Deficit Commission’s Alan Simpson Denounces Fat Cat Geezers

It’s a little hard to believe that the political professionals within the Whte House (meaning Rahm Emmanuel) knew what they were getting themselves into when they appointed former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson to co-chair the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Yes, it’s obvious that the so-called Deficit Commission’s real purpose is to cut old-age entitlements, a move long favored by Simpson, as well as by the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street. But did they really want someone who would be quite so crude and blatant about these intentions–and so whacked out as well?

Simpson has already said that Social Security and Medicare are the reason “this country is gonna go to the bow-wows,” and he wouldn’t be dissuaded from cutting them by AARP or “the Gray Panthers, the Pink Panther, whatever.” But in an interview on Fox News last week, Simpson managed to outdo himself.

Simpson’s latest pronouncements were dissected by Trudy Lieberman, a contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review,  who has written some very smart commentary on the truth behind the entitlement “reform” effort. In this latest piece, she even writes about one of my favorite subjects, the phony war between the generations–as she puts it, “Geezers vs. Gen-X-ers.”  The piece is called “More Words of Wisdom on Alan Simpson.” I’m including a substantial excerpt here, but recommend reading the whole thing at the CJR site.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson’s interview on Fox Sunday was a doozy. His usual outspoken, outrageous, colorful self shined through, perhaps as a prelude to the first meeting of the federal deficit reduction commission, which he leads (and about which my colleague Holly Yeager posted the other day). Simpson never makes boring copy, and so far he has been consistently quotable in his remarks. He and his co-chairman, Erskine Bowles, make quite a media pair.

But the press needs to pay attention to what they are saying, because their drive to cut the deficit will affect the financial well-being of every man, woman, and child in America. So far the direction of the media coverage has been driven by their mantra: everything is on the table; no more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to Social Security and Medicare. The Erskine and Alan show is laying the groundwork for drastically changing Social Security and Medicare in ways that might not be so palatable with the public.

It didn’t take Simpson long to climb on his hobbyhorse—that whatever the commission recommends will not hurt older folks. “Erskine and I are in this one for our grandchildren,” he said. “Somebody said they’re stalking horses for taxes. I’m not a stalking horse for taxes. I’m a stalking horse for my grandchildren.” Simpson told Fox anchor Chris Wallace that whatever “adjustment” is ultimately made, and whatever has been suggested in the way of Social Security reform for the last ten years, “none of that affects anybody over 57.” He said most of his mail was coming from:

“These old cats 70 and 80 years old who are not affected in one whiff. People who live in gated communities and drive their Lexus to the Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount. This is madness.”

Perhaps Simpson hasn’t looked hard enough in Cody, Wyoming, or in other places where the elderly, particularly women, exist on rather small Social Security incomes. The average monthly benefit for all workers is about $1,150. These people are paying more and more for their health care out of pocket and will continue to do so after reform takes effect. I have spent a lot of my career talking to seniors, and I haven’t seen many living in gated communities, driving fancy cars. Walk down the streets of Torrington, Wyoming, not too far from where the former senator lives, to see the kinds of small, cramped, drafty houses where many of the town’s elderly survive. Some barely have enough for food, let alone gas for the cranky old vehicles they drive.

Once Simpson made his point about the fat cat geezers, Wallace tried to engage about what exactly he had in mind for the under-57 crowd: “You are talking about raising the retirement age, are you talking about higher taxes?” A fair enough question, to which Simpson replied: “I don’t know.” He said there were think tanks all over the country that have talked about how to resolve the Social Security problem and mentioned the 1983 commission that put the program on a sound footing. That commission resolved the problem, he said, “because they had all the facts they needed. So do we.”

If Simpson has all the facts, we’d like to know exactly how many seniors drive Lexuses and live in gated communities. If he doesn’t have the numbers, reporters following this story should pin him down or find out for themselves what the data show before spreading his sound bites far and wide, the way journalists did when Ronald Reagan called black women welfare queens who drove big cars while collecting food stamps.

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10 responses to “Deficit Commission’s Alan Simpson Denounces Fat Cat Geezers

  1. Elizabeth Rogers

    Retired Senator Simpson must travel in a very different crowd of older Americans than my husband and I do! We live in a compact 2 BR condo in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, there’s a gate, but our complex is very definitely occupied by middle class workers and retirees like us. At 73 I’m still working part time and thank my lucky stars that I have a job. My husband, now 80, worked until four years ago (he started working at age 14).

    Lexuses? I don’t think so. Our small SUVs are over 10 years old and we hope they last as long as we do. Fat cats? Not exactly, although we do have an overweight feline in our family.

    Seriously, although we have some additional resources, Social Security is a significant source of income for us, as I suspect it is for most recipients. That said, we get that the nation’s huge budget deficit is a serious problem. We’d be willing to pay more taxes if the amount is fair and reasonable, but FIRST, how about: (1) pursuing the offshore bank accounts of billionaire tax evaders, (2) allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans to expire, (3) ending the UNfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are now costing in the trillions; (4) changing our culture’s views on end-of-life care so that Medicare doesn’t continue to spend huge sums on “heroic” measures to “save” those in their last 6 months of life. I have multiple advance directives in place because I have no desire to fall into the hands of the medical-pharmaceutical complex at the end of my life, but even so, I can’t be certain that I won’t. We need to get real about this issue!

  2. Pingback: Reader Response: How About Going After the Real “Fat Cats” Before Attacking Elders? « Unsilent Generation

  3. Simpson is another one of those old moldy fools from Foggy Bottom / upscale Wym playground of Cheney and crowd . FAT CATS – sucking off Gov TIT – he’s sure pulling in a bundle with tax payer subsidized pension/ health care (yearly cost of living increases) His father a Sen/Gov him dallying in all kinds of $$$ positions (plus his law firm with sons) since leaving office. ASK this guy, who should be laid out / not co-chairing an important committee to visit the MILLIONS living in tents/ in their cars – under bridges thanks to his peers selling America out to foreign buddies.

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  7. Reagan called us Black women welfare queens who drove big cars while collecting food stamps???? At least those welfare queens didn’t lay down on their backs like those dried up white women who sold their soul to the devil himself and his dried up self went crazy with alzheimer disease. You have to be careful about what you say. The way they were wrinkled they could have been in the food stamp line collecting food stamps for how they looked. When he was president (which he wasn’t a good one anyway) they (white people) were still powerful and controlling in those days. They would only allow a handful of black people be successful. That’s why they were on food stamps.

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