Young Experts Challenge Sen. Alan Simpson to a Debate

 Alan Simpson Accepts Challenge to Debate Young Experts on Social Security... Then Flip-Flops

June11, 2012: Alan Simpson: Pulling Apart Social Security, And Proud of It, Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, Huffington Post

June 9, 2012: Alan Simpson Fires Off Angry Letter To HuffPost, Ryan Grimm, Huffington Post

June 8, 2012:  An Open Letter to Maya MacGuineas: Don't Whitewash the Bowles-Simpson Plan's Social Security Cuts Daniel Marans, Huffington Post

Center For a Responsible Budget responds to Young Experts' argument against Simpson at "The Facts on Social Security Reform and Intergenerational Equity" 

 Alan Simpson's response to Michael Hiltzik's article (see below). Read Hiltzik's response to Simpson in the LA Times here: "Alan Simpson Shows His Cards To The Times"

Alan Simpson renegs his acceptance to challenge young experts on Social Security. We think he's too chicken. Read the article by Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times, "Did Alan Simpson say deal or no deal on a Social Security debate?"

 Alan Simpson has accepted our challenge! Read Ryan Grim's article in the Huffington Post, "Alan Simpson Accepts Social Security Debate Challenge."

Watch the video challenge to Sen. Alan Simpson here:

The letter and current signers is available as a PDF here.

Fact Sheets

Strengthen Social Security Campaign: The Younger You Are, The Bigger The Cut: Medium (Average) Earner's Benefits Under Current Law and the Bowles-Simpson Plan

Strengthen Social Security Campaign: The Younger You Are, The Bigger The Cut: High Earner's Benefits Under Current Law and the Bowles-Simpson Plan

Strengthen Social Security Campaign: The Younger You Are, The Bigger The Cut: Maximum Earner's Benefits Under Current Law and the Bowles-Simpson Plan

Strengthen Social Security Campaign: Fiscal Commission Proposal's Cuts to Low-Wage Workers

Strengthen Social Security Campaign: The Bowles-Simpson Plan Would End Social Security As We Know It

Strengthen Social Security Campaign: Graph and Chart of Fiscal Commission Proposal's Huge Benefit Cuts

Strengthen Social Security Campaign: Experts Call Bowles-Simpson Deficit Proposal Harmful, Extreme

Alliance for Retired Americans: Social Security Mythbuster 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans: Tell Your Grandchildren the Truth About Raising the Retirement Age

Economic Opportunity Institute: Keeping Social Security Strong: Four Steps We Can Take to Preserve Social Security's Promise for Every Generation


May 30, 2012
The Honorable Alan Simpson
United States Senator (Retired)
1201 Sunshine Avenue
Cody, WY 82404

Dear Senator Simpson,

The undersigned range in age from 22 to 40. We have all worked professionally on Social Security. All of us have carefully read and analyzed The Moment of Truth. We are writing as individuals, and not as representatives of any organization.

To a person, we have concluded that you are flat wrong when you claim that the Bowles-Simpson plan to alter Social Security would be good for our generation. In a recent letter to the California Alliance for Retired Americans, you assert that the Bowles-Simpson plan is “trying to save” young people, who otherwise are “going to get gutted.” In truth, it is your proposal that would “gut” our Social Security. It would drastically cut our retirement protection, our disability protection if we were to become severely and permanently disabled, and our family’s life insurance protection, if we were to die leaving young children behind.

Moreover, our generation’s parents and grandparents, many of whom are struggling with the personal financial consequences of the Great Recession, would find their Social Security retirement protections cut. If your plan became law, our generation would need to—and of course would wish to—assist those parents and grandparents who could no longer maintain their standards of living in old age.

As young people, we understand that our Social Security system is more vital than ever. We have seen our, our parents’, and our grandparents’ 401(k)s and home equity vanish as the result of the financial crisis of 2008. We have more student loan debt than any generation of Americans before us. And our generation, college graduates and non-college graduates alike, is struggling to find jobs in today’s economy.

We are committed to closing Social Security’s modest funding gap. But eliminating Social Security’s projected shortfall should not be simply an exercise in mathematics. The purpose of restoring Social Security to long-range actuarial balance is to ensure basic economic security to America’s working families, a goal essential to creating a society that respects and reinforces the dignity of every person.

