Catfood Commission Part Two


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

Now that the infamous Sequestration cuts are likely to kick in next week, I find it both hilarious and scary, that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen of the deceased debt commission that failed to produce a plan that their own committee could accept, are back in the news calling for cuts to Medicare and Social Security and reduced taxes for the wealthy and corporations as our only way out of our so-called debt crisis!  Where have I heard that song and dance before?  The so-called Catfood Commission is now back at work trying to do a reverse Robin Hood on the poor and middle class.  The only difference this time is that they have a new name, The Fix The Debt Coalition and they are funded by Billionaire Pete Peterson.

“One major contribution comes from the money and monomania of Pete Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire who has committed about half a billion bucks rousing hysteria about deficits and debt.” Common Dreams   That is $500 Million dollars to my fellow mathematically challenged readers. First of all, whenever a Billionaire who made his money by taking advantage of the carried interest tax deduction, starts claiming that seniors and the disabled and the middle class must stop taking handouts from the government and accept massive cuts and reductions in Social Security and Medicare, I have to struggle to hold back my laugh.

“Peterson made his billions on Wall Street, taking the private equity firm Blackstone Group public, after benefiting from the obscene “carried interest tax deduction” that allows hedge fund billionaires to pay lower tax rates than their chauffeurs.” Common Dreams  Isn’t it amazing how much money Billionaires will spend to try to make even more billions on the backs of the poor and middle class?

Let’s take a quick look at the people who are spokespersons for this latest Peterson progeny, Fix the Debt Coalition.  “Bowles and Simpson serve as co-chairs and co-founders of Peterson’s latest front, the Fix the Debt Coalition, which rounded up 127 CEOs and a $60 million budget, retaining at least four major public relation firms, to drive the campaign for a “grand bargain.”’

Despite the consultants, “Fix” has exhibited a hilariously tin ear. They trotted out Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein to lecture Americans on “lowering their expectations” and accepting less in Social Security and Medicare. Who better to argue for “shared sacrifice” than the head of a Wall Street firm that helped blow up the economy and got bailed out by taxpayers while its leaders pocketed the millions they made along the way?  Blankfein was followed by David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, calling on Americans to be responsible about funding our public pension plan. Who more qualified, as the Institute for Policy Studies pointed out in a scathing report, than a CEO with $78 million dollar personal retirement plan tucked away, while his company’s employee pension plan is underfunded by $2.8 billion?” Common Dreams

I am almost surprised that Fix the Debt didn’t include Mr. 47%(Mitt Romney) himself to lecture the middle class on the importance of austerity!  Just what is the Fix the Debt Coalition asking the American public to accept?  “This plan called for even more deficit reduction over 10 years than the last plan the co-chairs promoted. (There was never a Simpson-Bowles commission plan, since the co-chairs’ draft was rejected by the commission.) Instead of a one-to-one ratio of new revenue to spending cuts, the co-chairs now call for three times as much in spending cuts than in increased revenue.

But they stayed true to the Peterson principles. They would raise the eligibility age for Medicare and the retirement age for Social Security, reducing that “paid vacation.” They’d cut Medicare and Social Security benefits. Tax reform would close loopholes – no doubt hitting employer-based health care plans – but use the money largely to lower top tax rates for individuals and corporations. And they call for deeper ceilings for cuts in domestic and military spending, ducking the question of what programs would take the hit.” Common Dreams

Paul Krugman has already called the hand of the Fix the Debt Coalition by striking down their claims on the alleged deficit crisis while he was discussing the looming sequester cuts.  “America doesn’t face a deficit crisis, nor will it face such a crisis anytime soon. Meanwhile, we have a weak economy that is recovering far too slowly from the recession that began in 2007. And, as Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, recently emphasized, one main reason for the sluggish recovery is that government spending has been far weaker in this business cycle than in the past. We should be spending more, not less, until we’re close to full employment; the sequester is exactly what the doctor didn’t order.” NY Times

Further evidence that the deficit is not a problem is noted by  “Believe it or not, the federal deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II.”  The New York Times has also reported that the slowing of the growth of health care costs has reduced the deficit.  “In figures released last week, the Congressional Budget Office said it had erased hundreds of billions of dollars in projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid. The budget office now projects that spending on those two programs in 2020 will be about $200 billion, or 15 percent, less than it projected three years ago. New data also show overall health care spending growth continuing at the lowest rate in decades for a fourth consecutive year.” New York Times

