Alan Simpson Should Step Down From Deficit Commission

If Alan Simpson is allowed to remain on the President's Deficit Commission, what little credibility the Commission has will completely disappear. Via Joan McCarter:

Simpson's email, which OWL chief Ashley Carson released publicly, (PDF) was sent in response to an April blog post Carson wrote for the Huffington Post. [. . .] His email is peppered with exclamation points and condescension. At one point he urged Carson to read a certain graph, "which I hope you are able to discern if you are any good at reading graphs."

Simpson concludes by implying that leading a major organization dedicated to the interests of middle-aged and elderly women is not "honest work." "If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors, let me know," he writes. [. . .] Call when you get honest work!"

On the merits of the issues of the deficit, Alan Simpson is a proven Know Nothing. But we all know that is a feature, not a bug, in DC. But if Simpson has reached a stage where his mental capacity does not permit him to avoid this type of expression, I don't think he can credibly remain on this commission. Simpson is an embarrassment to the President now. He should resign and the President should ask him to if he does not volunteer.

Speaking for me only

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    "310 million titz"? (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Yman on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 11:57:37 AM EST
    You skipped the best part of his email:

    If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors, let me know," he writes. "And yes, I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too. It's the same with any system in America. We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million titz!

    "Vapors"?  "a milk cow with 310 million titz"?  Denigrating leadership of a national women's organization?  From a guy who previously described his social security opponents as "Pink Panthers"?

    Do you think this gets him bumped from the commission?  One could argue it would get him a promotion, but since he's already co-chair ...

    IMO Simpson will stay (5.00 / 5) (#6)
    by MO Blue on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:09:24 PM EST
    Obama needs him to pull off selling his his "work till you drop" 20% cut in SS benefits as the moderate position. Harder to pull off one of his famous on "one hand" and on the "other hand" trick without him.

    Yup....but you and I are haters (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 02:43:02 PM EST
    for daring to acknowledge the truth :)

    Isn't privatizing social security (none / 0) (#20)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 05:57:14 PM EST
    the whole point of having the Commission?

    It was a hope of some (5.00 / 3) (#25)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 07:11:02 PM EST
    who are taking part in it.  Those of us concerned about it though will write about people like Peter G. Peterson and those in cahoots with him and we will attempt to make the public aware of what is ongoing vs. the public "suddenly" discovering that Social Security is under attack and then it is too late.  You have to build the information when you are facing down someone like the Peter G. Peterson foundation, otherwise it will show up during polling as something the people don't give a rip about, and then this stupid administration allows a stripping of Social Security and then shocked that someone is immediately a one term President.  Democrats are all b*st*rds again for who knows how long then (almost forever), and Social Security has been done in and it is too late to undo any of it.

    I just love guys with taxpayers' paid (5.00 / 3) (#22)
    by suzieg on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 06:12:55 PM EST
    gold plated pensions ridiculizing people on social security!

    Was this Obama's worst (5.00 / 6) (#4)
    by observed on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 11:59:20 AM EST
    pick? It's hard to choose, with such an embarrassment of riches.

    Although Simpson's comments are (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by KeysDan on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:03:39 PM EST
    an utter disgrace, the statement.."what little credibility the Commission has will completely disappear", is a good argument for keeping him in place.  Moreover, Simpson, who seems to have been Matt Groening's prototype for Mr. Burns, is just stating  in his customary inelegant terms what most of the Cat Food Commission memberships believe.

    The intent and purpose of the Commission is, in my view, a  study of predetermined outcomes in the guise of due diligence. The desired goal is to invest the social security trust fund surplus in Wall Street.  Once this is done, the social security "crisis" will disappear and attention can turn to benefit cuts in Medicare.  A review of the Committee membership, with the likes of Tom Coburn, Kent Conrad, Max Baucus and Paul Ryan, countered with, perhaps, Jan Schakowsky of the professional left, is revelatory.

    Obama recently said (none / 0) (#8)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:20:10 PM EST
    that he opposed the Bush privatization and that Social Security could be saved with a couple of minor tweaks.....

