Recent comments by Alan Simpson, a former senator from Wyoming and current co-chair of President Obama’s debt commission, are causing outrage and consternation from liberal and elder groups.
According to CNN, the trouble started when Ashley Carson, executive director of the Older Women’s League (OWL), suggested that Simpson was targeting Social Security as part of a debt-reduction plan. Carson claimed that Social Security was not contributing to the national debt, so any attempt to deal with Social Security would be “unfair.”
Suggestions for reforming Social Security have ranged from raising the retirement age to adjusting the yearly Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to allowing tax payers below a certain age to divert some of their Social Security taxes to private savings accounts.
Alan Simpson, a man known for his direct and colorful language, responded in an e-mail to Ashley Carson. Simpson pointed out some of the system’s long-term problems that contribute to the national debt. Then he stated:
“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–s! Call when you get honest work!”
Simpson apologized a day later, but by then it was too late. Carson has called on Simpson to resign from the debt commission. Meanwhil,e leftist groups such as MoveOn.org and others are demanding that Social Security be off the table when addressing the national debt. Their solution is, typically, cutting defense spending and raising taxes.
Most analysts, though, suggest that the deficit and the national debt cannot be addressed without reforming entitlement programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Congressman Paul Ryan, the current ranking member of the House Budget Committee and presumed Chairman if, as expected, the Republicans take over the House, has developed a “road map” that includes entitlement reform, “pro growth” tax reform, and a freeze on most discretionary spending.
However, the violent reaction of Carson and the continued opposition of some left-wing and elder groups suggests that entitlement reform will be a hard slog. But Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have to be on the block. One could abolish the US military and still not be more than half way to solving the deficit. Raising taxes would likely make things worse by inhibiting economic growth in a recession. That leaves domestic spending cuts as the only sensible alternative.
Co-chair of Obama debt panel under fire for remarks, Jeanne Sahadi, CNN, August 25th, 2010