What You Should Know about the Campaign to Fix the Debt and the CEOs Involved in Deficit Talks

FixtheDebtReportSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Have you heard about the Campaign to Fix the Debt? It sounds like an initiative that our country needs at this time. Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, said the campaign “presents itself as a grassroots, bipartisan organization that is committed to lowering our debt. It sounds good, especially in today’s environment of extreme partisanship and political maneuvering.”  Mackenzie warns, however, that Fix the Debt’s “major contribution to the conversation over the fiscal cliff is that while the George W. Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations should be off the table, Americans’ retirement security and health care most definitely should [not] be.”

The Institute for Policy Studies claims that the Fix the Debt initiative is driven by business and is actually using the fear of going over the fiscal cliff “as a cover for tax-code changes that would damage our economy.” The institute found that Fix the Debt “has raised $60 million and recruited more than 80 CEOs of America’s most powerful corporations to lobby for a debt deal that would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly.”

Scott Klinger, co-author of a report produced by the institute titled The CEO Campaign to “Fix” the Debt said, “The ‘Fix the Debt’ CEOs are trying to pass themselves off as noble leaders who are willing to compromise in order to save America from financial ruin. In reality, the campaign is a Trojan horse concealing massive corporate tax breaks that would make our debt situation much worse.”

Here are some of the findings of the institute’s report:

  • The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.
  • The CEOs backing Fix the Debt personally received a combined total of $41 million in savings last year thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts. The top CEO beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, saved $9.9 million on the Bush tax cuts. The private equity fund leader reaped $215 million in taxable income last year just from vested stock.
  • Of the 63 Fix the Debt CEOs at publicly held firms, 24 received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal corporate income taxes. All but six of these firms reported U.S. profits last year.

The Institute for Policy Studies says that “corporations leading this campaign are contributing to Americans’ retirement insecurity by funneling enormous sums into their CEO retirement accounts while underfunding their employee pension funds.” It released another report titled A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts. That report analyzed the retirement policies of US corporations leading the campaign to Fix the Debt. Here are some of the reports key findings:

  • The 71 Fix the Debt CEOs who lead publicly held companies have amassed an average of $9 million in their company retirement funds. A dozen have more than $20 million in their accounts. If each of them converted their assets to an annuity when they turned 65, they would receive a monthly check for at least $110,000 for life.
  • The Fix the Debt CEO with the largest pension fund is Honeywell’s David Cote, a long-time advocate of Social Security cuts. His $78 million nest egg is enough to provide a $428,000 check every month after he turns 65.
  • Forty-one of the 71 companies offer employee pension funds. Of these, only two have sufficient assets in their funds to meet expected obligations. The rest have combined deficits of $103 billion, or about $2.5 billion on average. General Electric has the largest deficit in its worker pension fund, with $22 billion. 

Christina Wilkie and Ryan Grim (Huffington Post) wrote that the CEOs “who have made a high-profile foray into deficit negotiations have themselves been substantially responsible for the size of the deficit they now want closed.” They also wrote that the companies represented by executives working on the debt campaign “have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies’ tax bills.”

They added that recently “CEOs belonging to what the campaign calls its CEO Fiscal Leadership Council — most visibly, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell’s David Cote — have barnstormed the media, making the case that the only way to cut the deficit is to severely scale back social safety-net programs — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — which would disproportionately impact the poor and the elderly.”

Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report, The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks, talked with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about the debt campaign and the CEOs involved in the deficit talks. Anderson told Goodman that they were “doing a massive media and lobbying blitz, portraying themselves as the reasonable ones, because they’re calling for both raising revenues and cutting spending. But if you look at the details of their tax plan, you see that they are really just a Trojan horse. They’re pushing for the same old tax breaks for corporations that they’ve been pushing for for about a decade.”

She continued, “And we looked at one of them, which is they want a permanent exemption from U.S. taxes for all of their foreign earnings. And we calculated that the companies in this campaign stand to gain a windfall of as much as $134 billion, if they get this corporate tax break through. And so, people should be very wary of this big ad campaign that they’re about to see in their newspapers across the country. This is just one more corporate attack on our fair taxation system.”

