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Demonizing AARP

Reported by Ellen - January 6, 2005

What interesting timing that FOX News should pick yesterday to attack AARP. What a wild coincidence that this should happen just as George Bush is getting ready to unveil the details of privatizing portions of Social Security, a scheme that AARP opposes.

You know right away that there's something suspicious about AARP from the title of the article on FOXNews.com and the accompanying video available on the web, AARP Rakes in Cash.

As the title promises, a large chunk of the article is devoted to describing the millions that AARP "rakes in" from royalties, its magazine, membership dues, investments and sales of insurance policies and prescription drugs.

A few paragraphs in, FOX moves in for the attack. "AARP's newest crusade... calls for a stop to the president's push for allowing young workers to invest a portion of the taxes they pay for the retirement account into the stock market." FOX describes Bush's plan to "allow young workers to invest" in a positive light, yet leaves out a few important details of Bush's privatization scheme such as the fact that it will siphon funds away from the current social security system and raise the deficit by at least a trillion dollars.

FOX then says, "Some conservatives call (AARP's objections) hypocrisy... 'AARP seems to believe that capitalism is a fine thing as long as they're the only ones practicing it,' said Pete Sepp, vice president of communications for the National Taxpayers Union... 'AARP is the emperor with no clothes. How can an organization so heavily invested in the stock market tell others they can't do it?' Sepp said.

Of course, the next paragraph explains that AARP is NOT against people investing in the stock market, just against gambling in the market with Social Security accounts. "There is a place in your retirement portfolio for risk and a place where there... such a risk is not appropriate," said AARP's federal affairs director, David Certner.

Raising an accusation, then having a denial, is a typical FOX News way of putting forth a host of spurious allegations into the forefront of its audience's minds. They did it with the Swift Boat Vets, most notably.

Well, while we're on the topic of hypocrisy, I wonder why no FOX reporter has mentioned that while Bush is happy to have the public risk its retirement money in the stock market, its a guaranteed bonanza for the financial services industry. Also unmentioned is that would mean a sure windfall in advertising dollars for FOX, especially if it goes ahead with its stated goal of starting up a new channel devoted to financial news.

FOX's vested interest in Bush's privatization scheme wouldn't have anything to do with a negative report on AARP, would it?

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