Speaking as freely as only an ex-politician can, former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson on Sunday accused today's Congress of scoring cheap political points to prolong their own careers instead of hunkering down to cut the deficit.
Simpson, who co-chaired a sweeping review of the national debt last year, told Candy Crowley on CNN's State of the Union: "If you hear a politician get up and say, 'I know we can get this done. We're going to get rid of all earmarks; all waste, fraud and abuse; all foreign aid; Air Force One; all congressional pensions' -- that's just sparrow belch in the midst of the typhoon. That's about 6, 8, 10 percent of where we are. So, I'm waiting for the politician to get up and say, 'There's only one way to do this: You dig into the big four -- Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense.' And anybody giving you anything different than that, you want to walk out the door, stick your finger down your throat, and give them the green weenie."
Even President Obama has joined mostly Republican members of Congress in demanding a ban on earmarks, the pet projects slipped into the federal budget that have become a powerful symbol of government waste. In contrast, there's little interest in the heavy lifting recommended by the presidential fiscal commission co-chaired by Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles.
Simpson said: “Well, the god here, in Washington, is the god of reelection. And, I think, that god is a little tarnished.’’
Those who suggest efforts to reform Social Security are a pathway to privatization are "jerks,'' Simpson said, dismissing the people who “howl and bitch’’ about raising the retirement age. He blamed not just Congress, but also the American people who sent them to Washington, for being unwilling to bear the heavy costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Nobody has sacrificed in this country, nobody, except the people in the military,’’ he said.
In a sign that interest in the debt commission's report is not totally off the table, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., suggested earlier this week that it could serve as a road map.
Simpson’s choice, colorful words amid the typically sober, dry policy debates that make up Sunday morning television moved Crowley to call him “rare and real.’’ She said: “We could use a little more of that in Washington.’’