Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Old People Are Swarming! Look Out!

"Join us," they intone monotonously. Robert Samuelson, in the Washington Post, tells us the AARP's legions of hollow-eyed, nearly dead are imploring him, with their smoke-tarnished old-people voices and their funny hats, to join their ranks. But he's not afraid. He alone can see the truth:
But I won't be joining, because AARP has become America's most dangerous lobby. If left unchecked, its agenda will plunder our children and grandchildren. Massive outlays for the elderly threaten huge tax increases and other government spending. Both may weaken the economy and the social fabric. No thanks.
Most dangerous lobby? Really? Because they threaten to make us spend so much money? Is that it? They're going to destroy our social infrastructure with their unreasonable demands for health care? I see his point; I agree that it is important. But "most dangerous?"

What about lobbies for defense contractors? They're not more dangerous than the AARP?

What about lobbies for private prison operators? You know, guys who are drafting "tough on crime" legislation that our representatives pass as their own--mandatory minimum sentences, increased prison time, appeals limitations? We're now spending huge, unprecedented amounts of money to keep a huge, unprecedented amount of people incarcerated in the United States, proportionally more than anywhere else in the world. Are we really so much more given to crime, here? Prison health care costs alone--as our unprecedented and mandatorily-sentenced prison population both swells and ages--are becoming astronomical. These costs are already straining our system. They're going to get worse. And there are lobbyists working to make sure these costs do get worse.

And Samuelson believes the AARP is our "most dangerous lobby"? He's written about the issue a lot, so it it perhaps the kind of thing that seems urgent and threatening to him. And he's not, on the whole, an unreasonable guy; judging by his approach to fiscal policy in his other pieces, he's at least willing to think things through.

But his central claim should make us ask ourselves: who, really, is our most dangerous lobby? Thoughts, readers? You already know my opinion.

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