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 Investors.com. “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.” Investors.com 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!