    If history is our guide, the Grand Compromise will mirror the one before.  Thus, the retirement age would slowly be raised a year or two, and the cap on payroll taxes (the most regressive tax ever) would be raised some too.

    I think the whole thing is bogus.  There is no real problem with Social Security.  

    If the U.S. population follows past trends, Social Security will be solvent for more than 75 years....Even without an increase in population, we have a long time before actual benefits would have to be cut......

    I hope the Commission goes away.

    Just raise the cap on payroll taxes a little bit.  Or, do the Donut Hole bit by skipping over anyone under 250k a year and taking the cap away for income between, let's say, 250k and 350k a year--thereby keeping the promise of not raising taxes on anyone under 250k a year......This has always been the Democratic and Progressive fix.

    If the Republicans take over, they will try to privatize Social Security.  I can only hope Josh Marshall reprises his Conscious Caucus and Fainhearted Faction from early 2005.  Trying to be mess with Social Security could be made into a gigantic problem for conservatives....


    Social security at this minute (5.00 / 5) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 02:48:19 PM EST
    is completely solvent in 2037 or some such thing, the babyboomers are all dead after that....when it will be a dismal broken 70% solvent.  If the economy improves though Social Security will become insolvent around 2050 or some other such number.  Since I was in high school a Social Security will be insolvent year has been thrown around and thrown around and thrown around but it never stands because people keep putting money into Social Security.  It reminds me of the Y2K apocalypse.  No minor tweaks are needed, it is all bull$hit to excuse the start of digging into it.

    Less money payed out in benefits (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by MO Blue on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 06:45:01 PM EST
    and more money paid in means additional funds for additional taxes cut for the rich and for never ending wars.

    I expect many baby boomers will still be (none / 0) (#24)
    by oculus on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 07:10:40 PM EST
    around after 2037.  

    You guys have always been big planners (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 07:19:24 PM EST
    Can't you just go quietly?  Just once?

    Well, I ain't a baby boomer! (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by oculus on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:27:09 AM EST
    the commission itself was a terrible idea (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by Turkana on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:30:22 PM EST
    simpson is an appropriate co-chair.

    Absolutely agree (5.00 / 3) (#36)
    by Demi Moaned on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 11:50:14 AM EST
    And the corollary is I don't want to save the credibility of the commission. Simpson is a boon, IMO, as he brings the whole idea into disgrace.

    Huge black mark on Obama's record, (none / 0) (#37)
    by oculus on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:01:35 PM EST
    IMO.  (Full disclosure:  I receive Social Security.)

    Did Obama Personally Select Simpson? (none / 0) (#38)
    by squeaky on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:09:12 PM EST
    If he did, I would imagine it was a subversive move.

    Yes, he chose Simpson (none / 0) (#39)
    by jbindc on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:54:29 PM EST
    Yes. (none / 0) (#40)
    by oculus on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 01:06:10 PM EST
    Well (none / 0) (#41)
    by squeaky on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 01:19:48 PM EST
    It appears that he planted a self destructing bomb in the committee, regarding Social Security anyway..

    Simpson's views on Social Security are extremely unpopular, toxic is a better way to describe it.

    The Protect Social Security act was a unanimous vote.  

    The vote for an amendment to form a permanent deficit commission failed to garner 2/3 of the Senate vote. That is where the current "catfood" commission comes out of.


    'babbling into the vapors' (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by feralrom on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:30:26 PM EST
    He likes the phrase so much he uses it twice in a letter of ~200 words.  Does he really not see the irony?

    Simpson is as snotty and nasty (5.00 / 6) (#13)
    by oldpro on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:44:42 PM EST
    as they come...and far too enamored of his own voice.  The snear  is unmistakable in every utterance.  Huge mistake to give him a platform of any kind...

    I agree (none / 0) (#14)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:53:00 PM EST
    hard to come up with a more odious politician in his generation IMO

    I think we need Chris Matthews (none / 0) (#21)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 05:59:10 PM EST
    to call Simpson out

    Simpson would make mincemeat. (none / 0) (#30)
    by oldpro on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 09:03:45 PM EST
    out of Tweety.