Lloyd Blankfein is the Face of Class Warfare

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein Proposes Cutting Medicare, Medicaid & Social Security

Wealthy CEOs Want Tax Breaks, Cuts to Poor and Elderly

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

Fix the Debt sounds promising, but the authors- the CEOs- broke it (Nolan Chart)

Five Job-Destroying CEOs Trying to “Fix” the Debt by Slashing Corporate Taxes and Cutting Social Security Benefits (AlterNet)

Fix The Debt CEOs Shorting Their Employees’ Retirement Funds (Crooks and Liars)

The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks (Institute for Policy Studies)

A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts (Institute for Policy Studies)

Executive Excess 2012: The CEO Hands in Uncle Sam’s Pocket (Institute for Policy Studies)

CEO Council Demands Cuts To Poor, Elderly While Reaping Billions In Government Contracts, Tax Breaks (Huffington Post)

‘Fix The Debt’ CEOs Underfund Employee Retirement, Demand Cuts For Elderly (Huffington Post)

As Talks Begin on “Fiscal Cliff,” Report Warns “Fix the Debt” a Front for More Corporate Bailouts (Democracy Now!)

MacKenzie: Fix the Debt would do so on backs of the middle class (Nashua Telegraph)

The Campaign to Fix the Debt CEO Fiscal Leadership Council

50 thoughts on “What You Should Know about the Campaign to Fix the Debt and the CEOs Involved in Deficit Talks”

  1. Dart: CBS and the Goldman Sachs solution
    Another weak showing on Social Security
    By Trudy Lieberman
    http://www.cjr.org/swing_states_project/dart_cbs_and_the_goldman_sachs.php?page=all

    Excerpt:
    Maybe CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley was so awestruck by a chance to visit one of the seven trading floors over at Goldman Sachs, and by a rare interview opportunity with Goldman’s CEO, that he forgot about good, skeptical follow-up questions. He and the CBS Evening News get a CJR Dart for this fairly embarrassing effort.

    Pelley reported: The “so-called fiscal cliff is a time bomb, according to Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, and one of the world’s most influential bankers. His message to Washington: Make a deal.” In other words, reduce the federal budget deficit.

    OK. How would Blankfein do that?

    “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations—the entitlements and what people think they’re going to get, because it’s not going to—they’re not going to get it.”

    Wow! That’s direct. The next logical question was, well, why?

    But all Pelley managed to ask at that point was “Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?” as if reaffirming that all three programs are on the chopping block in the mind of one of the world’s most influential bankers. They were. Blankfein elaborated:

    “You can look at history of these things, and Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career…So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed; maybe some of the benefits have to be affected; maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.”

    “Because we can’t afford them going forward?” Pelley volunteered, which prompted Blankfein to respond: “Because we can’t afford them.”

    By now we’ve become used to weak reporting on Social Security from CBS, having critiqued its omissions, missing explanations, lack of context in three recent posts (see Related Stories below). So we weren’t too surprised.

    Still, it did seem reasonable for CBS to push back a little on Blankfein’s arguments about how much Social Security we can afford. One approach would have been to report on how much of our GDP is spent on the program—a comparison sometimes employed in healthcare coverage, but for some reason almost never in press accounts about Social Security, the country’s largest and most popular entitlement. As we pointed out a few weeks ago, the US spends 5 percent of GDP on Social Security. By comparison: In 2000, Germany spent nearly 12 percent of its GDP on old age, survivor, and disability benefits. Germany seems economically healthy, too.

    Instead, Pelley used up airtime with a few more superlatives about Goldman, which he called “one of America’s most successful investment banks,” with “ net earnings of $4.4 billion dollars last year.”

    Another approach would have been to add a little economic history and context. The US is a far richer country than it was in 1935 when President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, and richer than it was in 1965, when Congress created Medicare. “It’s hard to figure out how we could afford to take care of our old people in 1937(sic) and 1965 when our country was one-quarter or one-half as wealthy as it is today, but can’t afford to do so today,” noted Jim Naureckas on the blog of FAIR, the liberal media advocacy group. The question is a good one.

    Blankfein’s assertion that Social Security was being used to support Americans after a 25-year career also needed an X-ray. Social Security’s retirement benefits are based on a worker’s career average wages from at least 40 years of work. In calculating the average, the five lowest years of earnings are disregarded, but wages from the remaining 35 years are counted—even in years when the worker earned no money. In that case, a zero is used in calculating the average.

    So what is Blankfein talking about here? Twenty-five years after you enter the workforce at, say, 22, puts you at 47. Who gets Social Security retirement benefits at 47? Nobody.

