Just after the disastrous midterms in 2010, I wrote a lengthy post about who Pete Peterson was, and why he is exactly the wrong guy to be having a "bipartisan summit" on so-called "entitlement reform." Here's a snippet from back then:
The Peter G. Peterson foundation claims to be bipartisan, yet their former CEO is out pimping a book, a new advocacy group and a position. Peter G. Peterson served as Secretary of Commerceunder Richard Nixon. He claims to be very, very, very concerned about our deficit, yet not one word is uttered in this report about Wall Street's contribution to the deficit, the collapse of our economy, or any responsibility on the part of the financial industry to help reduce the deficit they helped create.
Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post has updated that information with some more current relevant facts and data:
According to a review of tax documents from 2007 through 2011, Peterson has personally contributed at least $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government spending as in a state of crisis, in desperate need of dramatic cuts. Peterson's millions have done next to nothing to change public opinion: In survey after survey, Americans reject the idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare. A recent national tour organized by AmericaSpeaks and largely funded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation was met by audiences who rebuffed his proposals.
But Peterson has been able to drive a major shift in elite consensus about government spending, with talk of "grand bargains" that would slash entitlements, cut corporate tax rates and end personal tax breaks, such as the mortgage deduction, that benefit the middle class.
Peterson's deficit hawkery drives the narrative away from fairness right into the arms of willing Republicans. So this week, he held a "summit" of Washington elites to pearl-clutch over the deficit and debt in order to bolster their case. We can thank Bill Clinton for contributing to that narrative, too, since he was one of the featured speakers. The entire interview is at the end of this post.
Thanks to Peter Peterson, we have a country full of people who actually believe the national debt is the single biggest issue this country faces, and because he's put a "bipartisan" face on the dialogue, he gives the appearance that Democrats and Republicans alike should abandon Social Security and Medicare because they are, in his opinion, the primary drivers of the deficit. Worse yet, he's pimping those ideas to kids in order to drive a wedge between generations in the hope of succeeding at eroding these fundamental safety nets.
Another effort to persuade America's youth about the shakiness of the entitlement programs is a joint venture between the Peterson Foundation and mtvU, the campus-based network created by MTV Networks, called Indebted. Peterson has already shelled out nearly $2 million to fund this effort to convince college students that Social Security won't be there for them, so therefore it should be slashed now -- a self-fulfilling policy prescription if ever there was one.
The educational website for Indebted, which borrows its look of revolutionary activism from contemporary stencil-based art made famous by graffiti artists Banksy and Shepard Fairey, explains that the inevitable and unavoidable debt burden to be shouldered by college kids through student loans, credits cards and a poor job market make it all the more important to cut entitlements now.
I like Seth Michaels' answer to that over at Working America:
Peterson—a billionaire—never has to worry about dignity in retirement, about choosing between food and medicine, about having to work even when your health won’t allow it. Nor do members of Congress with their taxpayer-funded pensions, or well-paid TV hosts, lobbyists and think-tank presidents. They also feel the pressure of paying into the system much less than the majority of working people, since they only pay Social Security tax on the first $110,100 of their income.
So here’s a modest proposal for Peterson and the networks that advance his message. You can raise the retirement age to whatever you want—as long as, at age 65, every think-tanker, pundit and politician who pushes the fake crisis gets to swap places with a 65-year-old nurse, truck driver, hotel housekeeper or drill-press operator. Sound good?
Better yet, any lawmaker who thinks it's a good idea to raise the Social Security retirement age and erode Medicare should agree to relinquish their federal pension and health insurance retroactive to the day they take office. If they can't do that, then they recuse themselves from any vote concerning Medicare or Social Security. Seems like a fair deal to me.
[oldembed width="410" height="500" src="https://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/assets/swf/CSPANPlayer.swf?pid=306016-2" flashvars="system=http://www.c-spanvideo.org/common/services/flashXml.php?programid=277141&style=full" fid="12"]