Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
“Here are just a few of the rude, inaccurate, and derogatory statements that Alan Simpson has made about Social Security.”


There has been a lot of discussion about Congress enacting a “grand bargain” during the lame duck session of Congress.  Many members of Congress have talked about using the plan put forward by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as an outline for a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction.

Let me take this opportunity to tell you a little about Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and what their plan would do.

As many of you know, Alan Simpson is a former conservative Republican Senator from Wyoming who has wanted to cut Social Security benefits for decades.

Here are just a few of the rude, inaccurate, and derogatory statements that Alan Simpson has made about Social Security:

  • On August 24, 2010, Alan Simpson wrote in an e-mail to the head of the Older Women’s League: “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 tits!  Call when you get honest work!”
  • On Friday, May 6, 2011, Alan Simpson told the Investment Company Institute, that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme”, “not a retirement program.”  Simpson went on to say that Social Security “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.”
  • On June 19, 2010, Alan Simpson said: “Social Security was never a retirement. It was set up to take care of ...
Published: Monday 20 August 2012
The commission, which proved to be a bust, was headed by co-chairs named by the president. For the Republicans, who since its inception have wanted to destroy this last vestige of the New Deal, it was former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, a cadaverous wretch of a man who promptly called the program a “milk cow with 300 million tits.”


If you want to know how moribund the Democratic Party is, how completely owned by Wall Street the president is, and how sick our national politics have become, just consider Social Security.

The president, earlier in his term, convened a “blue ribbon” panel, supposedly composed of a “broad spectrum” of opinions from liberal to conservative,” to come up with a plan to “reform” the system.

At issue: It is known that because of the huge number of Baby Boomers -- people born between 1946 and 1964 -- just starting to hit retirement age, and the general aging of the population, the Trust Fund composed of revenues paid into the system by working people will be depleted by about 2033. That would leave current worker taxes covering just 78% of the benefits promised to be paid out the same year, unless something is done sooner to increase revenues or decrease the rate of payouts of those benefits.

The commission, which proved to be a bust, was headed by co-chairs named by the president. For the Republicans, who since its inception have wanted to destroy this last vestige of the New Deal, it was former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, a cadaverous wretch of a man who promptly called the program a “milk cow with 300 million tits.” ‘Nuff said there. Nice pick Barack.

As for his Democratic co-chair, the president named Erskine Bowles. If you wanted to know the views of this former congressman and Clinton advisor on Social Security, you need only learn that in 2011 at a public event, he praised Rep. Paul Ryan, now Mitt Romney's choice for VP, who has said he wants to privatize Social Security, and condemned the president’s last budget proposal as a joke. Barack sure knows how to pick ‘em. Bowles ...

Published: Tuesday 7 August 2012
“The CEOs want to do this behind closed doors because they know that politicians who have to answer to their constituencies will never be able to get away with these cuts. The key is to force the debate into the sunlight.”


Last week I wrote about the conspiracy of corporate chieftains to impose a budget plan involving large cuts to Social Security and Medicare, regardless of who wins the elections in November. According to veteran Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein, who wrote approvingly of these efforts, many of the top executives of the country’s biggest companies are meeting behind closed doors to design such a budget plan.

This plan is expected to follow the designs of the plan crafted two years ago byMorgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson, the co-directors of President Obama’s deficit commission. The Bowles-Simpson plan called for a reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security that is equivalent to a 3 percent cut in benefits. It also called for gradually raising the normal retirement age to 69 and phasing in lower benefits for workers who earned more than $40,000 a year. The Bowles-Simpson plan would also raise the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67.

Published: Tuesday 3 July 2012
“However because the folks in Washington are so dependent on Wall Street money, it is more likely that they will be looking to target the benefits of people struggling to get by on their $1,100 a month Social Security checks.”


