fresh voices from the front lines of change







Alan Simpson's the lead pitchman for a billionaire- and corporate-funded initiative to slash Social Security that has subjected the public to years of nonstop haranguing and lecturing.

The lecturing's gotten crude, too, as when Simpson insisted that anyone who disagrees with him is shoveling "bullsh*t."

That's tough talk, but it's a funny thing: When the public makes tough decisions, as it did in a new National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) survey, the tough-talking Mr. Simpson is nowhere to be found.

Three-Card Monte

Much of this verbal abuse has been funded by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson. Peterson tried to amplify the impression of an anti-deficit groundswell through a kind of three-card monte in which he funds many different shell organizations staffed by the same people and delivering the same message. They include the Concord Coalition, which may have been the first to trot out the phrase "we must make the hard choices on Social Security."

That statement's almost always conjoined with another Peterson-funded theme: that their harsh, right-wing benefit-cutting proposals are based on "arithmetic, not ideology."

President Obama picked the Peterson-backed team of Simpson and hedge funder Erskine Bowles to run a deficit commission, which ended in deadlock and failure. But with generous funding, the deficit duo went on to tell us that we need to face a "moment of truth" on deficits and Social Security.

(They placed in on the defunct Fiscal Commission's website, which misleadingly suggested it includes official recommendations from the Commission.)

The Amen Corner

It's true that Republicans had the most radical idea of all: privatizing Social Security. But well-funded politicians and ex-pols in both parties are used to create an impression of "bipartisan consensus."The Democratic contingent is led by Bill Clinton, who's become extremely wealthy in the hedge fund world since leaving the Presidency.

And while Republicans like Mitt Romney slandered the "47 percent" as irresponsible "takers," Democrats like President Obama unfortunately repeated the "hard choices" mantra while others, like Nancy Pelosi, expressed a disturbing willingness to cut our already-inadequate Social Security benefits.

The underlying theme was always: The American people want it both ways. They demand Social Security, but they don't want to pay for it.

"There is no free lunch," the Concord Coalition writes mockingly.  With the NASI survey, the public just offered to cover its tab.

Canned Music

Simpson slandered older Americans as "greedy geezers" in a nasty outburst and condescended to younger ones in a silly video.

A Peterson-funded group called "The Can Kicks Back" tried and failed to popularize their deficit deceptions among Generations X and Y. The rich CEOs of "Fix the Debt," another Peterson shell organization, asked others to sacrifice for their benefit.

They asked slanted questions in a series of AmericaSpeaks "town hall meetings," which we attended - and which turned out to be "a mind control experiment gone horribly right."  But the stacked deck of cards dealt by the Peterson crowd at AmericaSpeaks prevented the kind of comprehensive choices and solutions offered in the NASI survey.

They even created a deficit-reduction "game" called "Budgetball," which we preferred to describe as "The Fountainhead" meets Deathrace 2000.

Meanwhile they and their media collaborators kept repeating one phrase like a mantra: Hard choices. Hard choices. Hard choices.

Now the public is making hard choices - and the deficit hypocrites are nowhere to be found.

Milk Cow Blues

Simpson's vituperation toward America's seniors was most evident in his "BS"/"greedy geezer" rant, and it was extended to all generations in his misogynistic note to  female activist and organizer Ashley Carson. He compared Social Security to "a cow with 300 million tits." Note to faux-folksy Simpson: It's "teats," if you're a farmer - unless you get off on using crude language to a woman.

Simpson abuses to a lot of people who disagree with him, including Max Richtman, the civil and courteous head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. But he never addresses the substance of their arguments.

In Ms. Carson's case, Simpson wasn't just being abusive. He was also arguing that lazy Americans were trying to "milk the system."

He was wrong. Americans are willing to pay for their Social Security.

Hard Choices: Made

A new survey from the National Academy of Social Insurance reinforces previous polling which showed Americans across the political spectrum oppose benefit cuts to Social Security and want wealthy Americans to pay more.

But the NASI study did something new: It presented respondents with a range of options and allowed them to select among them. The results were striking, and revealed a rock-solid consensus which spanned generations and political persuasions: Americans want wealthy people to pay their fair share, but they're willing to chip in more themselves - so much so, in fact, that Social Security benefits could be increased.

That's a very good idea, since Social Security's benefits are among the lowest in the developed world.

"Greedy Geezers" = Selfless Seniors

That includes seniors, as can be seen if you delve into the NASI survey's findings. Older people's activism in defense of Social Security has always been primarily selfless. After all, only the "chained CPI" proposal would cut their benefits, and it hadn't been introduced yet when Simpson called them "greedy geezers." They were fighting for the generations that follow them, not themselves.

That selflessness is borne out by the NASI survey, which showed that 88 percent of "Silent Generation" respondents - the youngest of whom is 70 - were willing to pay more in taxes to protect the program.

Everybody get together, learn to love one another right now ...

That spirit of generosity extends to Baby Boomers, too. 86 percent of them said they "didn't mind" paying more in taxes to protect the program, even though most benefit-cut proposals would affect Boomers less than the generations that follow them.

The Baby Boom generation lost most of its wealth in the Wall Street financial crisis. Yet it's still willing to pay up to keep the program solvent - especially for their children's generation.

The Kids Are Al-Right

Younger Americans are willing to make the hard decisions, too.  87 percent of Gen X-ers and 85 percent of Gen Y-ers were also willing to pay more in taxes in order to protect the program.

Solid majorities of young people were willing to share in the sacrifice, across all income levels.

Consensus At Last

Did you think Republicans never want to pay more taxes? Not true, at least when it comes to Social Security. Three out of four Republicans said they'd be willing to pay more to protect the program. So did 86 percent of independents - and 91 percent of Democrats.

What's more, 62 percent of Republicans thought we should consider increasing the program's benefits. So did 71 percent of independents and 84 percent of Democrats.

The President's vision of bipartisan consensus can be achieved - around strengthening Social Security.

Having Their Cake - And Eating Yours, Too

Guess who isn't willing to step up and pitch in?  The millionaires, billionaires, and corporations behind the deficit hysteria. Their pampered pitchpeople are hiding, too.

After all, the NASI survey's been out for a week and we haven't heard a peep from any of them. Not one of them has congratulated the American people for making those "hard choices." Not one of them has signed on to promote the NASI survey's common-sense, fiscally responsible agenda for Social Security.

Not even straight-shootin' Alan Simpson.

You can run but you can't hide

"If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors," Simpson wrote in his "310 million tits" email, "let me know." Now the public has let him know.

Where's Alan?

"If there's no pain," says the Concord Coalition, "there's no gain." Now we know that they're talking about your pain and their gain.

Where's Alan?

And the public's still being lectured. One lecture came from Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein who, thanks to the Wall Street bailout, benefited rom the largest free lunch in history.

Pack it in, guys. In fact, you should be celebrating: The public's made those hard choices you've been talking about. If you're not hypocrites you'll fight for their Social Security agenda, not yours.

If you're not hypocrites.

It's time to step up and take a lesson in responsibility from the American people. Anything else is, in as one of you once said, "bullsh*t."

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