  2. The making of a meme
    Journos get on board the Let’s-Whack-Entitlements train
    By Trudy Lieberman
    12/11/12
    http://www.cjr.org/swing_states_project/the_making_of_a_meme.php?page=all

    Excerpt:
    Shortly after the election, the MSM quickly turned from the presidential horse race to the “fiscal cliff.” And soon, news outlets began passing along what has become conventional political wisdom in the Beltway—that something must be done about the deficit, and fast, and that cutting entitlements, namely Social Security and Medicare, must be part of any deficit-reduction package. Hardly a day goes by when someone paying attention would not hear this meme repeated in the press. What they usually don’t hear enough of, though, is how contemplated cuts might affect ordinary people and what the alternatives might be.

    The NewsHour weighed in two days after the election with an interview featuring Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s CEO, who told Judy Woodruff that going off the fiscal cliff would result in negative GDP the first quarter. After some talk about how Aetna is “gating” its investments and “pulling back on employment” as a result of fiscal-cliff uncertainty, Bertolini said, “No matter how you do the arithmetic, we have to raise revenue and we have to deal with entitlement programs.” There were no other guests on this show, so Bertolini pretty much had his say, with viewers getting the impression fixing the deficit and cutting entitlements were urgent.

    Bertolini is one of the early organizers of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a group set up by Alan Simpson, the former Wyoming senator, and Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton chief of staff, who together headed the president’s deficit commission and authored the Simpson-Bowles report—policy prescriptions for cutting the deficit and entitlements. CEOs have been making the media rounds, delivering their urgent message, as Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein did when he told CBS that people have to lower their expectations about entitlements, because “they’re not going to get them.” No pushback followed from the CBS anchor, Scott Pelley.

    Meanwhile The Washington Post, which has helped shape elite media coverage on the deficit and entitlements, continued a vein of reporting that at times seems to blur the distinction between news and op-eds. The Post’s Lori Montgomery and her colleague Zachary Goldfarb gave a sense of urgency to fixing the deficit writing: “With another dangerous deadline for the economy approaching, Tuesday’s election returned to power the same men who have battled for two years over the nation’s budget problems.” That was a straightforward piece, but a few days later, Montgomery lionized Simpson and Bowles, who two years ago, she wrote, “rolled out a startling plan to dig the nation out of debt.” Even though lawmakers recoiled from the blunt prescriptions, she continued, “their plan as been heralded by both parties as a model of clear-eyed sacrifice, and policy makers say the moment has come to live up to its promise.” The press often refers to the Simpson-Bowles plan as a blueprint or a starting point for fixing the deficit and entitlements, as do many of the sources they choose to consult. Bertolini, for example, told Woodruff that “the Simpson-Bowles framework is perfect to build off of.”

    Speaking of sourcing, Politico weighed in this week with a meme-building “Behind the Curtain” column. Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen reported on the “clear takeaway” they said they heard in private and other conversations about what the economy needs, with “top lawmakers, officials, their senior aides and the CEOs who advise and lobby all of them.”

    This is a group, it should be noticed, particularly quick to agree with policies that devolve to its own self-interest. And as Jonathan Chait notes in a withering piece in New York magazine’s Daily Intel section,

    “Even more remarkable is the approach Politico’s editors take toward the consensus. They have on their hands the most ripe material for a scathing exposé of a chummy, self-interested business-political elite. VandeHei and Allen, by contrast, understand their role here not as exposing the insider nexus but as uncritically transmitting its point of view.”

    And for entitlements, that point of view is: shrink ‘em.

    Kennth Griffin, the founder of a $3 billion hedge fund, tells VandeHei and Allen that “the critical problem is entitlement reform.” He doesn’t mention income inequality, oddly. The reporters go on to write:

    “Nearly every lawmaker and staffer will tell you privately that they know the Social Security retirement age needs to go up, the rate of growth of benefits needs to be slowed on a sliding scale that protects the poor, the cap on income subjected to the tax that finances the program needs to rise and the rich should get smaller or no payout from the program.”

    The meme continues to roll through the media. When Simpson gave a speech in New York to a group called The Common Good, CNNMoney gave a rundown of what he said, beckoning readers with this alarmist headline “Alan Simpson paints dire market outlook.”

    Sometimes the meme takes the form of getting the pols on board with need for a quick fix. An editorial in USA Today challenged the Democrats to be brave and cut entitlements. “How exactly do Democrats expect Republicans to bend on their destructive refusal to raise taxes if Democrats won’t bend on their destructive refusal to trim unsustainable benefit programs,” the editorial argued. Even the reliably moderate Eleanor Clift seemed to be on board, writing in The Daily Beast that the president faces a daunting challenge “to convince liberal groups that they too will have to yield.”

