Alan Simpson, Deficit Commission Court Jester

I really don't have an explanation for why Alan Simpson is one of the co-chairs of President Obama's deficit commission, beyond this: Every time the man opens his mouth, he makes the right wing look stupider than they did the day before. And more evil.

If I were running the world, Alan Simpson would not be anywhere near a commission of any kind, particularly one that is looking at Social Security in relation to the federal budget deficit. But he does provide an entertaining look at how utterly bankrupt right-wing policies are. If the idea was to have a court jester near the White House, Alan Simpson just might fill the role nicely.

Consider his two most recent gaffes. After referring to the Social Security system as a "milk cow with 310 million tits", he moved on to disabled veterans. Disabled veterans? Yes, really. He did.

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson's comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though decades of research has failed to find more than a possible link between the defoliant Agent Orange and diabetes.

"The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess," said Simpson, an Army veteran who was once chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

So if I follow his line of thinking, what he is saying is that the veterans who fought in our wars and were poisoned by Agent Orange through no fault of their own are to blame for the deficit.

It's a joke. It has to be.

But wait -- there's more. Back in June, OWL board members Merton and Joan Bernstein wrote a rebuttal to Simpson's lies about Social Security and posted them on the Huffington Post. Simpson sent them a letter (PDF) in response, in which he managed to be incredibly offensive, condescending and rude in two paragraphs.

I was quite amused by your latest (May 28, 2010) remarkable spew of drivel about Social Security.

[...]

Tack it on your wall and throw darts at it if you wish, but at least know that "out there" are some live human beings who are trying to stabilize this remarkable system and who are using facts instead of emotion, fear and guilt. Surely you people can do better than that? If you can't, then America is in a heap of trouble anyway.

Just the tone was amazing enough, without mentioning the content. But Simpson didn't stop there. No, no, he seems to have a need to be right. Also, OWL is an extremely vocal group pushing back on his unwarranted and unnecessary attack on Social Security. I guess Simpson is just frustrated that the call for his resignation has gotten louder, not softer, because he felt the need to follow up his letter with a personal telephone call to the Bernsteins on Tuesday night, where Merton Bernstein set the record straight on Simpson's errors with regard to Social Security.

Merton Bernstein told HuffPost that he picked up the phone Tuesday night and the caller told him: "You don't know who I am."

"Oh, yes I do," Bernstein said he told Simpson. Bernstein, who was a senior consultant to the 1983 commission that reformed Social Security, said he used the opportunity to try to educate Simpson.

The commission, chaired by Alan Greenspan, reformed Social Security so that it could handle the onslaught of the pending baby boom retirements. Simpson was unaware of what the commission had done, said Bernstein.

"That's not true," Bernstein said of Simpson's claim -- which he has made in the past and repeated to Bernstein -- that the commission did not account for baby boomers. "They very clearly and explicitly addressed that issue. That's why they built in a surplus." Bernstein told him that he was in the room with Bob Ball and other commission leaders when they made the decision to account for the pending wave of retirements.

"Then why are they in such trouble now?" Simpson responded. Bernstein responded that they are not in fact in trouble today. The surplus is now over $2 trillion and is projected to reach $4.6 trillion.

"Well, don't you pay attention to the trustee's report?" Simpson responded, as Bernstein recalled. Bernstein told him that he does pay attention to such reports, and that the most recent report found that Social Security was in no worse shape this year than it was last year, despite the recession. The program is on track to pay full benefits at least until 2037, at which point most surviving boomers will be in their late 80s and 90s.

If the strategy is to play Simpson as the fool publicly, it seems to be working. It also seems foolish, especially when his presence on this commission leaves an impression that there is a possibility Democrats could be the ones to attack Social Security in the name of deficit reduction.

Whatever the grand scheme is, there's no question that Simpson is no asset to this administration and should be shown the door as soon as possible.

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