UPDATE 1-U.S. deficit panel chair stirs uproar over remark

* Simpson likens retirement benefits to milking cows

* Women’s groups, some lawmakers call on him to resign

* Simpson apologizes, says he put his foot in his mouth
(Adds further reaction)

By Caren Bohan and Donna Smith

WASHINGTON, Aug 25 (BestGrowthStock) – The co-chairman of a
commission on the U.S. budget deficit came under fire on
Wednesday after an off-color remark that likened the payment of
government retirement benefits to milking cows.

Women’s groups and some lawmakers called for the
resignation of Alan Simpson, a Republican who serves on the
bipartisan deficit panel created by President Barack Obama.

Simpson wrote this week in an email to one of his critics
the Social Security retirement program has reached the point
“where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits.”

He later issued an apology for the comment.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Representative
Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, said the comments were “beyond
comprehension” and demeaned older Americans and disabled people
who receive Social Security benefits. They wrote to Obama to
ask that Simpson be removed from the commission.

The National Organization for Women said Simpson was “not
fit to lead” the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility
and Reform.

The former senator from Wyoming made the comment about
milking cows in an e-mail this week to Ashley Carson, executive
director of the Older Women’s League, which identifies itself
as representing the interests of middle-aged and older women.

Simpson’s e-mail took issue with a column Carson wrote in
April accusing him of “ageism and sexism” for considering cuts
to Social Security.

“If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize
Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors, let
me know,” wrote Simpson, 78, adding, “Call me when you get
honest work.”

Simpson, known for his biting sense of humor, wrote an
apology letter to Carson, saying he had put his foot in his
mouth and adding “when I make a mistake, it’s a doozy.”

“I apologize for what I wrote,” he said.


OWL has said Simpson should resign from the panel, and if
he will not, that Obama should ask him to leave.

Simpson serves alongside Erskine Bowles, a Democrat and
former White House chief of staff, and 16 other panelists.

A White House official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said of the Simpson controversy, “He has apologized
and while we regret and do not condone his comments, we accept
his apology and he will continue to serve.”

AARP, which represents older Americans, said the remarks
called into question Simpson’s ability to consider important
fiscal matters such as the future of Social Security.

“Sen. Simpson’s remarks not only cross the line of good
judgment, but they undermine the serious work of the commission
and give us little confidence the commission can fairly look at
important programs such as Social Security,” the group said in
a statement.

The deficit commission is considering recommending cuts to
benefits and raising the retirement age as a way to shore up
the finances of the 75-year-old Social Security program.

The 18-member panel is looking at other spending cuts as
well as trimming a long list of tax breaks in its effort to
find ways to rein in the $1.4 trillion budget deficit.

Advocacy groups for the elderly fear the commission, which
is to report its recommendations to Obama in December, will
only reach agreement on cutting Social Security.

Carson said OWL opposes raising the retirement age or
benefit cuts. She said Social Security’s finances can be shored
up by raising the cap on the amount of income that is now
subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, the
first $106,800 of income is taxed at a 12.4 percent rate, and
that amount is equally shared by employee and employer.
(Writing by Caren Bohan; additional reporting by Richard
Cowan; editing by Xavier Briand and Todd Eastham)

UPDATE 1-U.S. deficit panel chair stirs uproar over remark