  3. Commentary – What’s behind the CEOs’ campaign?
    By Scott Klinger
    http://www.thebanner.com/articles/2012/12/06/opinion/opinion02.txt

    While America’s CEOs are fretting about the government’s so-called “fiscal cliff,” millions of American workers face a financial disaster that gets much less media attention. There’s a half-trillion-dollar deficit in the nation’s worker retirement benefits.

    The Great Recession, which decimated retirement assets, played a big role in building this lesser-known cliff. But many corporations could have avoided the problem by shoring up these funds during the boom years. Instead, they siphoned off pension assets for other profit-boosting purposes. When the pension deficits started to balloon, many corporations responded by slashing back their benefit programs.

    As a result, Americans today are more reliant on government-funded Social Security and Medicare programs than at any other time in the last 60 years.

    What’s even more outrageous is that the very same CEOs who have contributed to rampant retirement insecurity are now calling for cuts to these earned-benefit programs for senior citizens.

    Nearly 100 CEOs have banded together to convince the American public that Social Security and Medicare lie at the root of America’s fiscal challenges. Their “Fix the Debt” campaign features plain-spoken Americans in their ads and sounds moderate because they call for both spending cuts and revenue increases.

    But the real objectives of the campaign include massive new corporate tax cuts and reduced spending on Social Security and Medicare, which would likely involve raising the retirement age.

    American workers, at present, cannot collect Social Security and Medicare until age 66, the highest retirement age among rich countries. In 2020, the Social Security retirement age will rise to 67, assuring that American workers will be toiling longer than any other industrialized country for years to come. In contrast, Japanese and Chinese workers can collect their equivalent of Social Security starting at age 60.

    The Fix the Debt campaign’s CEO supporters need not worry about Social Security because they’re members of the “I’ve Got Mine Club.” Fifty-four of the CEOs leading Fix the Debt directly benefit from lavish executive retirement programs. Their collective pension assets total $649 million, which comes to more than $12 million per CEO. That’s enough to garner a $65,000 retirement check each month starting at age 65 that will continue for as long as they live, according to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies, which I co-authored. In contrast, the average retiree receives just $1,237 from Social Security each month.

    Yet, the firms headed by Fix the Debt CEOs owe their U.S. pension funds more than $100 billion, according to the IPS study. U.S. law requires corporations to keep their pension debts to manageable levels, but this pressure has often resulted in benefit cuts.

    General Electric, which has a staggering $22 billion pension deficit, shut down its pension fund last year, saying it had become a “drag on earnings” (at a whopping cost of 13 cents per share, according to their estimates). Like many other firms, GE has shifted new employees to a less costly 401(k) plan, putting the risk for poor stock market performance onto employees.

    Beware of wealthy CEOs who are lecturing the rest of us about tightening our belts.

    American workers would be far better off if CEOs worried more about fixing their own companies’ pension debts.

  4. The Budget Thugs: What Do They Know About the Economy?
    By Dean Baker
    Posted: 12/11/2012
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/the-budget-thugs-what-do_b_2274646.html

    Excerpt:
    Ed Haislmaier, a senior scholar at the Heritage Foundation, made himself famous in this video where he appears to be assaulting people protesting a conference organized by Fix the Debt. While this act of bad temper may be uncharacteristic of the public behavior of this corporate-sponsored crusade to cut Social Security and Medicare, it does reflect the way in which they hope to bully their agenda through the political process.

    The line from Fix the Debt, an organization that includes the CEOs of many of the country’s largest corporations, and allies like the Washington Post is that we better have cuts to Social Security and Medicare because they say so. Note that they did not try to push this line in the elections. Everyone knows that cuts to these programs are hugely unpopular across the political spectrum.

    The Fix the Debt strategy was explicitly to wait until after the election. They would then go into high gear pushing their agenda of cutting Social Security and Medicare regardless of who won the elections. Remember, we need these cuts because they say so.

    It is worth repeating the “they say so” part because this is the only way we could know that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are necessary. It is possible to tell stories about countries where a meltdown in financial markets forced sharp budget cuts, but there is zero evidence of that for the United States. Investors are willing to lend the U.S. government vast amounts of money at extremely low-interest rates. The only reason that we have for believing that financial markets will panic if we don’t have the Social Security and Medicare cuts the Debt Fixers want is because they say so.

    For this reason it is worth considering what the Debt Fixers know or don’t know about the economy. This meaning bringing up a still fresh wound: Why did none of these people see the housing bubble whose collapse wrecked the economy?

    It is important to understand the bubble was not hard to see. Nor did it require much knowledge of economics to realize that its collapse would devastate the economy.