Since this Fix the Debt Coalition has politicians of both stripes involved, I don’t intend to make this a political issue.  However, wasn’t this “austerity first” issue already “litigated” at the polls in the last Presidential election?  Why is it that politicians always seem to think that all of our economic problems will go away if we just convince the masses to accept less for their tax money and their employer’s Social Security and Medicare tax payments?  The paternalistic pattern of trying to pat us on our collective heads and telling us that the economic boogeyman will go away if we just work until we are too old to enjoy a retirement is getting a little stale.

Corporations and Billionaires do not know what is best for the middle class and the poor.  Baby boomers like myself have been working for 40-50 years under the social contract that if we pay our Social Security and Medicare taxes, the money will be there for a comfortable retirement and health care.  We are not asking for a free handout.  We are not takers.  We have given all of our lives and we are now retired or will be in a few short years.  If the Fix the Debt Coalition mob is allowed to get their way, many of us will no longer be able to retire or we will have to work even longer to get the benefits we have purchased all these years with our taxes.  By the way, just how has this austerity theory worked for the Europeans?

Do you want Billionaires and corporations to decide what is best for you??  I know I don’t, but I want to hear your opinion!

Additional Sources: Nation of Change; Robert Reich;Catfood Commission.

55 thoughts on “Catfood Commission Part Two

  1. I have to laugh also at the Peterson crooks. They have produced nothing at all, yet they have become billionaires. So they believe in redistributing the wealth produced by others to themselves by using various tricks and means that are legal. What wonderful Americans who rank right up there with the robber barons of old, but with the difference that the robber barons at least built something with their efforts and schemes. Peterson did not.

  2. I do so love a healthy dose of righteous indignation and outrage over the mewling venal machinations of parasites like Petersen and that unindicted sociopathic criminal Blankfein. Good job on calling them out, raff.

  3. Thanks Gene. And I love the phrase “mewling venal machinations of parasites”!
    Robber barons is a good term for them, but I consider them just plain old thiefs.

  4. Rafflaw:

    This was about the snarkiest column that you have written.

    They may be rich; they may have taken advantage of every tax loophole available (that is smart – I know that I take every deduction and I bet that you do too); and they are advocating something that you don’t agree with.

    But. Just because you don’t like them, doesn’t mean that there isn’t some value in what they propose.

    Americans are going to have to tighten their belts (all of us – rich and poor alike). The only questions are what form that austerity will take, and who will impose it (our politicians, or the market).

    We would all like the world to be a better place, but we have to face reality – our politicians have spent us into the poorhouse (wasted money on education (with no discernible benefit), unnecessary wars, pork, etc).

    At some point, we will have to pay the financial piper for our past excesses.

  5. Steve,
    Trust me, I do not have many deductions to use. We are not talking about taking deductions here. We are talking about altering the method of taxation for retirement that has worked for generations. and is still working today. You may want to relook at the austerity that you are proposing. On an individual level, Americans do tighten their belts when necessary, in most cases. However, on a governmental level, we have already reduced teh deficit by $1.3 Trillion in the last 4 years. I will rest my case with the Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Paul Krugman. As he stated, we don’t have a deficit problem, we have a demand problem.
    As to the snarkiness, I have to confess, these robber barons as Arthur called them, have no master other than making more money and their use of money to control the rest of us, does bring the hairs on the back of my neck to attention. They are welcome to their policies, but the Europeans are already into a second recession due to very similar policies.
    The market will not and cannot solve a problem that does not exist. That was Greenspan’s belief before the crash. If there was such a market driven answer in the works, why is the stock market booming now? We will have to agree to disagree.

  6. Indigo,
    if the Austerity “policies” are allowed there will be a heavy “price” to pay for the middle class and the poor. :)

  7. @rafflaw

    Ha! Funny typo… Think I just tripped the robo-censor too

    While I agree with Krugman more often than not, his award is not a Nobel, but “The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.”

    Alfred Nobel’s estate actually objected to it. The economics prize was invented as a marketing gimmick for some Sweedish bank’s 300th anniversary.

