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Social Security: Alan Simpson offends almost everyone with 'cow' quip

Social Security is a touchy subject. Alan Simpson, co-chair of Obama's deficit commission, has a colorful mouth and lots of things to say about Social Security. Put the two together and 'poof!' another political brush fire for Obama.

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Advocates for seniors were not delighted, either.

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"The vast majority of the 310 million Americans he insulted – particularly 156 million women and younger Americans for whom the traditional pension will be a relic of history – don’t have access to the type of traditional pension retirement security that Senator Simpson has from his decades in Congress," AARP Senior Vice President Drew Nannis said in a statement. "Perhaps that’s why his comments demonstrate a woeful disconnect from or disinterest in the challenges facing many American families for whom Social Security is literally a lifeline."

With 40 million members, AARP wields a lot of political clout. But is it the end for Simpson on what's formally known as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform?

He was quick to apologize to Carson at OWL, noting on the fiscal commission's web site that: "Over the last 40 years, I have had my size 15 feet in my mouth a time or two."

"I apologize for what I wrote," he said. "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."

Obama in (another) bind

The whole episode puts Mr. Obama in a bind.

At the White House Wednesday deputy communications director Jennifer Psaki, said, “Alan Simpson has apologized, and while we regret and do not condone his comments, we accept his apology and he will continue to serve.”

Maybe so, but Social Security is likely to get even hotter as this fall's elections approach.

As the Monitor's Judy Nichols Douglass wrote recently, Democrats are "emphasizing the program’s popularity among Americans, their commitment to protecting it, and their contention that Republicans want to change Social Security to its detriment."

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has put out a “Social Security Scorecard,” warning that "senior citizens would see their life savings recklessly gambled away on Wall Street" if privatization plans allegedly espoused by some Republican Senate candidates are adopted. (A dubious notion since most Republicans are steering clear of the issue.)

They don't call Social Security "the third rail of politics" for nothing.


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