The 60 Plus Association was created more than 25 years ago as an alternative to the AARP for American seniors. Earlier this year, longtime conservative leader Saul Anuzis was named president, succeeding founder Jim Martin. The Daily Signal’s Rob Bluey and Ginny Montalbano recently spoke to Anuzis and Martin about the organization. An edited transcript is below. You can also listen to an audio version on The Daily Signal podcast.
Rob Bluey: Jim and Saul, you are leaders of the 60 Plus Association, the American Association of Senior Citizens. Tell our listeners about the group and what you do.
Jim Martin: I started the group about 25 years ago to give seniors another voice in the nation’s capital. Until then, the one and only voice for seniors came from the American Association of Retired Persons, from a decided left-of-center philosophy. And by the way, I did not know that—having been here as a newspaper reporter myself, a member of Congress mentioned that we need to have a conservative voice, if you will, for senior citizens.
I said, “Well, why? There’s the AARP.” Well, most seniors, of course, out in the 50 states are more conservative. The older you get, the more conservative, as the old axiom. But the leadership of the AARP, here in the nation’s capital, is far left. So there was a real need, so we … That day we hatched the 60 Plus Association, now called the American Association of Senior Citizens.
Bluey: Well, thank you, Jim. I appreciate you telling us that. I think many seniors probably don’t know that though. I know that from my own experience here in Washington, getting to know you over the years, you’ve been a very ardent supporter of bringing an alternative for seniors to choose. What is the message that you want them, if they’re listening to this show, to take away about the benefits they get from your organization?
Martin: OK. Well, the short answer to that [is] … Because I often get asked, “What is the difference between the 60 Plus Association and the AARP?” One major difference [is that] they’re selling a lot of products, making a lot of money on the backs of seniors, if you will.
We’re selling a philosophy: limited government, less taxes, strong national defense.
They also have an entertainer that they tout quite often. We do, too. We have … legendary singer Pat Boone. He’s a real patriot. He’s still out on the concert tour, but he speaks on behalf of seniors all over America.
Ginny Montalbano: Jim and Saul, have you noticed any changes in the AARP as a result of them having some strong competition now?
Saul Anuzis: Well, I think if you take a look at what they’re doing, maybe actually going out and hired Republicans and tried to bring in some people to make sure that their policies at least are perceived to be a little more center-based. But the reality is, I think as Jim mentioned, they are a left-wing organization and if you take a look at the support and the policies, they supported Obamacare, they supported all the Obama initiatives.
Where on the other side, we truly are the conservative alternative. So if you take a look at the policies that we traditionally support, it’s not unusual to see us touting things that The Heritage Foundation’s put out, working with you here at The Heritage Foundation. We’ve done many programs together and have participated in events here.
So we’re taking a look at reaching out to the conservative community out in the country. And one of the things that we are going to do is after Labor Day we’re actually launching a new program where a lot of the requests that we’ve been getting are saying, “Hey, could you at least give us some of the discounts that we get from AARP? The reason we actually joined AARP is not that we believe in them philosophically, but it’s nice saving on hotels,” or whatever.
So we want to be a member-centric group. And so instead of being an insurance company—which I think AARP gets like 80 percent, 90 percent of all the revenue … from selling insurance—we’re going to make sure that what we do is give our members a discount and an ability to participate in some of the savings, but stick to our core philosophy, which is being a conservative alternative, and sticking to policies that promote conservative solutions with regards to what ought to happen in this country and how to make America strong, not only for the seniors but for their children and grandchildren, which is really our target audience.
Bluey: Saul, you’ve been somebody who I’ve known for a number of years—you’ve been involved in the conservative movement for decades. What brought you to this organization?
Anuzis: Well, you know, I was in a unique position of (a) not being 60 years old, and sitting across the table from Jim Martin one day when he was talking about the future of 60 Plus and what they were going to do … Jim actually reached out and said, “Hey, let’s go have lunch. I want to talk to you about where we’re going and what we’re doing.”
And as Jim mentioned, he started this organization over 25 years ago. He wants to come up with a very thoughtful succession plan, which if you go talk to a lot of the conservatives in the movement, here in Washington particularly, very often we don’t do that. There’s usually a crisis when the time comes to change because a lot of people just hang on forever.
So we sat down and Jim’s got a two-year plan of how to work this through. I’m originally … I’m from Michigan. I’m in the process of selling my home and moving to Washington. … Jim’s kind of taking me around town, introducing me to a lot of the people that he’s built a relationship with over 52 years on the Hill with regards to his work in Congress, and then as a reporter, and finally at 60 Plus. So I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to pick up on, and so I want to sit at his side for as long as possible to let as much of the good Jim Martin juju rub off on me.
At the same time I think that this is a very important demographic for us as conservatives. As people retire, they stop necessarily thinking about politics. Oftentimes, they don’t really take a look and say, “Hey, how do we make sure we leave an America for our children and grandchildren that is the kind that we grew up in?” We’ve lost a lot of that.
And so, I think the mission of 60 Plus, I think the mission of what Jim Martin put together with the people that have supported him … You take a look at a guy like Pat Boone. I mean, Pat’s now in the process of recruiting a few other conservative well-known names, entertainers, to be spokesmen to participate in this process.
Those are all things we need as movement conservatives. We need them to be part of our arsenal when we go out there and do stuff. Whether it’s President [George W.] Bush, President [Donald]Trump, any of the Republicans that go out there, the House or Senate pushing out policies, to have an association like ours that can go out and talk to seniors and say, “Look, this is worth considering. This is how you ought to look at this. This is what you ought to consider,” really makes a difference.
Montalbano: So we’ve spoken about your inspiration and your mission, but what are some of your organization’s long-term goals?