    But more to the point, when these billionaires go around telling us ordinary folk how to handle money, I can’t help but think that these folks don’t balance their checkbooks, have hired drivers who fill’er’up, have private jets and corporate credit cards… essentially, they’re so rich they don’t even have to touch money.

    I wonder when was the last time this Pete Peterson guy saw actual money…

  8. Indigo,
    I enjoyed the typo. You are right that the prize is not named the Nobel prize for Economics, but many sources refer to it in that matter. I did not see Pete Peterson’s name on the past winners list of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”.

  9. Steve wrote:

    “Americans are going to have to tighten their belts (all of us – rich and poor alike).”

    Why does anyone continue to take this assertion as reasonable in any way? Does Steve not see a distinction between a poor person forced to skip meals, and a rich person seeing a slightly lower balance on a spreadsheet? There is NO equivalence between the two, and that is the source of a profoundly disingenuous meme out there.

    It is fruitless to argue when one side persists in spouting such senseless purported equivalencies.

  10. @rafflaw

    I think the larger problem with the popular understanding of “austerity” is an economic misconception that, for one reason or another, nobody corrects in the discourse. One team profits from it, and the other, perhaps in the interest of appearing “impartial” just stands by and watches.

    People who promote “austerity” think (if they’re middle-class voters) or act like (if they’re wealthy) money the government takes in in taxes is money taken out of the economy.

    Actually, quite the opposite is the case. The government doesn’t have savings per se. All the money the government takes in as taxes, gets spent… in the economy.

    Even money collected for Social Security gets spent, the idea being that there is a macro-economic benefit if retired people retain a larger portion of their previous purchasing power.

    One could argue an exception to this principle resides with interest payments on debt. But there’s so much duplicity there it’s hard to disentangle.

    Take higher education, for example. States have been cutting back funding to public institutions for many years, to the point where the typical state school currently receives only about 10% of their funding from public dollars. This gets called “smaller government” because one balance sheet gets smaller, but…. cutting funding to schools doesn’t make fewer students. It doesn’t make the institution any smaller. It just makes students take out more debt. In essence, every dollar cut from a public school is a dollar that goes right into some banker’s pocket, just skimming off the top. So, the anti-federal reserve crowd who wants smaller government ends up just greasing the wheels of the federal reserve system….

  11. Raff

    A brilliant skewering of those who would see themselves as nobility, rather than the vicious thieves they really are. They are so disconnected from the reality of their loathsome natures via compartmentalization of their activities, that they think themselves “benefactor” of lesser beings such as we.

  12. Don’t forget who appointed Simpson Bowles, that socialist in the White House, Obama. The Commission was a way for him to do the bidding of the corporations by blaming it on a blue ribbon commission. How could he not have known that these two would come up with a way to the blame the workers the poor and the old for the deficit and a plan that would reward the very people who pushed us over the financial cliff. He sure is the people’s president? But the corporations are people too, right?

    Social Security and Medicare did not cause the financial crisis in this country and they should not be destroyed to fix it. Both programs have been paid into by their beneficiaries and the contract on which the premiums have been paid over the years should be fulfilled. Of course corporations and those who support them don’t look at contracts with human beings as promises that must be kept rather they look at contracts as agreements that should be enforced against people but when the benefits to people come due they believe that the legal system should allow corporations to excuse performance because well it is just so inconvient to Pay those pensions. Corporations have been voiding pension contracts for years with the cooperation of the courts and the labor department. It is a crime.

    Now comes S&B to tell is that the poor victims of the financial disaster –big corporations and billionaires–need relief in the form of lower corporate tax rates, which corporations almost never if ever pay, and tax breaks for the wealthy who already actually pay tax rates that most of us can only dream about. If this plan to force workers, the poor, the elderly and the middle class further and further into poverty is adopted the result won’t be a growing economy. It will be stagnation and possibly worse but then the workers have always been so greedy with their minimum wages and their insistence on sick days. Workers are Just really too greedy, after all CEOs cannot be expected to give up their jets, their park avenue apartments and their 100 million dollar salaries it would just be too harsh after all they have done to/for us.