    And then the question would be...who would call Matthews out?

    Not that anyone cares...


    A bit tongue in cheek (none / 0) (#31)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 10:23:09 PM EST
    Perhaps Matthews could redeem himself a bit if he took up the cause!

    Some interesting bits from (5.00 / 11) (#15)
    by Anne on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:59:00 PM EST
    Jamie Galbraith's testimony to the Deficit Commission on June 30, 2010 (pdf):

    I first met Senator Simpson when we were both on Capitol Hill; at Harvard he became friends with my late parents. He is admirably frank in his views. But Senator Simpson has plainly shown that he lacks the temperament to do a fair and impartial job on this commission. This is very clear from the abusive response he made recently to Alex Lawson of Social Security Works, who was asking important questions about the substance of the commission's work, as well as calling attention to the illegitimate secrecy under which you are operating.

    A general cannot speak of the President with contempt. Likewise the leader of a commission intended to sway the public cannot display contempt for the public. With due respect, Senator Simpson's conduct fails that test.


    I note from Chairman Simpson's conversation with Alex Lawson that the Commission has taken up the questions of the alleged "insolvency" of the Social Security system and of Medicare. If true, this is far outside any mandate of the Commission. Your mandate is strictly limited to matters relating to the deficit, debt-to-GDP ratio and fiscal stability of the U.S. Government as a whole. Social Security and Medicare are part of the government as a whole, so it is within your mandate to discuss those programs -- but only in that context.

    To make recommendations about the matching of benefits to payroll taxes -- now or in the future -- would be totally inappropriate. Within your mandate, the levels of payroll taxes and of Social Security benefits are relevant only insofar as they influence the current and future fiscal position of the government as a whole. Their relationship to each other is not relevant. You are not a "Social Security Commission" and there is no provision in your Charter for a separate discussion of the alleged financial condition of either program taken on its own. Such discussions, if they are occurring, should be subjected to a point of order.


    Social Security is a transfer program. It is not a spending program. A dollar "spent" on Social Security does not directly increase GDP. It merely reallocates a dollar from one potential final consumer (a taxpayer) to another (a retiree, a disabled person or a survivor). It also reallocates resources within both communities (taxpayers and beneficiaries). Specifically, benefits flow to the elderly and to survivors who do not have families that might otherwise support them, and costs are imposed on working people and other taxpayers who do not have dependents in their own families. Both types of transfer are fair and effective, greatly increasing security and reducing poverty -- which is why Social Security and Medicare are such successful programs.

    Transfers of this kind are also indefinitely sustainable -- in fact there can intrinsically be no problem of sustainability with transfer programs. Apart from their effect on individual security, a true transfer program uses (by definition) no net economic resources. The only potential macroeconomic danger from "excessive" transfers is that the transfer function may be badly managed, leading to excessive total demand and to inflation. But there is no risk of this so long as the financial crisis remains uncured. Under present conditions Social Security and Medicare are bulwarks for stabilizing a total demand that would otherwise be highly deficient.

    Similarly, cutting Social Security benefits, in particular, merely transfers real resources away from the elderly and toward taxpayers, and away from the poor toward those less poor. One can favor or oppose such a move on its own merits as social policy - but one cannot argue that it would save real resources that are otherwise being "consumed" by the government sector.

    The conclusion to be drawn is that Social Security should in any event be off the agenda of your Commission, as it is a transfer program and not a program of public spending in the economic sense. In particular it does not use capital resources and will not drive up interest rates. This is true whether the "Social Security System" is in internal balance or not.

    This commission is about as phony as it is possible to be, and while I think Simpson should be shown the door for his unacceptable and offensive responses to citizens, that's just not going to solve the problem of what this commission is undertaking at the president's request.

