Retired Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, who inherited a soft-cushion career in politics from his father, is a garrulous old crank who at 79 seems desperate for attention. Simpson likes to pop off provocatively. He cannot resist mocking lesser mortals like Social Security recipients with meanspirited ridicule. Simpson is an always quotable darling of Washington reporters, who mistake his nastiness for straight talk, who are too lazy to check out his ugly distortions.
Simpson should have been turned out to pasture years ago, but instead he was give a teaching post at Harvard and Barack Obama made him co-chair of the President’s bipartisan commission on reducing the federal deficits. Every savvy player in the capital knows what the president has in mind—whack Social Security benefits to lure Republicans into a grand deal on raising taxes. As I have written more than once, when Washington talks up bipartisan compromise it usually means the people are about to get screwed.
That train is rolling down the tracks now, but don’t expect major media coverage to alert the populace. The prestige newspapers are on board for this deal and Obama’s commission won’t reveal its recommendations until right after the election. Too late for folks to make a stink.
Senator Trash Mouth keeps messing up the plan, however, by provoking outrage with his tasteless zingers. Most recently, Simpson compared Social Security—the federal government’s most beloved program—to "a milk cow with 310 million tits." Instead of yuks, the senator got angry blowback—Congressional demands that he resign or be fired by the president. Important liberal groups like the AFL-CIO joined the chorus of complaints. Simpson apologized, the Prez stood by him. Personally, I hope Simpson stays on the commission and continues to speak out. He’s doing more harm than good for Obama’s sleight-of-hand politics.
Anyway, Alan Simpson is not nearly as bad as some political reporters at the New York Times and other leading newspapers who dutifully repeat the establishment’s falsehoods and distortions about Social Security. Some reporters probably know better but lack the nerve to write dissenting versions. Many reporters are simply ignorant but loyal to their sources. Social Security, as Nation writers have explained many times, does not contribute a penny to federal deficits and it never will, according to the terms of the law. The opposite is the case.
On the same page the Times reported Simpson’s latest gaffe, political reporter Matt Bai contributed a far more outrageous falsehood of his own. In condescending style, he dismissed opponents to Social Security cuts (dimwits like me) as stuck-in-the-past liberals, trying to defend big government against harsh reality. Bai celebrated the courage of Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, a Democrat who evidently embraces the same view. Bai did not mention the people and public opinion overwhelmingly opposed to benefit cuts (check the polls if you doubt this). Someone should ask Congressman Blumenauer’s constituents how they feel about his brave stance.