Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sen. Simpson's call for lesser Americans to forgive the debt owed the Social Security Trust

[This is a copy of a letter I just sent to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. If you agree with what I have said in this letter, their email address is commission@fc.eop.gov.]

MoveOn is calling on me to ask Senator Simpson to resign from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. They've put up a video of a pleasantly candid interview that Senator Simpson did on the way out of a meeting with a MoveOn journalist. I think Senator Simpson should resign, but the reason MoveOn gives in calling for his resignation is trivial in comparison to the real reason.

It's very encouraging that Senator Simpson was willing to be so frank. At the same time, though, several things Senator Simpson said indicate to me that he is out of touch with reality. I do not want the Senator Simpson that I saw in that interview deciding what happens to Social Security. I'm 45 right now, 20 years from retirement.

Senator Simpson said that Social Security is for "lesser Americans." I take it he means Americans like me, and like my parents, and like their parents. I find it astonishing that these Americans—the ones who voted him into office and paid his salary all those years that he was in the Senate, and the ones who are now paying for his enviable health care package, are somehow "lesser." But this is a trivial point; if it were all that Senator Simpson had said, I would not be writing this letter.

The thing that really bothers me is Senator Simpson's willingness to default on a loan made by these "lesser Americans" to the federal government. For many, many years we have labored under the illusion that the national debt was far less than it actually is, because the money borrowed from the Social Security trust fund was not counted as part of the debt, even though no honest accountant could ever argue that it is anything but.

Now it seems that Senator Simpson considers it a given that Congress will default on that loan. Rather than manning up and admitting that the national debt includes those IOUs, Senator Simpson considers it decided that those IOUs will not be paid, and intends instead to gut Social Security in one of a variety of ways. It is "necessary," he insists, in a very reasonable tone of voice. The only question is which of fifteen different ways of defaulting on this debt will be chosen.

Where I come from, we call this stealing. I've had FICA taken out of my taxes my whole life, and it's been a *lot* of money. Now Senator Simpson is saying "sorry, we're just going to keep that money."

Senator Simpson's remarks on "lesser Americans" pale in comparison to this calumny. It is for *this* reason that Senator Simpson should resign: because he is willing to casually default on a debt owed to the American people by a Congress that felt, for most of my adult life, that it was okay to lie to the American people, using an accounting practice that would land a corporate officer in jail for fraud, to pretend that the government had money to spend on Iraq, on Afghanistan, and on tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

So while Senator Simpson seems like a very pleasant gentleman, because of his willingness to shirk on such an important debt, I do call for his resignation.