Venerable deficit hawk Alan Simpson warns both parties over delaying entitlement reform

Former Wyoming Republican senator received the Medal of Freedom on Thursday at the White House.

Updated: July 10, 2022 - 11:17pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Federal fiscal health has tumbled a long way down since the establishment of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, cochaired by former Wyoming GOP Sen. Alan Simpson and former Bill Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles in 2010.

Back then, the national debt was about $13 trillion. Twelve years later, it has surpassed $30 trillion.  

The commission's recommendations were criticized at the time by members of both parties, and its proposals were never fully implemented. 

Simpson was in Washington on Thursday to accept the Medal of Freedom from President Biden at the White House.

The rangy lawmaker now folds his long limbs into a wheelchair, but his trademark self-deprecating wit was undiminished during an interview after the ceremony. 

"They can't take [the medal] away from me," Simpson noted. "Somebody said they were trying to get Bill Cosby's. They said, 'No, no, once you get it, they can't.' I said, 'Well, that's good enough for me.'"

Simpson, 90, said he "always was" controversial. 

"I figured I was a U.S. citizen instead of a Republican or a Democrat — and I thought that's how everybody should be," he told Just the News. "What a sick idea," he quipped. 

Just the News asked him how long he thinks the U.S. has before it needs to get its fiscal house in order.

"The Social Security system cannot sustain itself and will drop down 23%, and the Medicare Trust Fund will begin to take some heavy hits in 2026," he said. "And you won't find anybody of either party talking about it because it's very hazardous."

Simpson was asked what he thinks it will take for both parties to come together and reform Social Security and Medicare before both programs become insolvent. 

"It will have to be done at the ballot box, and it won't be done with bullets, by God, in a hallway," he said. "It's a tough situation, but people hate each other. They hate Biden. They hate Trump. They hate McConnell. They hate Pelosi. What the hell? My mother taught me that hatred corrodes the container it's carried in, and that's what I learned."

Simpson warned that the Social Security and Medicare trust funds "won't pay off what they were promised to do, and then people are going to get irritated, and they're going to say, 'Where were you when that happened? You were in office when that happened.'"

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