Alan Simpson's disastrous interview with HuffPo's Ryan Grim, in which he portrayed an obstinate ignorance of the facts behind Social Security, U.S. demographics, and how Social Security works has resulted in a number of blog posts attempting to show Simpson the light.
Matt Yglesias as a new one, not directed to Simpson, but to the idea that people are living longer so we have to raise the retirement age, a point which Grim, and Ezra Klein, and Kevin Drum, and Steve Benen all debunk. Yglesias's take is incredibly necessary, demonstrating just how cruelly regressive this proposal is.
If I were to say, “let’s fix the Social Security gap with a benefit cut that hurts the poor really badly while largely sparing the rich” Beltway people would think that was a bit of an odd idea. But if I were to say, “people are living longer than ever, so let’s raise the retirement age,” I’d be the toast of Washington. The problem, as Aaron Carroll shows citing Hilary Waldren’s research (PDF) is that these are equivalent ideas. Consider that not only do the rich live longer than the poor, but the gap has grown steadily:
So this is a terrible and terribly unfair idea.
....I understand that it seems “politically savvy” to try to devise complicated phase-ins or obscure what’s happening with hide the ball moves, but the upshot is that you wind up with people proposing ideas whose implications they don’t really understand. As we saw recently with Alan Simpson, in DC you don’t need to know anything about public policy to be a senator or to chair important commissions so the odds that people who think they’re merely fooling the voters are also going to end up fooling themselves are quite high.
Not that Simpson particularly cares about the poor. Once again, Simpson shouldn't be let off the hook with the idea that he just doesn't get it. He's maintained a willful ignorance about Social Security for his entire public career, from when he was attacking the AARP two decades ago and through the catfood commission. Simpson just refuses to acknowledge the facts because he doesn't want to. And won't. That doesn't excuse him anything.
But it also doesn't excuse any policy-maker or influential commentator who picks up Simpson's rallying cry and zombie lie: We're living longer, so raise the retirement age! Those policy-makers and DC pundits might be in a cohort that's living longer (and holding onto their jobs for a depressingly long time), but that sure isn't true for the rest of us. Which is why, by the way, it's such a hugely unpopular proposal.