Alan Simpson is feeling a little besieged these days. It seems people aren't taking too kindly to his proposals to cut a chunk out of their Social Security benefits, and they're saying so.
But Simpson said that while every interest group that testified before his committee agreed that the mounting federal debt is a national tragedy, they would then talk about why government funding to their area of interest shouldn't be touched.
"We had the greatest generation -- I think this is the greediest generation," he said.
All this hubbub isn't a surprise to Simpson, given how politically polarized the country is these days.
"You don't want to listen to the right and the left -- the extremes," he said. "You don't want to listen to Keith Olbermann and Rush Babe [Limbaugh] and Rachel Minnow [sic] or whatever that is, and Glenn Beck. They're entertainers. They couldn't govern their way out of a paper sack -- from the right or the left. But they get paid a lot of money from you and advertisers -- thirty, fifty million a year -- to work you over and get you juiced up with emotion, fear, guilt, and racism. Emotion, fear, guilt, and racism.
"Time to go for facts. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but nobody's entitled to their own facts," Simpson said, paraphrasing former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Oh, how right he is. Facts are important. One really important fact that seems to be overlooked in his crusade against Social Security is this one: Social Security isn't contributing to the national debt or deficit. Yet he insists on making it part of the discussion.
Here's another fact: Simpson, at age 79, received his Social Security benefits right on schedule at age 65. He also received his government pension at age 65. Both of those were financed by contributions the Baby Boomer generation made through their work which boosted the economy. Without our contributions, his generation wouldn't have enjoyed their retirement years in relatively good health with a decent financial safety net.
More facts: People Simpson's age working in the private sector were more likely to be covered by a pension plan in their early working years and later by 401(k) plans. They were also more likely to remain with one employer for a longer period of time, allowing them to accumulate a decent pension before they reached age 65. All of that was done on the taxpayers' dime. Pension contributions are deductible by corporations; 401k contributions in the early years were exempt from ALL taxes (later that changed to exemption from income tax only), and funds are accumulated on a tax-free basis.
In plain terms, the Greatest Generation's comfortable retirement has been bought and paid for by those members of the generation Simpson describes as "selfish", and his generation enjoys a far more comfortable retirement than we can expect to receive.
Meanwhile, that so-called "selfish" generation is the one now most likely to have lost significant portions of their 401(k) savings to the market crash, lost their homes or a large portion of their home's value, lost their jobs and are not likely to be employed any time soon. When employers have the option to hire younger, less experienced workers who will work for less money and cost less in benefit dollars, they exercise it, leaving older workers (and particularly women) out in the cold.
Selfishness is as selfishness does, Mr. Simpson. We've paid for you without complaint. Now it's time to step up and really identify who is selfish. Start with the companies listed on the Dow Jones index and work from there.