I always find interviews with Alan Simpson entertaining and this one is no exception:
In fact, the former senator questions the basic concept of the ATR Pledge, which lawmakers are encouraged to sign before they take office. It amounts to “bondage of the mind,” he says. “Who would sign anything before coming to office before reviewing the facts, conditions, and situation?” asks Simpson. “Why would anyone — on any hot issue you can imagine — lock themselves into a position?”
Then there is the AARP, an organization Simpson slams for rigidly opposing necessary changes to entitlements. “All they do is slap us around with a stick in their magazine,” he says. “If you can’t raise the retirement age to 68 by 2050 — for crying out loud — who are you? You must be a boob if you can’t figure out that life expectancy is 78.”
It is precisely this mentality that was responsible for the way House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) was “savaged” for his effort to substantially reform (and thereby save) Medicare, on which “everything depends” when it comes to the country’s long-term debt problem. In doing so, Simpson argues, Ryan set himself apart as a man among children on the field of fiscal seriousness. “If you’re going to attack the mastodon in the kitchen, that’s Medicare,” he says. “That’s exactly what he did, and they served him a rich ration of hell. In the years that go by, we’ll look back and see the only guy who had the guts to nail the mastodon was Paul Ryan.”
Certainly not President Obama, who decided to “nail Ryan to the post” in an April 13 speech at George Washington University to outline his own “framework” to address the deficit. “I don’t think that’s going to sell,” he says. “You don’t praise and talk about bipartisanship and then just hammer Republicans flat.”
In particular, Simpson did not care for the president’s sermonizing about the need to protect the “poor and vulnerable” members of society. “That made me blow my cork,” he says. “What do you think our plan did?”
The combination of sanctimony, crankiness and confusion is so compelling. There are lots of good reasons to bring Social Security into actuarial balance without raising the retirement age. And I don't really see why the fact that Simpson's plan protected the poor justifies his anger at Obama attacking Paul Ryan's plan for singling out the poor.
And then you have the mastodon metaphor. I bet Simpson as a young man once hunted mastodon. Bah, these young kids get medical care when they retire? You know what care you received back in his day when you got impaled by a mastodon tusk? Nothing!