Former Senator Alan Simpson Addresses Members of The Ripon Society in a Speech Filled with Candor, Intellect, and Good Humor

WASHINGTON, DC – Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson addressed a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society this morning, delivering a speech that was filled with three characteristics that have helped to shape and define his distinguished career — candor, intellect, and good humor. In his remarks, which can be viewed in their entirety here, the Senator discussed his work as co-chair of the President’s Fiscal Commission and addressed a number of other topics, as well. These topics included:

Trust between the parties: Then & Now
“I was here when we talked to each other. I was here when Mitchell talked to Dole and I talked to Cranston. He was the assistant leader. I talked to Wendell Ford. He was the assistant leader. We had great personal relationships — called each other names, had fun, never fooled each other, never tried to trick each other — and it worked. And it’s very sad when the [President’s Fiscal] Commission got together, it took us three months to establish trust. I never heard more crap in my life as to the R’s sticking it to the D’s and the D’s sticking it to the R’s. I think the first three months was, ‘Who’s the biggest-spending President in the United States?’ The answer? George W. Bush. Never vetoed a single spending bill in six and a half years. Not one, ‘til it came to stem cell research, which wasn’t really a spending bill, right?”

“And then the Republicans say, ‘But this guy’s outdone him 4-1!’ Then the fight would start, slapping each other around. Then Erskine and I just said, ‘You know, we’re just going to do a two man report, just the two of us, instead of the 18.’ Then they said, ‘Well, you wouldn’t do that,’ and we said, ‘The hell we wouldn’t!’ Because we’re not going to do mush. Everybody does mush in this town. That’s how you get along – mush — with a blend of emotion, fear, guilt, and racism. You mix mush with emotion, fear, guilt, and racism, and you can get anything killed or passed. Kind of a goofy place to work.”

“The saliva test of purity”
“Anyway, it’s good to be here with Ripon … You’re a very vital group. I always feel a sense of balance and common sense when I’m with Ripon. Doesn’t matter how left or right, because I tell you, in my party, we give each other the saliva test of purity and then we lose and then we just bitch for four years. The most amazing party… ‘Oh, this guy’s conservative.’ ‘Oh, he’s a pain.’ ‘Oh yeah, well that’s good.’ And we’ll elect the guy who’s against you a 100 percent of the time, instead of taking the guy who’s with you 75 percent of the time. That’s got to be pretty stupid. And then social issues – well, we won’t even discuss those here this morning. You can come up to me afterwards, I have some clear views on that.”

“My Old Pal Joe”
“My old pal Joe Biden called me in January of 2010. He said, ‘Al, I got a real deal for you.’ I said, ‘What is it Joe?’ He said, ‘Co-chair the commission.’ I said, ‘Well, let me get Ann in here so she can laugh too.’ He said listen, and then he spoke and he was dead serious … So Joe said, ‘Do this.’ I said, ‘Who would be the co-chair?’ He said, ‘Erskine Bowles.’ And that was the lure for me. I knew who he was because Dole and Elizabeth had told me about what an amazing man he was when she ran against him and beat him for the Senate. He’s a prince of a man — a rare treat. I trust and admire him more than you know. He’s a numbers guy, and I do the color. Occasionally, people will ask — you know, the sharp shooters out there – ‘Why don’t you do the GDP of the gross DP over the…?’ If you torture statistics long enough, eventually they’ll confess. So I say, ‘You know, I had a mortar platoon in the Army, and I didn’t have ear plugs. I didn’t hear your question. But I think Erskine… you heard it, right? Erskine steps into the breach, and I nod. I could have answered that if I would have heard it.”

