Robert Romasco, President, AARP
BY IAN MYLCHREEST -- People over 50 years of age will have plenty to see (and buy) at the Las Vegas Convention Center this weekend. It’s site of the Spring Life@50+ national event.
Long famed for its marketing pull, AARP President Robert Romasco says the event would probably draw 10,000 to the convocation. “There are a variety of things from how to start a new business to health, entertainment – the Four Tops and the Temptations are in town Friday night, and Natalie Cole is giving a little something and we have celebrities, authors. It basically recognizes that after 50, there’s life and needs. And you can see all that from financial counseling to public policy to just plain old fun,” Romasco added.
As to accusations from critics such as Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post, who argued that the AARP has too much lobbying power, Romasco responded by going back to the beginning of the organization in the late 1940s. The organization’s founder Ethel Percy Andrus found a retired friend living in a chicken coop and sought a way to prevent such poverty. She wanted to bring seniors together to give them some market power. And, said Romasco that is still the group’s core mission.
“We look to social policy that creates a society that’s fair and responsible,” said Romasco. “And we also look to the market place to see how people can challenge the private enterprise, free market system to come up with products and services that are specifically designed for people over 50.”
Romasco denies that there’s any conflict between the marketing and lobbying missions of AARP. “Basically, what we’ve done in the marketplace is create a market around the needs of people 50 and over,” he says. According to Romasco, decisions on policy are never connected to what makes revenue for the organization.
The AARP leader does not apologize for defending Social Security and Medicare. The issue for Medicare is “the costs in the health care system” and those costs need to be reduced, he argued. As to Social Security, he recommends raising the cap so that 90 percent of wages are subject to FICA taxes. That would raise more revenue. And that’s needed because, said Romasco, the average income for Social Security recipients is only $22,000 a year.