Former Senator Alan Simpson should be removed from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. And so should Social Security, but for very different reasons.
Simpson should be sent packing because he is a crude bully whose disposition and biases render him totally inappropriate to co-chair this important commission. Long known for giving ugly voice to harsh, ageist stereotypes, deriding older Americans as "greedy geezers," Simpson was clear from the "git-go" that now is the time to put evil public interest groups in their place, while cutting Social Security. The Commission, he predicted will
"... be a bloodbath. Let me tell you, everything that Bush and Clinton or Obama have suggested with regard to Social Security doesn't affect anyone over 60, and who are the people howling and bitching the most? The people over 60. This makes no sense. You've got to scrub out [of] the equation the AARP, the Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare, the Gray Panthers, the Pink Panther, the whatever. Those people are lying... [They] don't care a whit about their grandchildren...not a whit."
If this statement alone was not sufficient to earn the good Senator a ticket on a slow train to Wyoming, then certainly his ill-informed and fowl-mouthed rant with our colleague Alex Lawson, the Communications Director of Social Security Works (www.socialsecurity-works.org) should have sent him packing. In this nine minute interview, Simpson opines that no one really knew about the Baby Boomers in 1983!!! Yes, 1983, not 1883! And he reassures us that he was concerned with helping "the lesser people," those who need Social Security.
Bad and very bad, but now comes "awful." In an article critical of Simpson's rhetoric, Ashley Carson, the Executive Director of OWL, an organization fighting for the rights and well-being of mid-life and older women, challenges Simpson's ridicule regarding non-existing "Pink Panthers," as devaluing women and the old. Simpson revels in "dishing it out," but cries foul when criticized. Perturbed, he wrote Ashley, "I've spent many years in public life trying to stabilize that system while people like you babble into the vapors about 'disgusting attempts at ageism and sexism' and all the rest of that crap." Then, as if to prove Carson's point, he writes that Social Security is "like a milk cow with 310 million tits!" Call, he tells Carson, "when you get honest work!" Oh yes, nothing honest about serving as an advocate for older women!
Like Simpson, Social Security should not be a part of the Commission deliberations. Simpson's involvement makes no sense, and Social Security contributes no cents to the national debt - it, by law, cannot borrow a penny. Given the importance of Social Security and the fact that its projected shortfall will not affect benefits until 2037, proposed changes to the program should be debated, not in haste and secrecy by an unelected commission, but in the sunshine, through the normal legislative process. Only by having a public discussion can we ensure that the impact of proposed changes is carefully examined, expert input is given due weight, and the American people have an opportunity to weigh in. Certainly, Alan Simpson should have no part in deciding the fate of Social Security
Candidate Barack Obama said that he would make mistakes and, when he did, he would seek to correct them. President Obama has an important opportunity to correct this very destructive mistake. All that needs to be done is to remove Social Security and Mr. Simpson from the Commission. We hope he makes the right decision.
Nancy Altman, author of The Battle for Social Security and Eric Kingson, Professor of Social Work at Syracuse University, are Co-Directors of Social Security Works. The authors served on Candidate Obama's Retirement Security Advisory Committee and later on the Advisory Committee to President Obama's Social Security Administration Transition Team. They also both served as staff to the 1982 National Commission on Social Security Reform (the so-called Greenspan Commission).