Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson

Every time Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson talk about how the United States simply cannot afford to offer their citizens a modest income in retirement, they get $40,000. This is three times the amount that Social Security recipients actually get themselves in retirement, ANNUALLY. Bowles and Simpson get that for an hourlong talk.

The Washington Speakers Bureau, a stable of politicians and pundits for hire, provided added inducement. It sought to re-sign Mr. Simpson, who had been on contract after leaving the Senate, after the commission reported in December 2010. He, like Mr. Bowles, had been flying weekly to Washington without compensation; Mr. Simpson said he had spent about $25,000 of his own money to upgrade from government-rate coach seating to premium-class seats able to fit his frame. He contacted his pal.

“I said: ‘Erskine, would you want to do any of this? I know that may not be your bag, but I certainly have still embraced the capitalistic system,’ ” Mr. Simpson recalled. “He said, ‘Yeah, as long as I do it with you.’ ”

Initially they made up to $32,000 each, Mr. Simpson said, then $36,000 and now $40,000. But they often appear without a fee, including at colleges and city economic clubs. The two men have done countless interviews, for newspaper reporters, doctoral students and middle school report-writers; have sat for rural radio stations and for “60 Minutes”; and have lectured both on campuses and to campuses, as Mr. Simpson did by Skype from Wyoming last week to a class here at American University.

It’s so nice of them to “often appear” without a fee when doing interviews with 60 Minutes and newspapers, who don’t offer a fee to anyone. But business groups will hand them over $40,000 for an hour; they’re about to do speaking tours at “Bank of America and to investment groups in Manhattan.” That money doesn’t include the money they’re making to front the “Fix the Debt” group for CEOs who want their corporate tax rate lowered.

Alan Simpson, by the way, gets a fat government pension in honor of his service in the Senate, as well as government-provided health care. I don’t begrudge him it. Everyone should have the access to such benefits.

But there’s a certain insidiousness to these two very well-off people getting up and railing against how social insurance programs bankrupt the country, and walking away with three times the amount that any senior citizen gets as their Social Security benefit in A YEAR.

We need more exposes on speaking fees. It really is the unseen currency of the elites.

Graphic by DonkeyHotey under Creative Commons license