CODY, Wyo. — Former Sen. Alan Simpson has a message for America’s youth.
“Stop Instagramming your breakfast and tweeting your first-world problems and getting on YouTube so you can see Gangnam Style,” the 81-year-old deficit hawk warns in a new viral video making the rounds online.
It’s the latest effort from one of America’s funniest elder statesmen to reach young people and persuade them to take an interest in taming federal budget deficits and reducing the national debt.
Simpson was tapped by President Barack Obama in 2010 to co-chair a national commission tasked with developing a deficit- and debt-reduction plan that could win bipartisan approval. Congress and the president have since failed to adopt the commission’s recommendations, but Simpson and his co-chair Erskine Bowles have pressed the issue in public speeches, on cable news shows and now online.
Many pundits from across the political spectrum are pointing to the Simpson-Bowles plan as one possible path to breaking the gridlock that threatens to derail negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff.
In the brief video posted Tuesday, Simpson humorously chides the younger generations for being preoccupied with online trivialities when they should instead be watching the national debt clock.
He urges viewers to instead take the “three-a-week challenge,” a push to recruit three friends each week via social networking to sign an online pledge urging elected officials to stop “kicking the can down the road” and address the debt issue.
“Start using those precious social media skills to go out and sign people up on this baby, three people a week,” Simpson says in the video. “Let it grow. And don’t forget, take part or get taken apart. Boy these old coots will clean out the Treasury before you get there.”
Residents of the Yellowstone National Park gateway community of Cody, Wyo., Simpson’s hometown, have long known about his penchant for politically incorrect humor and irreverent hijinks. But since his work on the debt commission, the plain-spoken moderate Republican has become a media favorite and constant presence in the news as he preaches an unflagging sermon of addressing the debt, which he has called “a form of generational theft.”
While it remains to be seen how successful his Gangnam Style video will be outside of political and media circles, Simpson shows in an outtake at the end of the piece his good humor and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get his message across.
Simpson laughs as he hops around next to a young dancing man dressed in a giant foam rubber suit resembling a can, a reference to thecankicksback.org, the web site promoting the viral campaign.
“I got a bum knee,” Simpson says, smiling all the while.