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Alan Simpson Fires Off Angry Letter To HuffPost

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Alan Simpson defends his Social Security stance.
Alan Simpson defends his Social Security stance.

WASHINGTON -- The American people are tired of hearing "bullshit and mush" in the debate over the future of Social Security, former Sen. Alan Simpson told advocates of the program in a letter sent to The Huffington Post.

His missive is in response to an open letter written by Eric Kingson and Nancy Altman, who run Social Security Works, a progressive organization opposing cuts to the old-age and disability insurance program. The Kingson-Altman letter was published as a blog on HuffPost and addressed to Erskine Bowles, a director of Morgan Stanley and the co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles panel. Simpson is a former Republican senator from Wyoming.

Scroll down to read the full letter.

"I have seen the 'open letter' that you addressed to my fine and most able partner Erskine Bowles and posted on Huffington Post for the whole wide world to see," he wrote in a letter sent to HuffPost's Sam Stein and forwarded to Politico. "This has reached the point of the pathetic, absurd and wretched excess. And your accusations of 'bigotry' on my part are nothing more than pure McCarthyism. I’m damned tired of people who use emotion, fear, guilt and racism to stir up their troops for their own benefit, and not for our nation's."

Social Security Works recently challenged Simpson to a debate about the future of the program. He initially accepted the challenge but since has backed off. Nevertheless, Social Security Works officials are moving forward, hoping to persuade Simpson to participate.

View some of Simpson's more colorful statements over the years, below:

Stuff Alan Simpson Says
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See Simpson's full letter to Sam Stein:

June 8, 2012

Nancy Altman, Eric Kingson
Co-Directors
Strengthen Social Security
1825 K St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

I have seen the “open letter” that you addressed to my fine and most able partner Erskine Bowles and posted on Huffington Post for the whole wide world to see. This has reached the point of the pathetic, absurd and wretched excess. And your accusations of “bigotry” on my part are nothing more than pure McCarthyism. I’m damned tired of people who use emotion, fear, guilt and racism to stir up their troops for their own benefit, and not for our nation’s.

It would have been an intelligent step to have taken the time to review my entire record throughout public life before tossing such a loaded term as bigotry. Had you had done so, you would have discovered that I have been a strong and vocal ally of the gay and lesbian community in their constant fight against bigotry and discrimination. I consider abortion to be a deeply personal and intimate issue for women and I don’t believe male legislators should even vote on the issue. I was the Simpson in the “Simpson-Mazzoli” immigration reform legislation of 1986 that brought three million immigrants into legal status and out of the dark. But it was much more clever for you to ignore these inconvenient parts of my public record that didn’t fit your effort to portray me as a mean-spirited bigot.

You may have also seen that I am an equal opportunity offender and call out ideological extremists on both sides. Many on your end of the political spectrum take sadistic glee invoking my name and quoting me when I am calling out the likes of Grover Norquist for insisting on rigid ideological purity or criticizing those in my own party who refuse to compromise without looking in the mirror and realizing that they are the ones doing the same.

I do not use the term “greedy geezers” to apply to all seniors, just those who insist that Social Security and Medicare must be sacrosanct and left completely off the table for any discussion about our nation’s financial and fiscal future without regard to the other dire needs facing our nation. Indeed, in the days since this dust-up began, I have heard from many seniors thanking me for speaking out and expressing dismay at the intransigent approach taken by organizations such as yours who purport to speak for them.They fully understand that these extraordinary programs face severe jeopardy if we fail to act, and if we don’t soon deal with our rapidly growing debt today’s young people will face a truly bleak future. But the folks at the California Alliance of Retired Americans and others of their ilk shriek like gut shot panthers whenever someone dares to suggest any rational changes to Social Security or Medicare and obviously don’t seem to be at all concerned about anything or anyone else -- so long as they “get theirs.”

Your concern about the civility of public debate is most interesting given some of the things you have said about the proposal Erskine and I -- and many others too -- have put forward to make Social Security financially sound for future generations. I recall you wrote that our plan would “effectively end Social Security as we know it” and accused the Gang of Six in the Senate of “holding a gun to the head of Social Security” for taking the position that Social Security solvency needed to be part of any fiscal plan. Those statements are neither civil nor accurate. I noticed you made no effort to correct the CARA crowd and others who claimed that Erskine and I were out to “privatize” Social Security even though our report said nothing of the sort.

I have spent my entire career trying to assure that Social Security is financially sound and sustainably solvent so younger workers can count on it. You know full well that without action future retirees will face an immediate 25 percent across-the-board benefit cut for all current and future beneficiaries in 2033, regardless of age or income. Surely you could not think this is an acceptable outcome? Yet that is exactly what will happen if you and others who demonize any effort to make changes in Social Security “get your way.”

Under our plan, the benefits for the younger workers you claim to be concerned about will be higher than what current law can pay, for all but maximum earners, and all future beneficiaries will have inflation-adjusted benefits larger than those received by equivalent beneficiaries today. Contrary to the assertions made by many of our critics that our plan “goes easy” on wealthier individuals, our plan would require higher wage earners to both pay more in payroll taxes and accept the largest reductions in benefits, with maximum wage earners being the only group to have lower benefits than they would have under current law. We were able to use a portion of the savings from this group to pay for a minimum benefit providing stronger poverty protection for low income workers than under current law and an extra “bump” for the older old who are at greatest risk of poverty after exhausting other retirement savings.

It’s quite true that we recommended an increase in the eligibility age by one year 40 years from now and by one more year 65 years from now. We felt this gave folks plenty of time to “get ready.” Even with this increase in the eligibility age, future retirees will still spend more years in retirement and receive substantially higher lifetime benefits in inflation adjusted terms than current retirees. We also provided for a hardship exemption for up to 20% of the retirees in order to protect those who may not qualify for disability benefits, but who are physically unable to work beyond the current earliest eligibility age.

You know well these things, or at least you surely should if you have taken the time to read and understand our plan. Yet you choose to leave these inconvenient facts out of all of your dramatic and near hysterical talk about the “devastating” cuts in our plan and how evil and terrible it will be for those who will depend on the protections offered by Social Security. I could go on and on about all of the other inaccuracies, terminological inexactitudes and outright lies that have been spread around our plan which was embraced by 11 of the 18 commission members including five Republicans, five Democrats and one Independent. Tell your genial but misguided followers these things.

I am sure there are some who would join you in wishing that Erskine and I would just “shut up and go away,” but I assure you, that’s not going to happen. The American public is tired of hearing bullshit and mush, and are thirsting for the truth.The need to deal with the growing fiscal dangers facing our nation is not going away, and neither are we. We are here to serve the children and grandchildren and the entire American public. You are apparently here to selfishly preserve and protect your own skins by frightening seniors -- and young people -- into thinking you are somehow vital to their futures. How sad.

Al Simpson

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