Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

David Swanson

David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of 'War Is a Lie'

April 27th, 2011 10:59 PM

Alan Simpson Just Asked Me to Leave Rich People Alone

I'm feeling pretty guilty. I hadn't known I was causing billionaires so much suffering. The former co-chair of President Obama's deficit (a.k.a. catfood) commission just asked me during a public event to stop going after rich people. Then he came up to me after the event to make sure I'd gotten the point. He seemed truly worried about it.

This was a panel discussion at the University of Virginia. The panelists were Simpson, David Walker (former U.S. comptroller, former partner and global managing director of Arthur Andersen, and longtime deficit hysteric), moderator Larry Sabato, and odd-man-out Dean Baker (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research). I say odd-man-out about Baker because Sabato introduced the panelists as all agreeing about things that only Sabato, Simpson, and Walker seemed to agree on (and I'm including the audience when I say that). Sabato declared the national debt the biggest crisis of our lifetimes and claimed that "no foreign country can ever do to us what we're doing to ourselves" by going into debt.

"I love him dearly," said Sabato of Alan Simpson during an elaborate and very personal introduction. Walker and Baker got dry readings of written bios. The first four questions went to Simpson. And Simpson went straight after Social Security and Medicare. He said the word "defense" twice in passing, but literally just said the word as part of a list of areas to be addressed. Sabato then went to Baker for a couple of questions, then to Walker. And then Sabato asked Simpson to address what Walker had said. And this sequence was repeated, through which each of Baker's very persuasive refutations of what the other panelists had said was never replied to by the other panelists.

Here's a video clip of Dean Baker's first comments, in which he explains (in 4 minutes 22 seconds) why we should not be worried about Social Security, why an actual health coverage system would eliminate the deficit, why fixing the deficit won't fix the economy, but why devaluing the dollar might help.

Here's another clip of Baker, in which (in under 7 minutes) he explains that the collapse of the economy is a big cause of the deficit, a healthy economy could eliminate the deficit, we could save $270 billion per year by making prescription drugs generic, and free-market health vouchers that allowed people the choice of buying into the health coverage of Canada, Germany, Costa Rica, or anywhere else would increase our life spans and put $15,000 savings per year in each person's pocket. The voice at the end pretending Baker had talked about a completely different topic is Larry Sabato's.

When it was time for audience participation, I complimented Baker on the healthcare solution and proposed we try to buy into Vermont's plan if Washington lets it get away with creating one. Then I asked basically this:

"We could cut three-quarters of our military and still have the biggest one in the world. We have a war that two-thirds of the country wants ended. Up through the Korean War we used to increase taxes on rich people and corporations, not cut them, to pay for wars. Why is it inconceivable that anything be done about this, and why is it not even talked about?"

Baker responded, basically agreeing with me. Walker, too, agreed with me, said he favored cutting "defense" and also objected to the unconstitutionality of undeclared wars launched by presidents. Simpson too said he agreed and wanted the military cut. And it's true that cutting it was part of his proposal to the president. But then Simpson stressed a particular part of the military that he would like to cut, namely . . . wait for it . . . healthcare for soldiers. Here's that bit. Listen at the end for Sabato's punditry and refusal to ever be mistaken.

There were more questions from the audience, but Simpson addressed himself to me when he explained what was wrong with taxing wealthy people. We have to get away from talking about the rich versus the poor, he said. For one thing, when you talk about who's responsible for something, the commission you're working on can't come to any agreement. The Iraq Study Group, for example, had to set aside who was to blame in order to propose what should be done. (Of course, most of us don't spend our lives serving on bipartisan commissions, and taxing the rich is as forward looking a concept as any other; blaming the rich was a straw man Simpson created.)

Simpson had a second argument for leaving the poor suffering rich alone. We could confiscate all the wealth of everyone with over $1 million, he claimed, and only pay for running the government for a single year. Now, first of all, that's an outrageous lie, but it's also another straw man. Taxing the rich progressively and heavily year after year, as the United States used to do when it had a prosperous economy is quite different from confiscating everything. And doing so wouldn't have to pay for the entire government in order to pay for part of it.

Baker didn't pick up on the topic of taxing the wealthy, but he did respond to Simpson's request never to ask who was responsible for anything. Here's what Baker said, followed by Sabato objecting (joking, ha ha) that he depends on a lack of accountability. Following Sabato are Simpson's closing remarks in which he repeats that we must not blame the rich or anyone else, although it would be a good idea to blame poor people who bought four houses with no money down. I'm reminded of the case against the estate tax that was costing so many poor families their farms, specifically of the fact that not a single such family could be found in the country to represent the horrible trend. How many people do you know who went out and bought four houses with no money down? And even if you can find one, do you think he or she qualifies for blame while all members of government are off the hook? Simpson concludes be stressing that government cannot provide people with anything they might want. Watch the clip:

After the event, Simpson came up to me, shook my hand and blathered some more nonsense along the same lines. I asked if he could tell me how much wealth everyone with over a million dollars had, and he began ranting about how I needed to stop blaming people. I asked my friend next to me if he'd heard me blame anyone. I asked Simpson if we couldn't forget blaming people, look forward, and still end the wars, cut the military, and tax the rich. He replied as if he were Michelle Bachmann staring into the wrong camera. He was having a conversation with someone who wasn't there, certainly not with me. He wanted the rich to be left alone and he wanted me to leave them alone. Finally, he wanted me to go out and vote for people who would do what I wanted rather than just hanging around like some kind of slacker who goes to panels rather than spending every waking moment voting.

"Anonymous blogging," Simpson had remarked earlier in the evening, "is cutting America to shreds." I've signed my name to this, Senator.

Creative Commons License This content is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles