Ignoramus Or Cranky Old Man?

Should former Sen. Alan Simpson be fired from the Deficit Commission for using the T-word? Here’s an excerpt of his recent email to feminist activist Ashley Carson, who basically says Simpson doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that Social Security is healthy and doesn’t contribute to the deficit:


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 t*ts! Call when you get honest work!

Carson is correct that currently Social Security runs a surplus and is not responsible for the red ink in our operating budget. But Baby Boomers haven’t started to retire yet in great numbers. After 2037, for example, only 76% of benefits will be available (PDF). Medicare is in even worse shape with a $36 trillion unfunded liability. Social Security’s is $8 trillion.
What happens when those bills come due? Where do you think the money will come from to pay out promised benefits? Raise the payroll tax? How can we do that if we also have to raise income taxes to get ourselves out of debt? The tax burden would be too great. We will never address our long-term deficit problems unless we get a handle on the unfunded liabilities of those two massive programs.
People who accuse Simpson of demagoging this issue miss the point. Simpson is about to turn 79 years old. What is he doing? Stirring up the masses in preparation for a run for the zoning board in Laramie, Wyoming?
Simpson is guilty of nothing more than being a cranky old man. And he happens to be saying things of substance that the geezer lobby doesn’t want to hear – and certainly that they don’t want recommended to Congress.
Long live old Alan. We need his grumpy voice.
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  • alexkees1973

    "What happens when those bills come due? Where do you think the money will come from to pay out promised benefits? Raise the payroll tax?" How about making the payroll tax progressive and/or admitting Social Security is form of welfare saying to multi-millionaires you should forgo it?No Simpson should not be crucified for using the T-Word,especially since he was talking about a metaphorical cow.

  • Terry Cowgill

    Alex,Thanks for your comment.I hear what you're saying, but again, raising the taxable income limit higher than the current $90k or $100k would be a tax increase, coupled with the other inevitable tax increases to pay down our debt. I think that would make our tax burden too high, put us at a competitive disadvantage and put a big crimp on consumer spending, which comprises something like 80% of the economy.And I think telling the wealthy to forgo SS & MC is precisely the kind of thing Simpson has in mind when he talks about people milking the system. But the geezer lobby just goes ballistic at that kind of talk.

  • Terry Cowgill

    P.S. Count me as one who definitely favors means testing, which (depending on the income limit) probably means it will reduce my benefits — but we all have to give up something, eh?

  • Matt

    I think means testing is what ultimately is going to have to happen, combined with a lifting of the taxable income limit and a cut in military spending (like it or not – when given a choice between guns and butter people are going to choose butter and we will have to choose soon enough). That said, it's time then to eliminate Social Security as a separate tax item. If what you pay in isn't going to necessarily bear any resemblance to what you get out then it should just be a tax like any other and we should make it clear to people that there is no "lock box" that holds your contributions.