WASHINGTON -- Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), a leading voice in the argument over the future of Social Security, has agreed to debate progressive critics who argue that the program can be reformed and strengthened without reducing future benefits.
The debate challenge was issued by a collection of young people associated with the liberal group Social Security Works, and delivered in a YouTube video provided to HuffPost.
Responding to the challenge, Simpson told HuffPost he wouldn't debate the group if it insisted on characterizing his position as in favor of cuts, but if the conversation was centered on the 75-year solvency of the program, he was willing to do it.
Simpson was the co-chair of the so-called Simpson-Bowles Commission, along with Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles, a former top Democrat with the Clinton administration.
"All they have to do is read the [Bowles-Simpson] report and it tells you exactly what we plan to do with Social Security. It's very clear. If they'll read the report, then I'll talk to them. I want them to read the 67-page report, especially what it says about Social Security and making it solvent for people their age," Simpson said. "But if they want to know how to save the system so that when they're 65 they won't get a check for 25 percent less, yes, I can try to help them."
The young advocates challenging Simpson on Social Security say in the video that they have read the Bowles-Simpson report. (Its section on Social Security is short.)
The report did not receive the required number of votes from commission members to move forward to Congress, though it has been politically resurrected in recent months.
The controversial and plainspoken Simpson said he was worried that the debate was "just gonna be a bunch of emotional claptrap" but emphasized again that he was willing to do it.
Simpson's willingness to debate shouldn't come as a surprise, as the Wyoming Republican rarely shies away from defending his position. In the past, he has engaged HuffPost over the question of life expectancy and its relationship to the funding gap for programs like Social Security.
No date or venue has yet been set for the debate. But if it's anything like Simpson's typical performance, it'll be entertaining, and perhaps enlightening.
Look through some of Simpson's history of colorful statements below:
"I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too ... We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits!" -- Simpson on Social Security Source: The Huffington Post
"A lot of blood, hair and eyeballs have to lay on the floor before we finish." -- Simpson on fixing the budget deficit Source: CNBC
"This is a fakery. If they care at all about their children or grandchildren, and sometimes I doubt that -- I think, you know, grandchildren now don't write a thank-you for the Christmas presents, they're walking on their pants with the cap on backwards listening to the enema man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg, and they don't like them!" -- Simpson on young people and their grandparents Source: The Huffington Post
"We're trying to take care of the lesser people in society." -- Simpson on Social Security Source: Ustream
"We have the ability, and I hope the trust of each other, to adjust and put together a package. And if the American people and the Congress don't like it, then just let them sink." -- Simpson on the budget deficit Source: Fox News
"You'll be picking with the chickens yourself when you're 65." -- Simpson on Social Security Source: Ustream
"Over the last 40 years, I have had my size 15 feet in my mouth a time or two. To quote my old friend and colleague, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, when I make a mistake, 'It's a doozy!'" -- Simpson on Social Security Source: The Huffington Post
"We're going to get rid of all earmarks, all waste, fraud and abuse, all foreign aid, Air Force One, all congressional pensions. That's just sparrow belch in the midst of the typhoon. That's about 6, 8, 10 percent of where we are. So, I'm waiting for the politician to get up and say, there's only one way to do this: you dig into the big four, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense. And anybody giving you anything different than that, you want to walk out the door, stick your finger down your throat, and give them the green weenie." -- Simpson on Social Security Source: The Huffington Post