  5. Social security’s most media-friendly foe
    Maya MacGuineas hides behind a “nonpartisan” label while trying to get Social Security on the “fiscal cliff” table
    By David Sirota
    12/3/12
    http://www.salon.com/2012/12/03/social_securitys_most_media_friendly_foe/

    Excerpt:
    For those familiar with Ayn Rand’s writing, the question “Who is John Galt?” is succinct shorthand to summarize conservatives’ ideological campaign against government. But to really appreciate how that crusade operates on a day-to-day basis in the most important political battles of the moment, the best question right now is, “Who is Maya MacGuineas?”

    The incurious political press’ answer to that query can be seen in a quick Google News search of her name. As you will see, she is one of the most oft-quoted, and therefore influential, “experts” in the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations. Most often, she is simply described by Washington reporters as the president of the “nonpartisan” Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and, in that role, as the lead coordinator of the so-called “Fix the Debt” coalition.

    Though words like “nonpartisan” are designed to cast both groups, and MacGuineas herself, as apolitical and ideologically dispassionate, the boards of both organizations (which you can see here and here) are teeming with business executives and lawmakers-turned-corporate lobbyists. That is, they are teeming with precisely the kind of hyperpartisan, ideologically driven Big Money interests that have a financial stake in balancing the budget in a way that at once prevents tax increases on the rich and cuts or privatizes social programs.

    That latter goal is particularly important to these folks because they rightly see a privatized Social Security as a profit machine for the financial industry. That’s almost certainly why, as CNN reports, Wall Street–coddling Republicans are “insisting that Social Security reforms be part of” the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. This, despite the indisputable facts (acknowledged even by Ronald Reagan) that Social Security has almost nothing to do with the national deficit or debt.

    That’s where MacGuineas comes in. With burn-the-village-to-save-it talking points, she and her paymasters are pretending that they want Social Security to be part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations in order to strengthen the program for the long haul. But a look at MacGuineas’ long record shows a wily operative primarily devoted to one goal: severely cutting benefits.

    Back in 2005, as President Bush was championing a plan to reduce benefits and turn Social Security into Wall Street–managed private accounts, MacGuineas and an operative at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute jointly published a National Review article advocating for that very idea.

    Likewise, in 2011, MacGuineas published a CNN Money op-ed explicitly calling for “benefit reduction(s)” and slamming President Obama for “not accept(ing) an approach that slashes benefits for future generations.” Not surprisingly, she didn’t bother to mention that the minimal revenue challenges within Social Security could be most easily solved by simply lifting the income cap on payroll taxes. She didn’t mention it, of course, because while such a proposal is popular among most Americans, it is quite unpopular among the rich folk who pay her salary.

    But perhaps the most illustrative evidence of MacGuineas’ true motives can be found in the 2008 Heritage Foundation paper she co-authored with Stuart Butler, a top official of that archconservative organization. Here’s the crux (emphasis added):

    “As quickly as possible, we should phase in a means test for premiums and benefits for Medicare and Social Security. The sooner the scaling back of unnecessary benefits is phased in, the less other programs will have to be cut. We support including current and near-retirees in this change …

    “We also support speeding up the increase in, and further increasing, the retirement age. Under current law, the normal retirement age is scheduled to rise from 66 to 67 between 2017 and 2022. This increase in the retirement age should be accelerated, increased further, and indexed to longevity … to reflect the growing life expectancy of the population. This change would generate savings both by allowing individuals more years to accumulate personal savings and by allowing for fewer years of collecting benefits …”

  6. And these are the people the GOP would like to have running Social Security? I don’t think so!

  7. There is another term for this kind of behavior. It is called theft. Or stealing, if you prefer:

    Hostess Brands acknowledged for the first time in a news report Monday that the company diverted workers’ pension money for other company uses.

    The bankrupt baker told The Wall Street Journal that money taken out of workers’ paychecks, intended for their retirement funds, was used for company operations instead. Hostess, which was under different management at the time the diversions began in August 2011, said it does not know how much money it took.