    I hope someone in Congress stands up to Obama and the rest of the CORPORATIONS FIRST gang and protects social security and Medicare. It is about time government and our elected representatives started working for the humans in this country,

  13. Raff,

    A brilliant post skewering those with pretensions of being Nobility, when they are merely thieves and scoundrels preying upon the people.

  14. Rafflaw,

    Rolling down from the blog intro……

    Darn good choice Rafflaw! A very worthy choice. Near to my heart and to your pocketbooks.

    To loan an example: The cost of an aircraft carrier would feed all the under-nourished in the whole world. What are we spending overseas today? One-sixth of a carrier. How much it could save in protecting people here in the States from cuts is even more horrible to contemplate. Basta***!

    Good on ya’.

    BFN Exhausted.

  15. Justice Holmes,

    It’s not solely that it’s inconvenient to pay out promised benefits; the underlying intent is to create evermore desperate workers, people who will agree to work for less and less after the safety net (including ALL retirement benefits) has been ripped out from under them. Cheap, desperate, powerless labor is the root goal in all of this austerity yammering; any savings seen from not having to pay out benefits is merely a collateral benefit.

  16. Justice,
    I agree that it is a crime that there is complicity on both sides of the aisle as I mentioned in the article, but why are we still listening to Simpson and Bowles? No matter who is funding them!
    I agree that the real reason for the austerity policies isn’t to help the government and therefore benefit all of us, but to make or save more money for the corporations and the wealthy.
    Thanks Mike and ID.

  17. This is life in a plutocracy. You can complain all you want, but they rule. And they will get much, much worse. And you can’t do anything about it now, except find out through experience how really, really bad they are.

  18. rafflaw,

    I’m glad you brought this subject to light again. So many members of the media seem to support the suggestions of Simpson and Bowles. Simpson & Bowles–sounds like a pair of vaudevillians!

    Here are videos that I posted with my post about the Fix the Debt Campaign.

    Wealthy CEOs Want Tax Breaks, Cuts to Poor and Elderly

  19. I sense a revolution in the making, but not the one the “T” partiers (another billionaire invention) have in mind. Nope, holding down the working stiffs and denying them their social contract will surly result in Pete Peterson’s downfall along with the rest of us.

    It is not time to the barricades rather it is time to out such preposterous politicians and the “mewling venal machinations of parasites”! Time is now to increase the pressure on those in congress who are actively in the employ of the meters. 2014 is just around the corner folks.

  20. @feemeister

    The Fed isn’t really the issue, though I definitely agree that it should be audited.

    A lot of the calls to audit the Fed come from people who mistakenly suppose that the Fed or the Treasury create money, and that they’re “running the presses overtime.”

    There has been some of this with the “quantitative easing” policy, where the Fed now holds more value in Treasury bills than China…. but that’s public knowledge, even if most people don’t know about it.

    Individual banks create money every time they loan money. That’s not something that’s centrally-directed.

    Under the Articles of Confederation, paper money was seen as a useful way to regulate wealth. Part of the reason why the Founding Fathers agitated for the Constitution was because they didn’t like states having the power to cancel onerous debt.

    The alternative to our central banking system — a return to the gold standard, for example — would spell utter disaster for our country.

    If China asked for out debts to be repaid in gold, all our wealth would flow right out of the country in a hurry, and we’d be screwed.

    If some wealthy investors put their heads together, it would be really easy for them to manipulate the currency price simply by buying up gold, and we’d be screwed. The way things are now, to manipulate the currency, you need something on the scale of LIBOR.

    If we returned to the gold standard, there would be no reason for anybody to hold dollars as a reserve currency, and our economy would tank, the same as if OPEC decided to start pricing oil in gold.

    If we returned to the gold standard, we would be in the absurd position of valuing our currency in terms of numbers of molecules: all the gold ever mined in the history of the world would fit within two Olympic-size swimming pools. Such a valuation would be even more abstract to common intuitions than what exists today.

  21. I sleep better every night, knowing that our President is a liberal who gets up every day and does everything in his power to make life better for the
    majority of people who voted for more wars for the only democracy in the M.E., and for the 1% here in the Homeland, who put him into power. Showing him the Zapruder film when he got elected-worked like a magic bullet – to keep him focused, and on the ranch.

