Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. At least one of these men should be ashamed of himself. (Larry Downing/REUTERS)
Alan Simpson and his senior-citizen-hating ways are back in the news. It will come as a shock for most Social Security recipients to find out that Social Security isn't a retirement program. And that a former Senator who was chosen by the President to lead an important government commission has so much contempt
for government programs.
WASHINGTON—Alan Simpson's cold relationship with AARP is no secret, but the former Republican Senator from Wyoming took it to a new level Friday. At an event hosted by the Investment Company Institute, Simpson delighted the finance industry audience members by aiming a rude gesture at the leading lobby for senior citizens....
Simpson's forceful gesture came after an extended diatribe against Social Security, which he said is a "Ponzi" scheme, "not a retirement program.”
Simpson argued that Social Security was originally intended more as a welfare program.
"It was never intended as a retirement program. It was set up in '37 and '38 to take care of people who were in distress—ditch diggers, wage earners—it was to give them 43 percent of the replacement rate of their wages. The [life expectancy] was 63. That's why they set retirement age at 65” for Social Security, he said.
Which of course, is not true. And Ryan Grim does an excellent job in this piece showing that, and exposing Simpson for the fraud that he is.
HuffPost suggested to Simpson during a telephone interview that his claim about life expectancy was misleading because his data include people who died in childhood of diseases that are now largely preventable. Incorporating such early deaths skews the average life expectancy number downward, making it appear as if people live dramatically longer today than they did half a century ago. According to the Social Security Administration's actuaries, women who lived to 65 in 1940 had a life expectancy of 79.7 years and men were expected to live 77.7 years.
"If that is the case—and I don't think it is—then that means they put in peanuts," said Simpson.
Simpson speculated that the data presented to him by HuffPost had been furnished by "the Catfood Commission people"—a reference to progressive critics of the deficit commission who gave president's panel that label.
Told that the data came directly from the Social Security Administration, Simpson continued to insist it was inaccurate, while misstating the nature of a statistical average: "If you're telling me that a guy who got to be 65 in 1940—that all of them lived to be 77—that is just not correct. Just because a guy gets to be 65, he's gonna live to be 77? Hell, that's my genre. That's not true," said Simpson, who will turn 80 in September....
The second prong of the Social Security critique relies on the coming wave of Baby Boomer retirements. This flood of retirees will tip the ratio of workers to pensioners out of whack, the argument goes.
"The statistics right now show a totally unsustainable program that cannot possibly function when 10,000 a day are coming into the Social Security system at 65," Simpson explained to HuffPost. "Was that ever planned [for]? That 10,000 a day would suddenly coming into the system?"
In fact, it was planned for: The Social Security Administration tracks births every year and knew by 1947 that 1946 had been a boom year. When the system was reformed in 1983 by the Greenspan Commission, the Baby Boom was specifically taken into account.....
Simpson said that questioning his data wasn't helping to solve the underlying problem.
"This is the first time, the first time—and Erskine [Bowles, the deficit commission co-chair,] and I have been talking for a year and many months—that anyone's going to sit around and play with statistics like this," he told HuffPost. "Anything I tell you, you repudiate. You're the first guy in a year and a half who's stood out here with a sharp pencil playing a game that doesn't have a damn thing to do with: 'What the hell are you going to do with the system?'"
The former senator enjoys a pension for his service in Congress, which lasted fewer than 20 years.
Of course, this isn't the first time Alan Simpson has been confronted with real Social Security statistics and facts. There's one extremely memorable occasion in which Simpson unleashed an obscene tirade at Alex Lawson, with Social Security Works in response to Lawson's informed questions about the program. Again, using actual information from the Social Security Administration, Simpson attacked, calling Lawson's facts "sophistry of babbling."
Simpson is a fraud and an ideologue, unable to separate whatever personal and long-standing resentment he has of the AARP (and apparently all senior citizens) from the truth about the program. When will this guy stop being the crazy uncle that everybody indulges and just thinks of as eccentric, and be recognized for the venomous, classless, charlatan that he is? That goes for his non-report with co-chair Erskine Bowles, as well.