Anuzis: Well, I think a couple of things. One is that we want to be a more aggressive partner with various groups around Washington. So I think that one of the things that Jim and I have been doing over the last 30, 60 days now is meeting with groups, having conversations, “How can we partner together? How can we make sure that we’re in a win-win situation of sharing information, sharing policy, sharing constituencies, to make sure we grow together?” So that’s probably No. 1 for us.
No. 2, we’re moving into kind of a new digital approach with regards to 60 Plus. We’ll be launching a new website after Labor Day, as we just mentioned. We’re going to start offering discounts and different services for seniors to participate. That’s going to be an important part.
Third, what we’re doing is we’re in the process of putting together a state-by-state organization. We’re going to be working with Heritage. We’re going to be working with Americans for Tax Reform, with others who have organizations in the states. And we’re looking at recruiting directors in all 50 states and the various territories and participating there.
And then probably, finally, we’re putting together a series of kind of entrepreneurial approaches to what 60 Plus is going to do on an educational process. We have a woman who is retiring from the financial planning services industry in New York that’s putting together kind of a “how to retire” type package, give information … Rather than pitching a specific service, explain how do you deal with retirement. What should you do with your retirement? How do you integrate Social Security? How do you do the things you need from a financial standpoint?
We have several other partnerships in the process of passing on a legacy to your children and grandchildren. How do we do that? How do we make sure that the next two, three generations coming up are going to actually participate and understand that it matters what you believe and how you believe in it?
So we’ve got a pretty aggressive plan for what we’d like to do at 60 Plus. It’s really just incorporating and pulling it in and working with our partners out there in the field.
Martin: Part of that too is taking away membership from the AARP.Boutique Studio Y Cardigan Y Boutique Studio UUr5Hnqw
Anuzis: There you go.
Martin: Because we found when we went out campaigning and talking with seniors, so many have come up and say, “Oh my heavens! I love your philosophy,” right of center, conservative, if you will. “I belong to AARP.”
I said, “Well, why?”
Boutique Ann Boutique Cardigan Boutique Taylor Boutique Cardigan Taylor Ann Taylor Ann Ann Cardigan Boutique Taylor Ann Cardigan “Well, they offer products.”
And even when you remind them that the AARP made $600 million in profits last year … I remember there was an 82-year-old lady down in Greensboro, North Carolina. She walked up to me at the bus, said:
I said, “Yes.”
She says, “Mm? I got that letter from them that said that I can get the best possible insurance at the best possible cost. I think they could have gotten me a little bit lower.”
And I had to agree with her, of course. But that is our goal and, again, it’s been a long haul for me; it’s been 25 years. And when Saul and I got to talking, I went to my board. They unanimously approved the resolution to name him president. I agreed to stay on and work together through at least this cycle, and perhaps into 2020.
It’s exciting to think about what we can do to counter the AARP. They’ve had a free run for 25 years or more. So when they whack us every now and then, somebody says, “Well, you must be drawing blood,” they’re responding.
Montalbano: In 2016, seniors supported Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. How would you say that President Trump has lived up so far?
Anuzis: Look, I think if you take a look from a policy standpoint, I don’t think you could ask for a better president in this regard. We’ve got great Supreme Court justice nominees. We take a look at lowering taxes. We’re taking a look at taking care of and dealing with the immigration that costs our citizens, period, all kinds of money. So if when you look at the policies that have been implemented by this administration …
The Heritage Foundation always puts out a blueprint with respect to what they hope might be conservative agenda items, [the administration is] pushing 70 percent of the issues that we all care about as conservatives …
I think it would be an understatement to say he’s been a pleasant surprise for most of us in the conservative movement with regards to the policies that he’s moved forward. And I think on behalf of the 60 Plus Association, we as senior citizens are ecstatic over what’s happening on policy perspective. And we hope to keep moving forward with the president, working with the White House, participating in their policy meetings, and I think it’s going to be, again, another good partnership in moving things forward in America.
Martin: And I believe your audience should know that this president, President Trump, is doing what President [Ronald] Reagan initially started doing—reading, if you will, everything he got from The Heritage Foundation. It’s a known fact. Our seniors get stuff from Heritage all the time, but this president is implementing a lot of things that The Heritage Foundation puts out in your many publications. And it’s been an honor to be associated with this White House.
The policies that he’s putting together, I … By the way, as a newspaper reporter some 50 years ago when John Kennedy was in the White House, I came there as a reporter. I have never—in 50-something years—seen any president attacked like this one’s been. [President Dwight] Eisenhower got attacked, [President John] Kennedy got attacked from time to time, Reagan got viciously attacked from time to time.
This one, it’s 24/7. Someone said this morning, “If Trump could walk on water, the Democrats would say, ‘Well that’s because he can’t swim,’ for crying out loud.”
So he’s held up well. I heard he’s made some … Tweeting should probably be abolished. I’ll leave it on that note.
Bluey: But as a reporter, I mean, it makes so much news. And let me just say on that point, I do think in a news environment, where so much of it is negative … I mean, having that direct access to talk to the American people is an advantage that this president has that previous presidents probably didn’t.
Martin: Absolutely. On a serious note, yes. I said that to my wife recently. I said, “This president is going around the liberal media, tweeting.” I said, “When I was a young reporter down in Florida for the Orlando Sentinel, you had to go around the Sentinel so we would go to Vero Beach paper and the Daytona paper,” … I said, “This guy’s got it. He’s going [to a large audience] unfiltered,” if you will, going around … Well I shan’t mention The New York Times, perhaps, and The Washington Post and others.
Bluey: Jim, Saul, thanks for joining us on the show today.
Anuzis: Well, thanks for having us. And remind your members, just go to 60plus.org and that’s where you’ll find us, and we look forward to working with you guys. Thank you very much.