  22. Social Security and Medicare didn’t cause the debt. Two “credit card” wars, the financial meltdown and subsequent bailout of big banks, and a bloated defense budget surely helped us dig ourselves into a deep debt hole.

  23. Elaine,
    I am glad that you included the recession/depression because the stimulus was part of the temporary debt that was necessary because of the two wars off the budget and the financial and housing meltdowns.

  24. The whole issue about whether or not to cut SS is fabricated.

    There’s an easy answer: raise the limit on taxable income.

    Right now, only incomes up to $110,000 are taxed for social security. Change that rule, and the problem goes away.

  25. Additional taxes would be raised to the 1968 level accounting for inflation, to $21. All those folks now earning minimum wage would actually make enough to pay taxes. And tie future increases to te rate of inflation.

  26. Let me try that again. Additional taxes would be raised if the minimum wage were raised to the 1968 level. Accounting for inflation, etc. the rate would be a bit more than $21/hr. Future increases should be tied to the rate of inflation.

  27. I never thought I would agree with Paul Krugman on any statement but I do believe we, as Amaricans, have a demand problem.

    We demand the unattainable with no glimps at the realities of life. As a country we cannot afford every special interest project that every individual feels the government should pay for. I’m not talking about SS or Medicare…these are programs that people pay for their entire working lives.

    I’m talking about…my child has this-the government needs to do something about it;…my mother suffers from that-the government needs to do something about it;…society needs to change the other thing-the government needs to do something about it. At some point in time we must realize that pockets are not bottomless and we need to put on our big boy pants and take care of it ourselves.

    It would be interesting to see all that lovely money that is wasted on elections and advocacy groups being spent on needs and not power…both Republican and Democrat.

  28. “Shakespeare’s, Much Ado about Nothing is in my mind for some reason.”

    Rick read one of his ponderous sermonettes and was honest enough to
    admit what he was thinking.

  29. Much Ado about Nothing bill? The idea that billionaires are trying to gut Social Security and Medicare, along with lowering their own taxes and the taxes of big corporations is nothing, all on the backs of the poor and middle class?

  30. “kathleen
    1, February 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm
    Justice Holmes,

    It’s not solely that it’s inconvenient to pay out promised benefits; the underlying intent is to create evermore desperate workers, people who will agree to work for less and less after the safety net (including ALL retirement benefits) has been ripped out from under them. Cheap, desperate, powerless labor is the root goal in all of this austerity yammering; any savings seen from not having to pay out benefits is merely a collateral benefit.”
    (Well done Kathleen!)

    Re-posting from above because it bears repeating, and repeating and repeating.

    The wealth for the commoners generated in the aftermath of WWII was an aberration both here and in Europe. WWII wiped the slate clean and allowed a worker class distrustful of power and politicians to frame a new form of governance that divvied up the economic power differently. But it was an aberration, it was not the way the (Western)world worked historically and was not the desired model. The desired model was and is Aristocratic/Plutocratic and the names of the great families, banks, corporations that existed prewar-war and can be traced back (centuries) are still present and major players. They are supplemented with the nouveau riche but their desired model is unchanged from feudal times to now.

    Class warfare is the oldest warfare IMO. Before tribes fought for territory they fought for who would be the chief and the priest or shaman and how much each among the rest of the tribe would have to pay in tribute to that ruling class. It never ends. Elaine’s blawg posting clearly displays the fact that there are two systems of justice, one for the wealth class and one for the rest. Half a dozen blawg posts a week display the same truth, there are one set of rules for the haves (and their knights/enforcers or, more appropriately, their privateers) and one system for the rest. This is not new, here or elsewhere. This is the way it is historically.

    I think that what we are seeing today is the big leap backward, planned for decades and coming to fruition. I think that’s what gets talked about (in polite language) at the annual Bilderberg meetings and the G pick-a-number meetings and those conclaves of the uber-rich that we occasionally hear about.

  31. I wonder what is worse, greedy corporations or corrupt politicians. I tend to believe the latter is worse.

    Unless I have to work for a corporation, buy products from one, and not use a particular company’s widgets they are only in my life if I let them. Gov’ts on the other hand can write the rules and force themselves into my life. If a particular corporation fails, it’s no skin off my nose. If the gov’t fails economically or otherwise it tends to suck in a lot of people.