    Jail would be too good for these executives and managers.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/hostess-pensions-diverted_n_2271868.html

  8. CEO’s Who Can’t Manage Their Companies’ Retirement Plans Want to “Fix” Social Security
    —By Stephanie Mencimer
    Tue Nov. 27, 2012
    http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/11/ceos-who-cant-manage-own-firms-retirement-plans-want-fix-social-security

    Excerpt:
    Corporate chief executives who get involved in politics often invoke their business bona fides as a superior guide to fixing the nation’s problems. The CEO’s behind the latest “Fix the Debt” campaign are no exception. The top dogs at more than 90 American corporations—ranging from Honeywell’s David Cote to Loews’ James Tisch— have signed on to the coalition to press Congress to rein in federal spending, particularly on entitlements, and to balance the nation’s books. The anti-debt coalition would like to see big cuts in Social Security benefits and an increase in the retirement age as a “fix” for the program.

    Of course, American political leaders should always take the advice of rich businessmen with a grain of salt (and here they are almost uniformly men), especially when the remedy also includes big corporate tax cuts, as the “Fix the Debt” coalition is advocating for. But also, in this case, it’s fairly clear that there’s nothing about being a CEO that makes one especially well-equipped to dictate massive changes to the nation’s collective retirement plan. Indeed, the CEO’s behind the “Fix the Debt” coalition come from companies with rather dismal records of managing their own retirement plans.

  9. The Pirates Behind The Campaign To Fix The Debt
    By Charles P. Pierce
    11/29/12
    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/why-we-should-stop-talking-about-deficit-112912

    Excerpt:
    There are many more important topics out there than The Deficit, the scary, hairy monster that haunts the dreams of David Gregory and only the blood of the poor and elderly can appease its wrath. Climate change comes immediately to mind, as do income inequality, the vast inequities of our tax code, the ongoing upward translation of the nation’s wealth, why more bankers aren’t in federal prison, and whatever did I do to the baby Jeebus that he allowed Notre Dame to play for a national championship. But the biggest reason why we should shut the national piehole on the topic is not that we have more serious problems, or even that any discussion violates the blog’s first rule of economics — Fk The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money. The real reason we should stop talking about it for a while is that the people who are insisting that it will eat us and our posterity on toast are lying swine who would sell your white-haired granny to the Somali pirates for another three points on the Dow. Until we all acknowledge the fact that organized wealth in this country has become downright sociopathic in the heedless damage it does, any discussion of The Deficit can and will be hijacked by that quarter in order to gain absolution for its grievous sins and the right to go on committing them against the rest of us, over and over again.

    Listening to these people talk about the national economy is like listening to a burglar tell you that you should really polish the silver more often.

    The latest confirmation of this obvious truth comes from the good folks at the Institute Of Policy Studies, who took a look at the various plutocrats and pirates who are behind Fix The Debt, the latest scam from the phony deficit scolds, albeit one made up almost exclusively of people who helped throw the national economy into the abyss for a decade, and then came looking for government handouts when it all went to hell. In a sensible world, the whole notion of taking seriously the economic proposals emanating from this particular bag of rancid marsupials would occasion an immediate takeout order from Wanda’s House Of Tar And Feathers. Instead, we have the people at IPS, to whom none of our courtier press will pay attention, but who have done us the invaluable service of showing us in detail how the folks behind Fix The Debt do business in their day jobs. These are the people, of course, who are so concerned about The Deficit because of the impact it will gave on their children and grandchildren, most of whom, of course, will not have to work a day in their lives, because Grampy stole the country back in the day. The report is a truly remarkable look at who’s really running things.

  10. CHART: Corporate Profits Skyrocket While Corporate Taxes Plummet
    By Pat Garofalo on Dec 10, 2012
    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/12/10/1308981/chart-corporate-profits-skyrocket-while-corporate-taxes-plummet/

    Excerpt:
    Corporate profits are currently at an all-time high (while worker wages as a percentage of the economy have plummeted to record lows). But despite those sky-high profits, corporate income tax revenue is projected to be just 1.5 percent of GDP this year, below the recent average and far below the amount raised by the tax just a few decades ago.

    *****

    Check out the graph at the link I posted above.

  11. Reblogged this on Jerry Welch and commented:
    Interesting and Informative commentary on how the wealthiest Americans are pushing for even more corporate welfare while passing on the cost to those who need help the most.

  12. It’s the Simpson-Bowles Personal Profit Tour: Making Money Off the U.S. Debt
    by Leo W Gerard
    12/5/12
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/05/1167351/-It-s-the-Simpson-Bowles-Personal-Profit-Tour-Making-Money-Off-the-U-S-Debt

    Excerpt:
    The Simpson-Bowles personal profit tour reveals that for them, for their creation – the speciously labeled Campaign to Fix the Debt – and for the CEOs, right-wing groups and Republicans rallying round them, the effort has nothing to do with deficits or fixing anything. For them, it’s all about personal profit. And if their personal gain costs the vast middle class any sense of retirement security after a lifetime of paying into these earned benefit programs, well Simpson-Bowles & Co. are just fine with that.

