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AMAC vs. AARP: Fighting for the Hearts and Minds of Seniors

by Alan Markow, published

We’ve all heard about the war on drugs, war on women and war on Christmas, but did you know there’s a war on the AARP as well? A competitive organization with political overtones, AMAC (the Association of Mature American Citizens) is trying to siphon both members and dollars from AARP (formerly the American Association for Retired Persons), longstanding leading voice of senior Americans.

The reason AMAC exists is not just to compete in the insurance supplement business that is AARP’s stock and trade, but also to challenge AARP’s political positions and establish a far right agenda for a seniors’ organization. AMAC toes the conservative line in a variety of areas including abortion (it’s pro-life), taxes (it wants them cut), budget issues (it argues for a Constitutional balanced budget amendment) and the right to bear arms. AMAC has called for the firing of leftist political comedian Bill Maher.  It is also vociferously opposed to Obamacare and wants it repealed. Finally, AMAC’s founder Dan Weber expresses a deep concern with religious freedom in the country, noting:

“It seems an individual’s right to practice their religion is attacked, only to be replaced by a strange social order.”

AMAC implies, and sometimes says outright, that AARP is not conservative enough to represent right-wingers. In fact, AMAC is pushed by and other far right media organizations.

Based on AARP’s June “Bulletin,” most of its positions are politically benign, albeit with a focus on issues important to seniors such as Social Security and Medicare. Articles include “How to Avoid Phony Locksmiths” and “Divorce After 50 – It’s Skyrocketing.”

But there are two articles that could easily show AARP’s political hand:  “Retooling Medicare” and “Time for a Tune-up” (of Social Security).  But as it turns out, both articles take a carefully balanced take on potential changes to both Medicare and Social Security.  Even the Paul Ryan approach to Medicare funding gets a fair hearing.

So what’s the problem with AARP? Well, they do support the American Care Act (Obamacare), which is anathema to the right wing.  They also tend to support increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and they are not doctrinaire on the abortion issue.

But the real heart of this battle between the two organizations may be about money. Both AARP and AMAC sell various kinds of insurance to their members (health insurance, long-term care, auto and life insurance) so they are competing for a growing market of seniors.

The differences in size and scope of the two organizations are stark. AARP claims around 40 million members, whereas AMOK is thrilled to announce that it has now reached 330,000 members. Townhall refers to AMAK as David to AARP’s Goliath.

AARP has revenues from insurance royalties and advertising in its various publicans of around $800 million. AMAC does not provide revenue figures.

AMAC’s biggest claim to fame is its proposal to fix social security by turning it into individually owned IRAs. The organization claims that its plan would provide increased benefits with no increase in taxes.

No one questions the right of an American company to compete in any marketplace, but AMAC was not created to offer a competitive advantage. It exists primarily to press a right-wing political agenda that counters an organization whose political focus is almost entirely on issues for and about the nation’s senior citizens.

As reported by Fox News Radio:

“(AMAC President) Dan Weber sees AMAC as a way to unite citizens to defend our American way of life.”

With this comment, Weber makes AMAC seem more like a radical militia group then a serious support organization. Rather than providing a useful alternative for information to seniors, AMAC adds to the further splintering of American politics along partisan, ideological lines.

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