“Thanks Pop”
“So they say, ‘Why are you doing this?’ And we say, ‘We have 15 reasons: he has nine grandchildren and I have six.’ We thought at first we were doing it for our grandchildren. Then we figured out we were doing it for our children. And then we figured out we were doing it for us. Because that’s how close the train is to the edge of the track. So anyway, we were called stalking horses for new taxes. That was a brilliant phrase from a person I won’t mention by name. I said we’re stalking horses for our grandchildren. So I said we’re not doing anything till we see the President. Everything has to be on the table, including the new health care plan. He said that’s good and he said fine and he’s kept that. So we launched — 18 of us. As I said, we had all those months to establish trust. Thought it would be a two person paper. But the stronger we made the package, the more support we picked up. Then when we got Durbin … I know he’s a Democrat and you’re supposed to barf or throw something now. But don’t — because he’s a hero. He couldn’t have done that if Harry had told him not to. And Harry didn’t I think tell him not to. And he said the only thing worse than voting for it, would be voting against it. The day he voted, he said his son called and said, ‘Thanks Pop.’ So give him a lot of credit. And then of course we went through this, ‘Is Andy Stern on your commission?’ ‘He’s a commie isn’t he?’ ‘Well, no he’s a good egg.’ ‘Tom Coburn — is he on your commission?’ Well for God’s sake, those two guys worked in a union that was absolutely splendid to watch. Put together our package on the defense cuts. There was plenty of fat in the defense. Don’t worry about the defense of your country.”

“Read the Report”
“At least five Democrats, five Republicans, and one independent voted for this package. That’s 60 percent that’ll get you anywhere in the Senate – 60 percent. So it was good to see that. A lot of people laughed when they started, and they ain’t laughing now. So read the report, read the report: It’s 67 pages. That’s why you write this down, because you wouldn’t write it down if it were 500 pages of stuff that nobody would ever pay attention to. It’s in English; it uses terms like going broke and shared sacrifice — words never heard. It says if you want something, pay for it. And so there it is. It’s out there. It won’t go away. It’s like a stink bomb at a garden party. Erskine and I already feel a tremendous amount of success, for we have effectively pissed off everyone in America. This gives a person a great sense of power. There are still a few pockets, but we’ll get to them before it’s done.”

“They Think We’re All Jerks”
“When Erskine and I go around the country, give us 50 minutes with people from the left or the right and we’ll get a standing ovation. Not for our egos — that’s out. But here’s what you do: you don’t use graphs, we don’t have PowerPoint and all that crap. You just say if you spend more than you earn, you lose your butt. If you spend a buck and borrow 41 cents of it — which is happening today; it was 40 cents a few weeks ago, it’s 41 cents now — if you spend a buck and borrow 41 cents, you’re stupid. Therefore, you have a Congress that’s being stupid, and an administration that’s being stupid. These are harsh words. But the American people don’t care about any of it anyway. They think we’re all jerks — Republicans and Democrats. How goofy is it to borrow 41 cents? If you’re at your kitchen table and talking like that, and then people say, ‘Well, the deficit doesn’t mean anything or the debt.’ Well, the drinks are on me. If that were your home, then you wouldn’t be in a home and then you’d laugh about it. ‘I thought the debt didn’t mean anything, and they came and took the joint.’ That’s a strange thing. Anyway, I’m almost through here.”

“The Tipping Point”
“The real question is: where’s the tipping point? Everybody asks that. Where the hell is the tipping point here? I think it will be within the next 18 months. Erskine says a little longer, some say six months. But I’ll tell you when it’ll come. It’ll come when the rating agencies find out we have no plan whatsoever — none. Now, why aren’t they hitting Great Britain, France, and Germany? Because they have a plan. It may be totally unsavory. It might be controversial. But at least they have a plan. We have no plan. So by doing nothing or by just extending the debt limit, and nothing, get a few odds and ends, some spending cuts, we do nothing, the guys that hold our paper, they’ll say, ‘Huh, I want some money for my paper.’ The paper is held half by private people, half by private investors, and half by foreigners, and half of that is China. They’ll say, ‘I want some money.’ Now if you extend the debt limit, get that done — and I think they will, in some scenario, don’t ask me how — then the people that hold our paper and have loaned us money will say, ‘The way you have anguished over that — we’ll still loan you money, but we want more interest.’ That’s the beginning of something you don’t want to watch. And guess who gets hurt the most? The little guy that everybody always talks about in this town. Got to take care of the little guy. Well, you’re going to take care of the little guy, guarding him from inflation and a runaway government that can’t do anything and provide services because we have no taxes to provide the services. So finally, we need a plan, and it doesn’t have to be big and we don’t even have to start on it. So we got to have one.