  32. Darren,
    The corporations and the wealthy individuals involved in this austerity push will be in your life if their programs to cut yor social security and Medicare all for lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations are accepted. You cannot hide from their money trying to buy legislation.

  33. “I think that what we are seeing today is the big leap backward, planned for decades and coming to fruition.”

    Kathleen & LK,

    I agree Kathleen’s whole comment, of which the sentence above is just a part. It is elegant in its brevity because it completely sums up the system as it has been in both the past and the present, with only aberrations for short periods.

  34. Darren,

    Greedy people who work for corporations/banks help to corrupt politicians. Some of these business people are helping to write legislation. Ever hear of ALEC–the American Legislative Exchange Council?

  35. Darren, try jail-breaking your phone if you think you aren’t forced to trade with certain corporations. That sugar subsidy/tariffs adds cost to every food product that has sugar and then there’s corn. Corporations, and a limitation on your choices among them, placed thereon by tariffs and regulations that benefit some and discourage others touch every facet of your commercial life.

    Copyright and Trademark is now the new front in further consolidating market share by corporations and they can be directly enforced by the biggest and most powerful law enforcement agencies in the country right up to DHS and their subsidiary divisions. Well, there’s the Supremes too; thanks to them if you eat anything containing domestically grown soybeans, corn and soon, wheat you’re going to be eating a Monsanto product. Check out the “Litigation” section of the Monsanto Wikipdia entry to get a glimpse into how constrained our choices have become regarding most of the foods we eat. I say most because that corn goes into livestock.

    BTW, in your Gavitar pic is that corn or sunflowers? Looks like corn to me but it’s a small pic and I can’t quite make it out. I have wondered about that since that Gavitar went up. I like it. If that’s a too-personal question just ignore it, no offense meant.

  36. LOL, Mike I have many ‘sins’, among them some good measure of paranoia (which has always served me well), cynicism and vanity. That line was mine but my transition was very sloppy. Kathleen’s nail-on-the-head posting totally inspired my rant and I’m glad she visits. I enjoy her postings greatly.

  37. Here’s where we keep the armies
    Here’s where we write their names
    Here’s where the money got us
    Here’s our famous hall of shame
    Here’s where we starve the hungry
    Here’s where we cheat the poor
    Here’s where we beat the children
    Here is where we pay the whores

    “Brutal Planet” – Alice Cooper

  38. lotta,
    if I eat a monsanto owned seed and the seed does not get destroyed in the digestive process, does monsanto still own that seed upon its exit from my system?? :)

  39. VIEWPOINT: The Debt Everyone Is Freaking Out About Does Not Exist
    By Jeff Spross on Feb 24, 2013

    Between the new-and-improved Simpson-Bowles plan, Joe Scarborough’s feud with Paul Krugman, the relentless drumbeat of the entire Republican Party, and the media blitzkrieg launched by the billionaire-driven “Fix the Debt” campaign, one might think no serious and responsible American can ignore the unassailable truth: America faces a debt crisis, which we must act on immediately and decisively.

    Well, not quite. The actual truth is that the debt everyone’s freaking out about does not exist.

    Some of the debt certainly exists, like the roughly $11.6 trillion owed to foreign and private creditors. But that isn’t the debt anyone’s worried about. If we stopped adding to it tomorrow, the debt as it stands would pose essentially zero threat to the country’s fiscal health, as the ongoing growth of the economy would send our debt-to-GDP ratio dropping like a rock.

    So the debt that’s got everyone worried is the part we haven’t yet incurred. And that debt, by definition, does not exist. It’s not a certainty, it’s merely a projection by the Congressional Budget Office. And trying to model how the federal budget, not to mention the entire American economy, will behave years or even decades in the future is a devilishly treacherous business.

    For instance: one of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) favorite talking points in 2011 was that the computer simulations CBO uses to model the economy crash when they attempt to account for the debt load in 2037. Imagine trying to model the 2011 economy in 1985. Things you’d never see coming include (among other things) the Internet, fracking, massive advances in computing power, the renewable energy boom, three wars, a massive recession, and Harry Potter. And predictions can be hard even over shorter time frames. In 1995, CBO predicted the deficit in 2000 would be well over $200 billion. We ran a surplus of $236 billion.