As the presidential election builds up steam, the Washington elites in both parties are actively scheming to find ways to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits for retired workers. The media have widely reported on efforts to slip through a version of the deficit reduction plan developed by Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan Simpson. Since the vast majority of voters across the political spectrum reject cuts to these programs, the Washington insiders hope to spring this one on us after the election, when the public will have no say.

That is the sort of anti-democratic behavior we expect from elites who naturally want to protect their own interests. Of course the rest of us are more concerned about the well-being of the country as a whole rather than the preserving the wealth of the richest 1 percent.

For the 99 percent there are much better ways of dealing with whatever deficit problems may arise down the road. Most obviously, insofar as we need more revenue we can look to tax the sort of financial speculation through which the Wall Street gang makes its fortunes. A very small tax on trades of stocks, options, credit default swaps and other derivative instruments could raise a vast amount of money.

The Joint Tax Committee of Congress estimated that a tax of just 0.03 percent on each trade, as proposed by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Peter DeFazio, would raise more than $350 billion over the first nine years that it is ...

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
Alan Simpson once again launched an obscenity-laden diatribe against those who oppose his plans to cut Social Security and Medicare.


Alan Simpson, the foul-mouthed former senator, has been back in the news again. He once again launched an obscenity-laden diatribe against those who oppose his plans to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Unfortunately, the focus of the media attention has been on the senator’s use of obscenities. This is unfortunate because the use of obscenities is really beside the point. After all, a single well-placed expletive can often do the work of a hundred g-rated words.

The real issue is the senator’s open contempt for the portion of the population that is either dependent on Social Security or Medicare now or will be in the future. Since that group comprises almost everyone except the rich, Senator Simpson’s diatribes are expressing contempt for just about the whole population, in other words, the 99 percent.

The contempt the senator holds for the 99 percent is probably common among those like him, the son of a senator, who grew up to great privilege and never had to fear financial insecurity. However Senator Simpson is unusual in showing this contempt so openly. Usually the members of the elite who enter politics are at least able to conceal the negative views they have of the less-privileged.  


Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
“About 25 years ago, Social Security taxes were raised above that needed to support current retirees and the surplus put in a trust fund.”

Alan Simpson let loose at a group of Californians who charged in a brochure that he and Erskine Bowles were "using the deficit to gut our Social Security." The former Republican senator from Wyoming sent the California Association of Retired Americans a characteristically colorful response, which I quote: "What a wretched group of seniors you must be to use the faces of the very people (the young) that we are trying to save, while the 'greedy geezers' like you use them as a tool and a front for your nefarious bunch of crap."

I can't not like Simpson, but he is wrong this time, and the activists are right. The plan named for him and former Clinton Chief of Staff Bowles bravely confronted soaring deficits with balanced spending cuts and tax hikes. Upon its release, the tax-a-phobic Grover Norquist called Simpson "old and grumpy." Simpson fired back with "old Grover Norquist and his happy band of goofy warriors, all they do is make  READ FULL POST 9 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
“This is the week of the third annual Deficit Fest where many of the people most responsible for the current downturn come together to tell us why we should be worried about the deficit.”

This is the week of the third annual Deficit Fest, the event sponsored by Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson. At this event, many of the people most responsible for the current downturn come together to tell us why we should be worried about the deficit at a time when 25 million people are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work altogether and millions face the prospect of losing their homes.

Past deficit fests included exchanges where Peter Peterson and former Treasury Secretary and Citigroup honcho Robert Rubin mused about their comparative net worth. We also got to witness President Clinton bemoan the fact that the Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress teamed up to prevent him from cutting Social Security. Had Clinton gotten his way, millions of seniors would be getting by on Social Security checks that are more than 10 percent smaller than what they now receive.

Peterson is also known for his sponsorship of the “Economic Sleepwalk” tour, which was officially billed as the “Fiscal Wakeup” tour. This involved sending a group of policy wonks around the country to complain about the budget deficit at a time when the housing bubble was growing to ever more dangerous levels. While some of us were doing our best to warn of the imminent disaster [2002], Peterson was using his money and political connections to dominate media space at a time when the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio was actually falling.

