Lawmakers want fiscal commission co-chair ousted over e-mail

Lawmakers and activists are calling on President Obama to remove former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) from his fiscal commission because of a colorful e-mail he sent to the leader of a women's group. 

Simpson sent a message this week to National Older Women's League (OWL) Excutive Director Ashley Carson criticizing a column she wrote on Social Security. In that e-mail, he compared the entitlement program to "a milk cow with 310 million tits."

ADVERTISEMENT
"We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!" Simpson wrote to Carson.

Carson published a column on the Huffington Post in April that defended Social Security and targeted Simpson for wanting to make cuts to the program. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to Obama, calling on him to remove Simpson, the Huffington Post reported Wednesday afternoon.

"Despite the many years of distinguished public service former Senator Simpson has dedicated to this country, his recent e-mail indicates that it is no longer appropriate for him to serve on the bi-partisan deficit reduction commission," they wrote. "Therefore, in order for your commission's recommendations to have credibility with Congress, we respectfully urge you to remove Senator Simpson from the commission."

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also called on Simpson to step aside from the commission.

"If Sen. Simpson truly feels the disgust at Social Security he indicates in this letter, he should consider recusing himself from the commission,” Grijalva said in a statement Wednesday.

Simpson's comments created an unwanted controversy for Obama's fiscal commission, which is expected to make its recommendations for reducing the growth of the federal deficit in December. 

The panel has already been under intense pressure from lawmakers in both political parties, who are worried the commission will propose either drastic spending cuts or tax increases to reduce the nation's growing debt.

Simpson wrote an apology to Carson Wednesday, saying "I apologize for what I wrote. I can see that my remarks have caused you anguish, and that was not my intention. I certainly did not intend to diminish your hard work for the Older Women's League. I know you care deeply about strengthening Social Security, and so do I, just as deeply."

Earlier in the day, OWL and the group Social Security Works circulated a petition demanding that Obama fire Simpson or demand his resignation. 

"The facts speak for themselves, but Mr. Simpson suggests that anyone supporting people who most need help and who deserve the benefits they paid for must be dishonest or stupid. (Greedy Geezers, Pink Panthers, People not caring a whit about their grandchildren, the lesser people) Such open contempt goes beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated from someone in such a position of authority," the petition says.

The groups call on the president, saying, "It is time for you to stand up for the millions of American workers who have paid into Social Security on the promise of a secure retirement, and put them ahead of political sportsmanship. Mr. Simpson must be removed from this commission, either by his own will, or by yours. Show American workers you mean what you say about protecting Social Security. This is your chance."

Simpson has frequently criticized Social Security, saying it adds to the nation's debt and provides an outlet for fraud.

The women's group NOW has also called on Obama to replace Simpson.

"Alan Simpson is not fit to lead the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The ugliness of his disrespect for women is matched only by his dogged determination to dismantle Social Security by cutting benefits or increasing the retirement age," the group's president, Terry O'Neill, said.

The AARP said that Simpson's comments were "offensive" but stopped short of caling for his resignation. 

Here is the full e-mail Simpson wrote to Carson:

Dear Ms. Carson,

Someone was good enough to forward me your column of “Enough with the Pink Panthers Bit” of April 27, 2010.

Some of what you say is true. Much is not – but that’s nothing new about public life for me! I have news for you too, my friend. There may be no group called the Pink Panthers working to protect Social Security but I sure as hell am! I’ve spent many years in public life trying to stabilize that system while people like you babble into the vapors about “disgusting attempts at ageism and sexism” and all the rest of that crap.

Now hold on tight, because you won’t like what I’m sending you. You may obviously be aware that the Social Security system is “in trouble.” If you don’t agree with that, then there is no need to read any further. But I wish to share with you the presentation by Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration on May 12, 2010 to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. If you think the statistics on poverty for seniors are alarming – then you need to read this little pamphlet to know what is really alarming.

If we can’t get a handle on this system and make it sustainable and assure long term solvency, and make some changes that are “minor” at the present time and will become “major” as each year passes, then take a look at the chart on Page 6 which I hope you are able to discern if you are any good at reading graphs – or anything that might challenge your biases and prejudices.

Anyway, have a look at it and if you should choose, you might communicate with me. If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors, let me know. And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!

-- This post was updated at 4:30 p.m. and 4:55 p.m.