    In fact, Ryan plastered dramatic graphs of debt going out 75 years onto everything in sight while stumping for his last budget. Forget predicting 2011 in 1985. That’s like predicting 2011 in 1940.

    So neither the impending Baby Boomer retirement nor growing health care costs make astronomical debt a certainty, despite the insistence of the conservative and centrist punditariat. With respect to the Boomers, economist Dean Baker ran the numbers and found that if productivity growth in the economy clocks in at one percent until 2035 (a very conservative estimate) the resulting gains will swamp the added retiree burden.

  40. Raf, Not unless you deposit it bear-like and it sprouts on the forest floor- then you’ve committed copyright infringement and they’ll sue you to death.

  41. Those readers of this blog that are among the 99%, the hoi polloi, the great unwashed or mere non billionaires should read this Alternet article on the pre-politics career of Barak Obama. It turns out he never was an advocate for the poor or for the majority of citizens, rather was he a servant of the klepocrats getting rich by privatising public housing in Chicago.

    Read the article and weep.

  42. Billionaires for Austerity: With Cuts Looming, Wall Street Roots of “Fix the Debt” Campaign Exposed
    Democracy Now

    With $85 billion across-the-board spending cuts, known as “the sequestration,” set to take effect this Friday, a new investigation reveals how billionaire investors, such as Peter Peterson, have helped reshaped the national debate on the economy, the debt and social spending. Between 2007 and 2011, Peterson personally contributed nearly $500 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation to push Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Peterson’s main platform has been the Campaign to Fix the Debt. While the campaign is portrayed as a citizen-led effort, critics say the campaign is a front for business groups. The campaign has direct ties to GE, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Peterson is the former chair and CEO of Lehman Brothers and co-founder of the private equity firm, The Blackstone Group. For more, we speak to John Nichols of The Nation and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, joining us now are two guests who have uncovered how billionaire investors such as Pete Peterson have helped reshape the national debate on economy, the debt and social spending. Between 2007 and 2011, Peterson personally contributed nearly $500 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation to push for Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Peterson served as secretary of commerce under Richard Nixon and went on to serve as chair and CEO of Lehman Brothers. He co-founded the private equity firm The Blackstone Group.

    Joining us from Madison, Wisconsin, is John Nichols, The Nation magazine’s political correspondent. His latest piece is “The Austerity Agenda: An Electoral Loser.” It’s part of a major exposé based on a new website called “Pete Peterson Pyramid.” Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy is editor of the site, which links billionaires like Peterson to the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! John Nichols, why don’t you lay out who Pete Peterson is and how he fits into this picture of sequester that we look like we’re about to see by the end of the week?

    JOHN NICHOLS: Sure. Pete Peterson is an old-school moderate Republican. He’s not some sort of hard-line conservative. He’s a very expensive suit, private jet, mineral water kind of guy. And he has been obsessed, for a number of years, with restructuring the U.S. economy, and particularly restructuring U.S. fiscal policy. This is an important thing to understand. Pete Peterson and the people around him do not want—or aren’t, I would suggest, particularly interested in fixing the debt or dealing with deficits. What they’re really interested in is taking advantage of a moment when the United States is looking at these issues to establish a very different approach to a host of issues. And at the core of this is changing the way that we look at retirement in this country, definitely undermining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, changing those earned benefit programs into something very different than what they’ve been and something far less reliable, but also making an awfully lot of other cuts in programs that serve the great mass of Americans, while at the same time continuing and even advancing the tax breaks for billionaires and corporations that have helped to make Pete Peterson a very, very wealthy man.

    He sold this idea to around 125 other CEOs and very wealthy people. They’ve all chipped in a whole bunch of money, millions and millions, perhaps as much as $60 million for the current campaign, to this “Fix the Debt” group. And this Fix the Debt group is the primary proponent in the United States today of austerity. They want to, quote-unquote, “cut our way to progress,” as President Obama suggested, but in reality, it’s cutting the way toward progress for them and cutting the way toward a real hard hit for the average working American and potentially a slowing of the economy that begins with the sequester but does not end there.

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