The AARP recently announced that it is taking its campaign against President Bush's proposed Social Security reform to the nation's youth, hoping to broaden its target audience from the credulous elderly to the credulous young. Thus, the AARP further cements its status as the country's foremost lobby against reform. So inquiring minds should have a few questions for AARP CEO William D. Novelli, the architect of the group's crusade to keep young people from having personal retirement accounts as part of Social Security:
--Since Bush has said that any proposal won't affect anyone 55 years of age or older, what possible reason -- other than sheer ideological hostility -- do you have to oppose reforming the system?
--Your group's advocacy suggests that reform puts at risk the benefits of current Social Security recipients, even though cutting those benefits is off the table. Are you routinely so dishonest, or is this a special case?
--In 1950, 16 workers supported each retiree. By 2040, there will only be two workers per retiree. Does it occur to you that that is very bad news for workers? Or is your ultimate ambition to have each retiree supported by his own individual worker? Perhaps this worker can be made to fan his designated retiree with a palm frond and deliver him fruity drinks poolside?
--The current system is already a bad deal for young people. Any tax increases or benefit reductions will make it worse over time. Do you realize that your members have grandchildren? Or do you believe the financial futures of those grandkids just don't matter much to your members?
--What is your favorite feature of the payroll tax that funds Social Security and that some fellow opponents of Bush's proposal advocate increasing to fund the program's obligations: (a) that it is regressive, disproportionately falling on low-income workers; (b) that it was already drastically increased in the 1980s, so it is supposedly ripe for another drastic increase; or (c) that it acts as a job-killing tax on employment?
--If you like old people so much, why do you try so hard to scare them? Or does AARP market research show that the elderly enjoy being frightened?
--Your group has suggested that investing in the stock market is much too complicated and risky for anyone attempting to build assets for retirement. Do all your officials therefore eschew investing their own money in the market? If so, what is their preferred investment vehicle (and please don't say stuffing cash under a mattress)?