U.S. deficit panel chair apologizes for cow remark
WASHINGTON Aug 25 (Reuters) - The co-chairman of a commission on the U.S. budget deficit apologized on Wednesday after likening the handing out of government retirement benefits to milking cows.
Alan Simpson, a Republican who serves on the bipartisan deficit panel created by President Barack Obama, wrote this week that the Social Security retirement program has reached the point "where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits."
"I apologize for what I wrote," Simpson said in a letter to the Older Women's League, which identifies itself as a group representing the interests of middle-aged and older women.
OWL has said Simpson should resign from the panel, and if he will not, that Obama should ask him to leave.
The former senator from Wyoming made the comment about Social Security in an e-mail this week to Ashley Carson, OWL's executive director.
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."
In his apology letter to Carson, Simpson, who is known for his biting sense of humor, said he had put his foot in his mouth and added "when I make a mistake, it's a doozy."
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 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; Editing by Xavier Briand)
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