Alan Simpson unloads on Oakland protesters

Politico has the scoop today on an angry letter that former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson sent to the California Alliance for Retired Americans after that group protested outside his appearance at Oakland’s Paramount Theater in March.

Simpson and Erskine Bowles – who served former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff – were speaking together in Oakland because they had co-chaired President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The alliance, along with some unions and other groups, rallied to protest the commission’s final recommendations, which included raising Social Security’s early retirement age to 64 and the standard retirement age to 69; reducing benefits for the more affluent half of retirees; and raising the payroll tax that funds the program.

Simpson apparently was miffed about a flyer the protesters handed out, and sent them a letter.

Alan SimpsonYou use the faces of young people, who are the ones who are going to get gutted while you continue to push out your blather and drivel. My suggestion to you — an honest one — read the damn report. The Moment of Truth — 67 pages, and then tell me if we’re not doing the right thing with Social Security. What a wretched group of seniors you must be to use the faces of the very people 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. You must feel some sense of shame for shoveling out this bulls**t.

California Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith said today that Simpson “made no meaningful attempt to address the concerns of current and future retirees that his commission’s proposal would weaken Social Security and place benefits at risk.”

“Instead, Simpson chose to lower the level of discourse to insults that border on abusive language. This sort of response doesn’t move the debate on Social Security forward,” Smith said. “If anything, it’s a slap in the face to millions of workers who have legitimate concerns about how out of touch longtime DC insiders like Simpson are when it comes to protecting a program that’s essential to nearly every American.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Simpson tells it like it is.

    Smith is a hack.

  • gschwartz

    Smith is being polite. Simpson is a gasbag who has been a mean spirited hack for decades. The biggest threat to Social Security is from greedy Wall Street privateers and its sycophants like Simpson who could care less about wiping out the retirement security of tens of millions of Americans.

    Here’s what the Tursttes actually found:
    • Social Security has a large and growing surplus
    • Without any Congressional action, Social Security will continue to pay benefits to America’s eligible working families for decades
    • With only modest legislated increases in revenue, it will continue to pay those benefits for the next century and beyond.

    If Simpson were honest, which he is not and never has been, he would say if you are really concerned about the future of Social Security, there is one genuine reform, and it is not cutting benefits or raising the retirement age for people already hurting from the economy tanked by Simpson’s friends on Wall Street.

    Lift the payroll tax cap — the only problem is that it would mean a greater contribution from the wealthy people whom Simpson is doing everything he can to protect.

  • JohnW

    I’m in general agreement with Simpson Bowles on SS. However, Simpson seems to have gone on a rant about pictures in a brochure rather than addressing the 10-point argument CARA made in opposition to Simpson Bowles. Most of their ten points about Simpson Bowles are factual. Their solution is to lift the cap on income subject to the SS payroll tax. I don’t agree with that, because it effectively increases the marginal tax rate on a middle income person making more than $110k from 28% to 34.2%. However, it would have been more constructive for Simpson to explain the reasons why Simpson Bowles didn’t go in that direction than ranting about “greedy geezers.”

  • Bob Loblaw

    BRAVO Alan Simpson. All people like Steve Smith are interested in is goring someone else’s ox. He doesn’t want to do anything to help close out deficit and pay down our debt. Thats someone’s elses’s job.

    Shared sacrifice is an alien concept in this country.

  • gschwartz

    “Shared sacrifice” is the biggest hoax perpetrated on the public yet.

    All the sacrifices have been made by the 99 percent for the benefit of the 1 percent, like Simpson. The past three decades have seen the greatest transfer of wealth from working people to the rich in our nation’s history.

    And then you have gasbags like Alan Simpson who want to inflict more suffering and pain on working people by further gutting our social safety net. No thanks.

  • JohnW

    Re: #5 Gschwartz

    Simpson is overly blunt in the way he makes his point. But there is no getting around the facts. Social Security is being paid for now through a combination of the payroll taxes and drawing from the trust fund that accumulated during the surplus years. When the trust fund bonds are redeemed, the government borrows the money to pay off the bonds, which adds to the deficit. It’s an urban legend that the government “stole” the trust fund to pay for other government expenditures. In about 20 years, the trust fund will be fully depleted. At that point, Social Security benefits will be paid solely from the payroll tax. Estimates are that the payroll taxes will then cover only 75% of scheduled benefits. Obviously, adjustments have to be made. We could just do nothing and wait until that time arrives, at which point, the 25% cut in benefits would be pretty much automatic.

  • J Hammon

    Simpson could clearly have been more genteel in his response, but the clear fact is that this country has a huge problem with our finances, including Social Security. While I do not like every aspect of the recommendations in the Simpson Bowles report, I do agree that it is a very good compromise that addresses very real and very critical problems our country must address.

    Bottom Line: “Read the report.” – – And then our congress needs to stop the partisan bickering and find a set of compromises, such as those in the report.

  • JohnW

    Re: #7

    Well said, J Hammon. If people don’t like Simpson’s bedside manner (patient being the nation’s fiscal situation), then listen to Bowles, the Democrat and former president of the University of North Carolina. It fries me that we didn’t seize the opportunity to get going on this. Mr. Budget Responsibility, Paul Ryan, was on the commission and voted against it. That was a clear signal to Obama that, if he tried to implement some version of the report, the Republicans were going to crucify him because of the taxes.

  • Elwood

    @ # 8 John W.

    All is fair in love, war and politics they say.