Senator Alan Simpson wants us to shut up. The Huffington Post reported Simpson’s comments at a recent event sponsored by “Face the Facts USA”:
“Could you please cut out the babble? Would you quit talking about the poor, the vulnerable, the veterans, the old ladies going over cliffs, the hospices, the bedpans? I mean, what the hell? We all know, all of us know, that that’s the people you want to take care of.”
You can’t blame us for taking it personally. We’ve had a lot to say recently about women who are still poor, without health insurance, and paid less than men. We’ve had to point out that cutting programs that serve low-income people especially hurts women and their families, and that the House-passed budget plan slashes these programs in the name of deficit reduction while giving trillions of dollars in new tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. And we’ve had to explain the impact of a stealth Social Security benefit cut proposed by the Simpson-Bowles report – reducing the cost-of-living adjustment by changing to a new consumer price index, the “chained CPI.”
For the typical single elderly woman whose Social Security benefit is a modest $1,100 per month at age 65, the reduction in benefits from switching to the chained CPI would be equivalent to the cost of a week’s worth of food each month at age 80. By age 95, the reduction would be equivalent to nearly two weeks’ worth of food each month. Because the benefit cut from the chained CPI gets deeper with every year of benefit receipt, it especially hurts women, who generally live longer than men. It also hurts people who become disabled early in life – including many veterans. (We’re not supposed to talk about them, either.)
Alan Simpson has a penchant for making outrageous comments; you may recall that he described Social Security and the people who have earned it and depend on it as “a milk cow with 300 million tits.” But we can’t afford to shrug this one off.
Simpson and his former fiscal commission co-chair, Erskine Bowles, have co-founded a new “fix-the-debt” campaign. The campaign has already raised nearly $30 million with the backing of billionaire Peter J. Peterson and a CEO Council. Politico reports Simpson and Bowles are making a comeback, and looking to retool their deficit reduction package to “decrease the amount of revenue it raises – to address those concerns from the right regarding tax increases.”
Since we believe in arithmetic, we’re guessing that a new Simpson-Bowles plan with even less revenue than the original plan means deeper cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and more. Sorry, Senator Simpson – those cuts affect real people, not just numbers on a balance sheet. We won’t quit talking about them.