06/11/2012 05:42 pm ET Updated Aug 11, 2012

Alan Simpson: Pulling Apart Social Security, And Proud of It

The Honorable Alan Simpson
United States Senator (retired)
1201 Sunshine Avenue
Cody, Wyoming 82414

Dear Senator Simpson,

Your plan would begin pulling apart our Social Security system brick by brick. Unfortunately, you seem to think that bigotry and bullying will silence those of us who are trying to educate the public about the devastating cuts in your plan. No amount of ageism, however, can hide the harm your plan would cause for Americans -- young and old, alike.

That is why we ask that you stick to your word and have an open and public discussion with young people, who would be hit hardest by the drastic cuts in your plan, and we have started a petition to gather the support of others who think you shouldn't go back on your word.

A bigot is someone who stereotypes an entire group of people with a pejorative label as a way of advancing his or her own views and prejudices. An ageist, a term coined by the late Dr. Robert Butler, the founding director of the National Institute on Aging, is someone who directs that prejudice against older people.

Referring to older Americans as "geezers," calling an entire generation, the "greediest generation," and consistently using the term "Greedy Geezer," as you have done, are ageist, bigoted and undermining of human dignity. That you are over age 65 does not minimize the harm or excuse you.

Your resort to this type of language suggests that you are afraid to acknowledge that your adversaries are fighting for young people. As the young experts who wrote you show, the Bowles-Simpson proposal cuts the benefits of some younger workers more than if Congress took no action whatsoever. Its change to the benefit formula fundamentally changes the structure of Social Security (PDF), eroding the fairness of the program, an attribute that has made the program successful and popular for 76 years.

Your decision to back out of a debate with one of the young experts further suggests that you understand that your Social Security proposals would, if enacted, begin to pull apart our Social Security system, which has served younger and older Americans for generations. We can understand why you might be afraid to debate young people. You would be unable to call those adversaries "greedy geezers" and might be forced to join issue on the facts, where you would lose.

If you have confidence in your proposal, we urge you to stop name-calling and keep your word to have a public discussion with those young experts who have studied your proposal carefully.


Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson
Co-directors, Social Security Works