“Beware the AARP and Grover Norquist”
“The real caveat is beware the AARP and Grover Norquist. How did they get this much power to make Congress cower? This is really absurd. This is one guy with a happy band of warriors that pay him a lot of bucks, I guess, and he must pick up a lot of bucks. How did he get this kind of power? When he testified before us, he said, ‘My hero is Ronald Reagan.’ I said, ‘That’s no wonder, he was mine.’ He said, ‘Well, he’s just the best of the best.’ And I said, ‘Well, he raised taxes 11 times in his eight years. Grover said, ‘I know, I didn’t like that at all.’ I said, ‘I don’t give a damn if you liked it. He did it. Why do you suppose he did it?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I’m very disappointed.’ I said, ‘He did it to make the country run.’ Here we are, never had a war without a tax to support it, including the American Revolution, and now we have two and a quarter wars — I include Libya as a quarter war — and no tax to support them. This is what’s got people steamed. What the hell is this and how can you do this? So anyway, Grover and Reagan; when I told him he did it to make the country work, he kind of blinked like a frog in a hail storm and looked around and didn’t say much. Why the hell would a person sign anything if you’re running for Congress? Why would a person sign anything when you’re not even dealing with reality yet? I would never do that. Until you hit the hard facts of reality, never sign anything and then be held enthralled. Now it was Lincoln that used the word enthralled. I think it was the second, I can’t remember which, address. Look it up. It means a form of bondage over the mind. If we are enthralled to Grover and the AARP, I can tell you as clearly as anything, we haven’t got a chance. Not a chance of getting something done period. Scribble it down.”

“We need all the bag balm we can get!”
“Now I have one disclaimer. I did make a statement some months ago — something about milk cows. But it was not fully reported as often happens, so I want to clarify it. I had so many people come to my office and say, ‘Al, God bless you boy.’ Back then, I was a boy. People would say why are you doing this? What they mean is at this age, that’s what they mean when they ask that question. So people would come, and they’re wonderful. They bring your old roomie, and your football pal from UW, someone you haven’t seen in a long time. So they put the heat on you, and they would just give me all sorts of praise, and then they would ask for theirs. It was usually ‘Raid the Congress Day.’ You know how those work. You gather together in the city, you have these marvelous meetings, and then you say for God’s sake, go forth and get the scratch. And you do. You move out and you visit all these wonderful people and places. Go get the scratch, and there are cheers — it’s like an athletic event. So then they’d ask for their money, I finally lost my marbles. I’d turn to the window and go ‘Gahhh!!!’ And pretend that I hadn’t heard nothing. So I took a can of bag balm and put it on my desk. Little green can with blossoms. They’d say, ‘What is that?’ I’d say, ‘It’s an emollient — a salve if you will.’ They’d say, ‘Well, what does it do?’ I’d say, ‘Well, you apply it to the extremities of the bovine members of the quadruplets that issue a lacteal extract.’ ‘What does that mean, you smartass?’ I’d say, ‘Look, the sun shines on the snow, bounces off the snow and shines on the utter, chaps it, calf comes to nurse and the cow kicks the calf in the head. It hurts, you know. Then you put dollops of bag balm on there, all you can. It’s good for the hands; you can put it on your feet at night. It stinks, but it’s true.’ ‘But why is it on your desk?’ I said, ‘Well, America has become a milk cow with 310 million tits. We need all the bag balm we can get!”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.