But why ...

Published: Tuesday 6 March 2012
“There was no Bowles-Simpson commission report and there was no document that commanded the necessary majority of commission members to be adopted as an official report.”

Parents often find it useful to tell their children about non-existent creatures to instill habits of good behavior. It seems that many political leaders are going the same route. How else can one explain the repeated references to the Bowles-Simpson commission report and its advice to the country on how to reduce the deficit?

The point here is a simple one: there was no Bowles-Simpson commission report. There was no document that commanded the necessary majority of commission members to be adopted as an official report. This should be an easy one that even Washington elites can understand.

The Bowles-Simpson commission, formally known as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, was a presidential commission created in February of 2010. The two co-chairs were Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson.

Under the rules established by President Obama, the commission was supposed to issue a report by December 1, 2010. To be adopted, a report had to have the support of 14 of the 18 commission members. There was no report that had the 14 votes ...

Published: Friday 25 November 2011
“The blame game is a dreary enterprise, but if we’re destined to play yet another round, let’s go back and at least take a more nuanced view of the ledger.”

Congress fails. The can is kicked. Cue the finger-pointing at President Obama for failing to lead.

Count me out, this time around.


The collapse of the supercommittee is not Obama’s fault. If he had pushed and prodded and cajoled and horse-traded, the result likely would have been the same. Perhaps even worse, in the sense that the partisan digging-in might have been even more entrenched.

For all the eleventh-hour, “where-was-Obama?” moaning, the bipartisan congressional directive to the White House as the supercommittee did its work was simple: Back off.

That’s right. The message from both Republican and Democratic members of the group was that presidential involvement could only be counterproductive. The more ...

Published: Wednesday 2 November 2011
Democrats emphasize higher taxes on the wealthy as a key way to pare deficits.

Experts from recent bipartisan debt-reduction commissions gave Congress' debt supercommittee stark, sobering warnings Tuesday about imminent economic disaster unless lawmakers act quickly and boldly to cut federal debt sharply.

Democrats in Congress are reluctant to back dramatic changes in government health care programs. Republicans insist that taxes must not go up. If those unyielding positions persist — and so far, they have _both parties "will be equally complicit in bringing the nation close to the fiscal brink," said Pete Domenici, a former Republican senator from New Mexico who once headed the Senate Budget Committee. "I hope you heard that."

Another expert voiced doubt about prospects for consensus.

"I have great respect for each of you individually, but collectively, I'm worried you're going to fail, fail the country," said Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who headed a 2010 bipartisan deficit reduction commission.

However, he later added: "I think you can get this done."

But as Bowles and three other bipartisan-panel chairmen took questions Tuesday from the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, it was clear that the current panel's lawmakers were largely stuck, at least publicly, on partisan remedies.

Published: Monday 26 September 2011
“What is most remarkable in this picture is the complete failure of the media to identify Wall Street’s role in pushing this deficit reduction agenda.”

The intensity with which the country’s leading deficit hawks continue to ignore financial speculation taxes (FST) is getting ever more entertaining. While deficit hawks like Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson, Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles, and the Washington Postnever tire of preaching the virtues of shared sacrifice, somehow sacrifice for Wall Street never features as a part of this story.

The refusal of this group to consider financial speculation taxes is becoming more striking because most of the world appears to be moving in this direction. Last spring, the European Parliament voted by an almost 4-to-1 margin in support of financial speculation taxes.  The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU), is now making plans to implement a modest tax beginning in 2014.

Even with the low tax rates being considered by the commission (e.g. 0.05 percent in each side of a stock trade), it is estimated that an EU-wide tax could bring in as much as $60 billion a year.  Two of the leading proponents of a financial speculation tax in Europe are German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, both of whom are leaders of the conservative parties in their countries. Still, even liberal deficit hawks here do not want to talk about financial speculation taxes.

We learned from Ron Suskind’s new book on the making of economic policy in the Obama Administration that a financial speculation tax was considered at the very ...

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