When reporters do stories
about powerful interests ruling Washington, they usually focus on
large businesses. There's certainly nothing wrong with investigating
how businesses often use political power to protect their interests
at the expense of others, but these same reporters rarely look at
other groups that do the same thing.
NBC's David Bloom, on the
July 25 Nightly News, was an exception. Bloom examined the influence
of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). According to
Bloom, the AARP is "so powerful, so fiercely protective of older
Americans, it's been called the most feared lobby in Washington."
"Today," Bloom continued,
"the AARP declared as dead President Clinton's controversial plan to
raise Medicare premiums on wealthier senior citizens. It can do
that; one in every five registered voters is a member, 32 million
Bloom ran soundbites from
both sides, including AARP Executive Director Horace Deets and
Republican Senator Rick Santorum. "The best description of the AARP
is the ostrich," Santorum said. "They just simply have their head
buried in the sand and hope that all these problems with these
seniors' programs that we're looking at will just simply go away."
Bloom said of any long-term reform of Medicare: "Without the backing
of Horace Deets' powerful lobby, that may be impossible."
Last year, many Republicans
ran on proposals to make America's tax system less complex. This
year, Republicans in Congress passed a budget deal that made the tax
code much more complex. A few reporters, such as CNN's Charles
Bierbauer on the July 31 World Today, have noted this irony.
Anchor Joie Chen introduced
Bierbauer's segment by advising viewers: "Given how complicated this
[budget deal] is going to make next year's tax forms, it might be a
good idea to tackle the math soon." Bierbauer then reported: "When
you get to the bottom line of your 1997 tax return, it should make
you happier. But getting there won't."
Bierbauer told viewers that
"last year the IRS found half of tax filers sought professional
help. Many were low-income working families who now must figure the
child credit into their complicated formula for the Earned Income
Tax Credit." He also argued that "while Republicans are cheering tax
cuts which stretch over a decade, they have not delivered on years
of promises to reform the U.S. tax system."
"Of course if Congress were
to write a simpler tax code treating everyone the same," Bierbauer
concluded sharply, "it could no longer do what it has just done
create special breaks for special groups of voters."
Kudos to David Bloom and
Charles Bierbauer for exposing a big- government lobby that looks
out for its special interests at the expense of other citizens and a
tax code that increasingly benefits special interests at the expense
of other citizens.