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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Elaine,
    Thanks for the link to the great article from Think Progress. Me thinks they protest too much!

  5. 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.

  6. 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?? 🙂

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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