Alan Simpson Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Let 'er Rip: Reflections of a Rocky Mountain Senator; Conversation with Alan K. Simpson, former US Senator, Wyoming; 9/17/97 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by L. Carper

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Unfinished Agenda

Now that you've left the Senate, is it something of a frustration for you, all of the important problems that really haven't been adequately addressed? You touched on some of these yesterday in your lecture -- the whole entitlement issue, nuclear waste, and population are the three that come to mind. Tell us a little about that frustration and why you think that the politicians are not addressing those issues.

Well I found, and it's not the reason that I retired from the Senate, but I found that when I would speak my peace on senior citizens ... I think the AARP could be such a force for good (the American Association of Retired Persons) -- 33 million Americans bound together by a common love of airline discounts and automobile discounts and RV discounts; they're a monstrous organization, they're 1.5% of all mailings under that permit -- and they could be force but they're not. They're selfish, greedy. They don't care about their grandchildren a whit. So I would start to whack on them and maybe my old pal John McCain would come up to me and say, "Hey come on, I'm from Arizona. These guys are from Sun City, you big dink." And John is a great guy and he'd say, "Knock it off." And he was right. I couldn't be the assistant leader and do that, have the freedom.

Now I have the freedom to just beat the brains out of the AARP and I do that all over America. And I'm trying to get young people interested in a group called the Third Millennium in New York, $9 dues, people who are interested in the next generation cycle instead of the next election cycle. And that's free, that's all free. A wonderful group. And I can do more in that area.

Nuclear waste, I mean high-level spent fuel, is sitting at 108 plants in America under 60 feet of demineralized water. It's not in a container, it's not vitrified, it's not nothing. If the water disappeared from the top of it by a fissure or an earthquake it would become critical in 10 to 14 days. And all we get is a bunch of people running around with placards saying, "Hell no, we won't glow." And nobody's ever been killed. We don't do anything with it, and I'll tell you it's going to be a disaster some day. Forty-three thousand metric tons of spent fuel! I'm not talking about pellets from booties in a medical facility. We're talking about spent fuel sitting there.

And then the population of the earth. We still have people galloping around talking about how methane gas in cows is going to destroy the earth or propellants in the bottom of shaving cream cans. What will destroy the earth is the population of the earth. They'll eat the last fish and catch the last bird and shoot the last deer and cut up the last cord of firewood. What the hell do you think happens when civilizations have disappeared in history? And nobody's doing a thing with that because then you're into ethnicity and then you're into religion, and then you're into lots of stuff.

So those are the undone -- and the entitlements.

Is this about courage?

No, hell, I'm not a martyr. I'm the furthest from a martyr. I could never be a martyr. But I love to mix it up and I always challenge the AARP. Send somebody to debate me, I don't care where the hell they are or even if they're decrepit. But send somebody into the fray here so we can have a debate on why you're such appalling people and why you don't care about your grandchildren. And they don't like that.

And young people, you know a guy comes up here the other day, got his cap on backward, pants hanging and says, "Hey Simpson, who speaks for us?" I said, "I've got a great idea for you. We gave you the right to vote and only 15 percent of you use it, why the hell don't you speak for yourselves?" And he says, "Hey man," you know, a Beevis and Butthead thing. I mean what in the world? It's just out to lunch. And they have to either get wise or they're just going to be picking grit with the chickens when they're 65. And they're not paying attention. So that's what I do and I love it.

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