The panel segment from this Sunday's Face the Nation was yet another exercise we've seen far too often these days, with millionaire pundits telling everyone how "balanced" it is to whack away at the social safety nets for the most vulnerable among
December 3, 2012

The panel segment from this Sunday's Face the Nation was yet another exercise we've seen far too often these days, with millionaire pundits telling everyone how "balanced" it is to whack away at the social safety nets for the most vulnerable among us in order to balance the budget. And host Bob Schieffer wasn't exactly honest with the way he portrayed one of his guests, Maya MacGuineas, when he introduced her.

Rather than letting the viewers know that this woman has been advocating for privatizing Social Security from way back and that she's a long time influential lobbyist in Washington, Schieffer described her as someone from a new group which calls itself "Fix the Debt" that is "one of the kind of go to people in Washington on this in terms of crunching budget numbers."

Well, who could argue with that when you've got Republicans and pundits like Schieffer and his ilk continually telling us that that debt is just going to destroy this country unless we do something about it right now? An expert at "crunching budget numbers." Now who wouldn't want to hear the advice she has to give?

I wonder how most of the people watching this segment would have felt about her advice and whether they like the politicians listening to it, if they knew these things about her.

She was pushing for Social Security privatization back in 2004 when Bush was in office and said this:

MAYA MacGUINEAS: Well I see it slightly differently. I agree with Peter that it's too bad neither candidate has put forward a comprehensive plan about how they would address the problems in Social Security; we know that needs to be done.

But what we've heard from President Bush is at least the idea for how he would restructure the program. He wants to include a system of individually owned private accounts to work with the Social Security system. What we haven't heard is the details for how to create these accounts. On the other hand Senator Kerry has really spent much more of his attention on what he wouldn't do and pretty much ignored the topic of how he would fix the program. [...]

MAYA MacGUINEAS: Well, there are lot of people who say it's a crisis, there are a lot of people who say it's not a big deal at all. It's somewhere in between the two. But the one thing that all experts on Social Security agree on is we can't pay for the promises we're making.

So not only is that an economic and a budgetary challenge, how are we going to pay for these promises, it's a political failure. We've known this for years and even decades and to continue to allow to make promises saying this is what will support your retirement when we know it can't be done isn't right to younger workers or future generations. [...]

MAYA MacGUINEAS: Well, I think there are really three fundamental decisions we have to make with regard to how we fix Social Security. The first is: are we going to raise revenues or are we going to reduce benefits or slow the growth of benefits in the system? I would argue we need to do both, the problem is that big.

MARGARET WARNER: But the president is saying he would not change benefits for those in or near retirement.

MAYA MacGUINEAS: Right. He made it very clear --

MARGARET WARNER: And would also not increase payroll taxes.

MAYA MacGUINEAS: That's right. He's made it very clear that he would not touch benefits for anybody who is retired or near retirement, I think both candidates agree on that. Nobody's talking about today's seniors.

MARGARET WARNER: He's also saying he wouldn't raise the payroll taxes, so I guess my real question -


MARGARET WARNER: -- is not in a blue sky what's the perfect plan. I should have made it more focused. Do you think the Bush plan, which talks about personal accounts, that in it of itself would be enough to restructure it?

MAYA MacGUINEAS: Well, he's never said that accounts alone would be the solution. I mean, Peter was saying you could have Social Security accounts along with the Social Security system. That's expanding a new entitlement program. What you want to do is you want to use accounts as a way to restructure Social Security in a way that makes sense. And by that I mean we've been running Social Security surpluses, and we've been putting them in the government, quote unquote, trust fund.

But those trust funds really just co-mingle the dollars and those surpluses for Social Security are spent on everything from defense, to the prescription drug program and Medicare. The purpose of individual accounts is can we save the money that we need for Social Security in individual accounts so that it's not spent anywhere else, really it's the only lock box that would work.

Ah yes, those private accounts in Wall Street's hands. That's your real "lock box" here. Never mind the possibility of the stock market crashing, or the fees extracted by the bankers, or the whether partial privatization would end up making Social Security insolvent.

Here's more from Public Campaign on her organization: Un-Shared Sacrifice: How ‘Fix the Debt’ Companies Buy Washington Influence & Rig the Game:

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.


  • 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.

And here's more of her bio from CNN:

As President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is housed at the New America Foundation, and the Director of the Fiscal Policy Program, Maya MacGuineas oversees the Foundation's efforts to bring accountability to the budget process, address the challenges presented by the nation's underfunded entitlements programs, and propose comprehensive tax reforms that would improve both the efficiency and equity of the tax code. Ms. MacGuineas testifies regularly before Congress and has published broadly, including articles in The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, and the Los Angeles Times.

Before coming to New America, MacGuineas served as a Social Security adviser to the McCain 2000 campaign. She has also worked at the Brookings Institution, the Concord Coalition and on Wall Street. She received her master's in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and serves on the boards of a number of national, nonpartisan organizations.

I don't mind hearing from all sides advocating on these issues, but there wasn't a single liberal on the panel to push back at MacGuineas' assertions and to explain that there are ways to actually keep Social Security solvent, rather than the policies Mac Guineas has been lobbying for. And these guests ought to be properly identified when they come on the air so the viewers understand who is signing their paychecks.

You can read the full transcript of the video from the mash up above at CBS's web site here.

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