    The nation’s debt is a good deal for Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the leaders of the failed deficit commission. The two are profiting personally by urging fat cats and CEOs to support their two-year-old, already-interred deficit reduction plan.

    Simpson, a former Republican Senator, and Bowles, a Morgan Stanley director, charge $40,000 a pop to promote their rejected scheme to fix the debt by slashing Social Security, Medicare and other programs for the middle class. That means every time they speak, Simpson and Bowles each pocket more than 2.5 times the $15,000 that a typical senior citizen gets from Social Security in an entire year.

    The Simpson-Bowles personal profit tour reveals that for them, for their creation – the speciously labeled Campaign to Fix the Debt – and for the CEOs, right-wing groups and Republicans rallying round them, the effort has nothing to do with deficits or fixing anything. For them, it’s all about personal profit. And if their personal gain costs the vast middle class any sense of retirement security after a lifetime of paying into these earned benefit programs, well Simpson-Bowles & Co. are just fine with that.

    Simpson is the avatar for those wailing, “fix the debt,” while demanding special deals for themselves. In 1996 as a Senator needing support from senior citizens, Simpson offered an amendment noting that 60 percent of them depended on Social Security for at least half of their income. It specified:

    “Social Security beneficiaries throughout the nation deserve to be reassured that their benefits will not be subject to cuts and their Social Security payroll taxes will not be increased as a result of legislation to implement a balanced budget amendment.”
    Now, when he’s a shill bagging $40,000 a speech from business groups and CEOs, he calls Social Security recipients “greedy geezers,” and scorns the program cherished by the middle class, calling it:
    “a milk cow with 310 million tits.”

  13. The ‘Fix the Debt’ Coalition of the Very Wealthy: The Rest of Us Need to Pay Attention
    by Joyce Arnold on December 4, 2012
    http://www.taylormarsh.com/blog/2012/12/the-fix-the-debt-coalition-of-the-very-wealthy-the-rest-of-us-need-to-pay-attention/

    Excerpt:
    The Fix the Debt coalition is gaining more attention, no doubt in large part because its members are being very vocal and public. They are not shy about making known their interpretation and solutions of what ails the economy. And of course, another neat crisis – replete with “fiscal cliff” and “doomsday” gamemanship – is the perfect opening for them to swoop in and save the day. More accurately, save the day, and the foreseeable future, for themselves.

    I wrote about this earlier in Austerity, Imposed From the Top To Bottom: The ‘Fix the Debt’ Spin. These spins have a long history. It’s only “rich” for those who create them: debt ceiling, shared sacrifice, fiscal cliff, austerity, trickle-down economics, etc. As I said, “It’s about income inequality, and the difficult-to-devastating consequences in the lives of the 99%. And it’s about a government largely controlled by those at the top.”

    *****

    Austerity, Imposed From the Top To Bottom: The ‘Fix the Debt’ Spin
    by Joyce Arnold on November 27, 2012
    http://www.taylormarsh.com/blog/2012/11/austerity-imposed-from-the-top-to-bottom-the-fix-the-debt-spin/

    Excerpt:
    Some information and analysis follows, as we continue considering the DC created “fiscal cliff” (for example, see Fiscal Cliff & Shared Sacrifice: If You Build It, They Will Come), the debt/deficit, austerity, shared sacrifice, and all the other spins, going on for decades, on why the tiny number of people at the very top deserve to get whatever they want. I still think Occupy has it right, in a big picture way: it’s about income inequality, and the difficult-to-devastating consequences in the lives of the 99%. And it’s about a government largely controlled by those at the top.

    Shared sacrifice, the DC-designed “fiscal cliff,” whatever the latest spin – it’s imposed from that “top” to the “bottom” dwellers. We’re simply in the “it’s a big news story” moment of yet another spin on the same old story. But hey, it’s got more people talking again, so that’s worth something. Unless, of course, we simply rehash the same provided-for-our-consumption talking points.

  14. Un-Shared Sacrifice: How ‘Fix the Debt’ Companies Buy Washington Influence & Rig the Game
    November, 2012
    http://www.publicampaign.org/reports/unsharedsacrifice

    Executive Summary

    A coalition of 95 companies, including some of the country’s largest corporations, are urging Congress to “Fix the Debt,” through a plan that mostly hurts middle class families while preserving tax breaks and windfalls for big corporations.