    Regardless of whether the pressure is brought to bear on the president or on the commission, I fear that it will be countered with the same kind of rhetoric that has been employed for the last year and a half on a range of issues, and is designed to disguise the real agenda long enough for it to be a fait accompli.

    It's a feature, not a bug.

    Nice find (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 01:27:35 PM EST
    Is the commission losing credibility.... (none / 0) (#1)
    by magster on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 11:48:16 AM EST
    ... such a bad thing?  I'd hate to have a more polished person with the same attitude towards social security as Simpson.

    Pelosi should at the very least rescind her commitment to give the commission's recommendation a vote in the House.

    Shhhh (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 11:49:17 AM EST
    When Simpson does not resign, we can call it the "discredited Deficit Commission."

    ha! (none / 0) (#12)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:43:25 PM EST
    Also Notable (5.00 / 5) (#7)
    by The Maven on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:13:18 PM EST
    Amidst the myriad unseemly remarks throughout Simpson's screed is this remark in which he both admits his unshakable bias and excuses away his dismissal of critics:
    "You may obviously be aware that the Social Security system is 'in trouble.'  If you don't agree with that, then there is no need to read any further."

    The whole thrust of the arguments against the Catfood Commission is that Social Security is not "in trouble" at all, certainly not in comparison to other budgetary concerns.  But in Simpson's contructed reality, not agreeing with his false assumption automatically renders one an un-serious person way out there on the radical fringe.  I think he'd be surprised to discover how many economists, actuaries and financial planners would fall into this category.  But I doubt he'd care, regardless.

    Good point (none / 0) (#11)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:39:05 PM EST
    it iwll be easier to attck the Commisison's work product if Simpson stays.

    Our focus should be on provoking more gaffes from this old crone.


    Simpson has always (none / 0) (#19)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 04:04:29 PM EST
    always been a nasty, sarcastic, condescending, insulting piece of work.  That's his entire modus operandi.

    And it works in Wyoming (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 07:16:47 PM EST
    That's a real man in Wyoming, someone good at  making women and kinder gentler men understand that they are dirt.  I have stories about the younger Simpson too and what a POS he is.  Too bad we can't go for coffee. Not a mystery any longer that there was nobody to marry or even a decent piece of arse to be found in the whole state for any self respecting woman :)

    Ain't that the truth (none / 0) (#26)
    by Yman on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 07:14:42 PM EST
    Kinda reminds me of someone else ...

    The White House will say, well (none / 0) (#29)
    by KeysDan on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 08:52:03 PM EST
    that's just Alan, but after all, he did apologize.  So, move on nothing to see here, we have social security to dismantle so get out of our way.

    The WH accepted his apology (none / 0) (#33)
    by MO Blue on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:49:21 AM EST
    The person to whom the insult was directed still wants Simpson to resign from the Catfood Commission...

    But at the White House, Jennifer Psaki, the deputy communications director, said, "Alan Simpson has apologized and while we regret and do not condone his comments, we accept his apology and he will continue to serve." link

    Why is the WH (none / 0) (#34)
    by Anne on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:09:07 AM EST
    accepting Simson's apology?  Is that how it works now - the person who is on the receiving end of offensive and belittling comments cedes acceptance of the apology to the boss of the offender?

    Give me a break.

    All this really means is that the WH has no intention of sending Simpson home with a complimentary 30-pack sampler of Fancy Feast, and every intention of making sure the commission carries out its mission.

    Good to get confirmation of that; can't wait to see how free Simpson feels to unload on the next person who dares to question what the commission is doing.


    As the referenced link (none / 0) (#35)
    by KeysDan on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:17:28 AM EST
    points out, the WH can't  accept an apology given to Ashley Carson, ex. dir of the Older Women's League.  And, how do you really apologize for saying among other things, "Call when you get honest work?"  

     Moreover, it did not seem like a quick emotional response, since Simpson sent the email last Monday to respond to a column Ms. Carson wrote in April.   Simpson's tirade was the most troublesome for the Cat Food Commission since the favorable report from the SS Trust fund.  Hopefully, Simpson's remarks will not be buried.