You propose slashing benefits now in order to avoid projected benefit cuts two decades from now. Paradoxically, your plan would actually cut the benefits of many of our generation more than if Congress took no action whatsoever. That defies logic. Moreover, despite your expressed view that Social Security “must do more to reduce poverty among the very poor,” your plan cuts Social Security benefits for 60 percent of “Very Low” earners—those with average annual earnings of around $11,000. That also makes no sense.

It is a contradiction in terms to assert that Social Security is “strengthened” by slashing its benefits. Strengthening Social Security, we believe, means building on its proven success. In light of the economic insecurity and inequality rampant in today’s global economy and in light of Social Security’s time-tested efficiency and effectiveness, we believe policymakers should increase Social Security’s benefits. As the richest nation in the world, we can afford that. Benefits now account for 5 percent of the economy. By the time we retire, they are projected to be about 6 percent. Rather than limit the increase, as your plan does, to a minority of the most vulnerable workers, however, the increase should be extended to all low- and middle-wage working families.

If you truly believe that your proposal is good for young people, let’s discuss it in a setting where young people can watch and decide for themselves. We challenge you to debate Social Security with one of the undersigned in a public forum, at a place and time of your choosing, using any format that you propose.

In the meantime, please refrain from speaking in our generation’s name or using us to attack older Americans who are fighting for our interests. We are enclosing, for your information, some of our written analyses of your plan. We respectfully recommend that you read them, in order to gain a better understanding of why we strongly oppose the Bowles-Simpson plan.


1. Yadhira Alvarez, 33, International Retiree Director, Workers United
2. Alan Barber, 38, Communications Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
3. Dana Bell, 23, Policy and Legislative Associate, Social Security Works
4. Max Brown, 25, Political/Field Director, M.L. King County Labor Council
5. Sarah Byrne, 35, Senior Legislative Representative, Alliance for Retired Americans
6. Molly Checksfield, 22, Policy and Legislative Associate, Social Security Works
7. Lacy Crawford, 25, Communications Associate, Social Security Works
8. Jeff Cruz, 32, Executive Director, The Latinos for a Secure Retirement Coalition
9. Justin Dobbs, 31, Board Member, Gray Panthers
10. Kathryn Anne Edwards, 26, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-author, A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security
11. Andrew Fieldhouse, 25, Federal Budget Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Institute
12. Eloy Fisher, 30, Ph.D. candidate in Economics, The New School University
13. Morgan Gable, 30, Health & HCBS Legislative Representative, DC-Based National Non-Profit Advocacy Organization
14. Fay Gordon, 27, Staff Attorney, National Senior Citizens Law Center
15. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, 25, Ph.D. candidate in Government and Social Policy, Harvard, and co-author, A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security
16. Scott Hochberg, 24, Entering First Year Law Student, Harvard Law School
17. Brooke Hollister, 30, Vice Chair, Gray Panthers National Board, and Assistant Professor, Institute for Health and Aging
18. Eric S. Hoyt, 25, Summer Research Intern, Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Ph.D. candidate, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
19. Janelle Jones, 28, Research Assistant, Center for Economic and Policy Research
20. Alex Lawson, 32, Executive Director, Social Security Works
21. Daniel Marans, 24, Policy Director, Social Security Works
22. Melina Martinez, 27, Retiree Coordinator, Workers United
23. Karina Martinez, 27, Compliance Officer, Asociación Nacional Pro Personas Mayores
24. Heather McGhee, 31, Vice President, Demos
25. Sarah Meek, 30, Program Manager, DC-Based National Non-Profit Advocacy Organization
26. Ivy Ngo, 23, Policy Associate, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
27. Don Owens, 39, Communications Director, Social Security Works
28. Scott Peck, 40, Director of Policy, National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
29. Kevin Prindiville, 35, Deputy Director, National Senior Citizens Law Center
30. Rebecca Ray, 34, Research Associate, Center for Economic And Policy Research
31. Hye Jin Rho, 27, PhD Candidate, MIT School of Management
32. David Rosnick, 39, Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research
33. Stacy Sanders, 29, Director, DC-Based National Non-Profit Advocacy Organization
34. Brian Sonenstein, 25, Campaign Director,
35. Alex Stone, 26, Communications Manager, Economic Opportunity Institute
36. Becky Thiess, 30, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Institute
37. Doua Thor, 34, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
38. Jon Walker, 28, Senior Policy Analyst,
39. Kris Warner, 32, Program Assistant, Center for Economic and Policy Research
40. Robert B. Wohl, 23, Senior Policy Analyst, Medicare Works

CC: President Barack Obama
Members, U.S. House of Representatives
Senators, U.S. Senate


View the full text of the petition here