at the 2007 Fourth Annual “What’s Next? Boomer Business Summit” in Chicago was that business and corporate America were finally rediscovering the vast baby boomer market. Advertisers and marketers once studied and catered to the huge numbers of baby boomer children and adolescents. Corporate America’s first generational mass marketing effort in the 1950s had given the boomers much of their identity and culture via television and rock music. But as middle-aged boomers became so much more diverse in economic status and lifestyles, interest in generationfocused research waned. No more.


  6. CHAPTER TWO Old Age in a New Society
    (pp. 44-69)

    The remarkably similar analyses above describe two wrenching transitions in American society in two different centuries. In his 1950 classicWhite Collar,the sociologist C. Wright Mills described the transformation from a nineteenth-century America of small business, small towns, and small farms into a twentieth-century, urbanized industrial nationstate with a large new immigrant populations and an increasing international trade and military presence.¹ And at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the policy analyst Robert Reich inSupercapitalismportrayed the nation’s current passage from an industrial nation state into a society where global “supercapitalism” maximizes consumer and investor choice while eroding...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Boomers’ Senior Power Potential: From Social Protest to Self-Preservation
    (pp. 70-94)

    In February 2007, a key Republican political tactician, whom I shall call “the Strategist,” told me he had given little or no thought to aging baby boomers as a political force. Age-based voting was not an especially important factor on Republicans’ political radar screen—nor were Democratic strategists considering aging boomers’ political potential.

    “We look at the data,” the Strategist told me. “By numbers, boomers are the ‘pig in the python.’ But that’s about it. They’ve not been through a cohesive, transformational threat. On the political side, they’re a difficult group to categorize.” He paused and then added, “The one...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Crash Landing for a Self-Critical Generation
    (pp. 95-128)

    On September 29, 2008, the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange began ringing a full minute early. Scattered boos arose from the floor as exhausted traders were frantically executing a torrent of last-minute sell orders. Indeed, so great was the volume of “sell at close” orders from mutual funds that the final, frightening record one-day point loss of 777 off the Dow Jones Industrial Average didn’t fully register until several minutes after the official end of trading. The plunge was largely a reaction by professional stock traders to the failure of the House of Representatives to vote for...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Not Your Father’s AARP: Bill Novelli Builds a New Boomer Brand
    (pp. 129-165)

    Though the former New York advertising guru Bill Novelli would initiate substantial organizational and cultural change when he became AARP’s CEO in 2001, Novelli and other AARP spokespersons have always made sure to regularly, ritually invoke the fifty-year-old organizational mantra “What we do, we do for all.” The slogan was established in 1958 by the organization’s founder, a former California school principal, Ethel Percy Andrus (1884–1967), who was outraged by elderly Americans’ poor living conditions and lack of health insurance. Major speeches by AARP leaders usually contain at least one reverential reference to Andrus, a ritual especially obvious during...

  10. CHAPTER SIX AARP Turns Fifty: The Battle for Health Care Reform
    (pp. 166-191)

    Like many of the boomers whom it was courting, AARP itself turned fifty in 2008 and celebrated with an enhanced “Life @ 50+” celebration in Washington, D.C., just after Labor Day. The organization’s multigenerational outreach was heralded in the conference theme of “Generations Connecting to Change.” Throughout the giant Washington, D.C., Convention Center, Ethel Percy Andrus’s portraits, life story, and favorite slogans (“To serve, not be served”) were everywhere. The long-deceased female founder’s name was most frequently invoked during opening day welcoming speeches by AARP officials and by a company of actors portraying the history of AARP.

    This would be...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Me, We, or AARP?
    (pp. 192-210)

    Deep into the Great Recession summer of 2009, the career consultant Carleen MacKay noticed that boomers’ hallmark individualism and optimism were sources of frustration: these traits blocked recognition and understanding of major systemic, economic changes. Aging boomers attending her lectures or workshops retained a dogmatic faith that if they tweaked resumes and made cosmetic changes (losing weight, plastic surgery) their persistent individual eff orts would yield “one more job” (secure and full time) like the one they had before—in occupational sectors that were, in fact, rapidly shrinking. “They’re still looking for twentieth-century promises to be kept,” said MacKay.¹


  12. APPENDIX: METHODOLOGICAL ODYSSEY From Lonely Quest to a Bounty of Data
    (pp. 211-214)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 215-262)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 263-275)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 276-276)