    The coalition is kicking off a splashy $80 million lobbying campaign to “Fix the Debt,” a plan that, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, consists of two basic points: “pro-growth” corporate tax reform and “reforming” earned-benefit programs. In plain English, their goal is to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security while securing windfalls for some of the country’s biggest corporations—a plan that’s nowhere near balanced.

    But the $80 million being spent on this campaign is only part of the story. Playing the influence game isn’t new to most of these companies, who have spent big over the past few years on lobbying and campaign contributions by their corporate PACs and CEOs.

    Over the coming weeks and months, Congress will grapple with the so-called “fiscal cliff” and tax reform. Many of the loudest high-paid voices, like those in this coalition, have spent years building up influence with politicians and these companies and their lobbyists will be using that to their advantage.

    KEY FINDINGS

    – The 95 companies that make up the “Fix the Debt” coalition have spent nearly $1 billion over the past four years on lobbying and campaign contributions.

    – Twenty-two publicly traded companies that are members of the coalition have spent more on lobbying in the past three years than they have on taxes.

    – General Electric (GE) is the top influence spender of these companies. Since 2009, GE, its CEO, and political action committee (PAC) have spent a combined $112 million on lobbying and campaign contributions.

    – The influence peddling is bipartisan. 57 percent of the contributions spent by the CEOs and PACs of these companies goes to Republicans and 43 percent goes to Democrats.

  15. Dennis Kucinich: Push the Middle Class Off the Cliff? No WAY!
    “Highly-paid CEO’s are in town to tell America how to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff.’

  16. Our Nitwit CEOs
    What the smart guys don’t understand about politics.
    By Paul Begala
    Dec 3, 2012
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/02/paul-begala-on-what-our-nitwit-ceos-don-t-get-about-politics.html

    Excerpt:
    Businesspeople are fond of saying politicians don’t know anything about business. While in the main that is true, the opposite is also true: business geniuses are often political numskulls.

    Case in point: the Campaign to Fix the Debt—a dream team of CEOs, including registered Democrats like Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell CEO (and Obama supporter) David Cote. These are smart people. Smart enough that they can grasp the fiscally obvious: America must pay down its debt. And it can only do so through a combination of increased revenue and restrained spending.

    So far so good. Fix the Debt should follow the lead of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who campaigns for higher taxes for upper-income Americans. Buffett’s courage, clarity, and common sense make it easier for Republicans to do the responsible thing. After all, Buffett is hardly a Marxist. Drawing on decades of experience during which he made billions, Buffett notes that when both capital-gains and income-tax rates were much higher than today, the economy boomed.

    This is elementary. And yet some of the platinum-plated CEOs currently sounding off about the politics of debt reduction don’t seem to understand their role. Instead of patriotically calling on their fellow millionaires to pay a little more, they are lecturing the poor and the middle class on the need to cut entitlements, and even ­advocating—get this—zero taxes on corporations. That’s right, zero. Honeywell’s Cote has actually called for a corporate tax rate of zilch-point-nada. As the great political mind Homer Simpson might say, “D’oh!”

    Millionaire CEOs calling for higher taxes on the rich is Nixon to China. Millionaire CEOs calling for cutting health care for the elderly while eliminating taxes on corporate profits is more like Mao to China. They no doubt have their hearts in the right place. Debt is a major long-term challenge, and the cost of Medicare and Medi­caid has exploded, as has private-sector health care.

    But what Blankfein, Cote, and other business titans don’t seem to grasp is that struggling seniors or families with a special-needs child are not eager to hear CEOs tell them, as Blankfein recently did, “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s ­expectations—the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because … they’re not going to get it.” It’s Blankfein who doesn’t get it. I’m sure he’s a wiz at whatever it is Goldman Sachs does, but he stinks at what political leaders do: build support for tough choices.

    An agenda of reducing Medicare for your grandma while simultaneously eliminating taxes on big corporations is political suicide. I asked one of the toughest, smartest professionals on Capitol Hill—someone deeply committed to finding a deal to pay down the debt—whether the CEOs were helping. His response nearly burned a hole in my computer screen:

    “These fools are under the belief that ideas like limiting deductions on individuals is a good plan to help raise revenue for the deficit, yet at the same time they think we are going to lower the corporate tax rate, which we know will increase the deficit! They turn around and say things like they will be open to closing loopholes, but we both know they will fight like lions to protect their favorite tax breaks. And then, can you imagine a member of Congress choosing to lower corporate taxes while telling Granny she has to wait another two years before getting Medicare!!!!!!”

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