Social Security Policy Analysis. Plus Medieval Stuff. And Me Things.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The Peterson Conspiracy: Cross Posted from Open Left
As they say, even paranoids have real enemies. In the last couple of weeks there has been a renewed effort to push the parallel bills Conrad-Gregg and Cooper-Wolf each of which would establish a Bi-Partisan Commission to tackle the 'Entitlements Crisis' by sending a set of proposals to Congress that could only be voted up or down on a model set by BRAC (the Base Realignment and Closure Commission of the 1990s. The current push is to attach this to whatever legislation is used to raise the Public Debt Ceiling, something that has to be done in the next few weeks to avoid defaulting on some interest payments. The problem is that Conrad-Gregg and Cooper-Wolf did not come out of nowhere and 'bi-partisan' does not mean what it would normally mean. Instead these bills exist to realize the vision of one man, a man who has founded and lavishly funded a series of 'Bi-Partisan' Institutions and Working Groups whose goals are, at times perhaps unknown to many of the participants in them, explicitly to destroy the crown jewel of the New Deal, that is Social Security, while also doing as much collateral damage to Medicare and Medicaid as possible in the process.
The man and his goal were revealed to the wider world in this important piece by William Grieder in the Nation last March Looting Social Security and was in fact the cover piece which had the result of having Peter G Peterson's face staring at you from the cover. Who is PGP? Well the Grieder article gives you a start, but suffice it to say that you couldn't make him or his career up, it reads more like an over the top conspiracy thriller than anything (though with less special effects and explosions). For today's purposes let us just start with his role as founder and funder of the Concord Coalition. Like most of PGPs efforts it is cast as a bi-partisan group devoted to fiscal responsibility and typically has titular leaders drawn from both parties. For example if we go to About the Concord Coalition
The Concord Coalition is a nationwide, non-partisan, grassroots organization advocating generationally responsible fiscal policy. The Concord Coalition was founded in 1992 by the late former Senator Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), former Senator Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson. Former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Ne.) was named a co-chair of the Concord Coalition in January 2002. The Concord Coalition is dedicated to educating the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, the long-term challenges facing America's unsustainable entitlement programs, and how to build a sound economy for future generations.
Bolding mine. For PGP and his like-minded colleagues, followers and employees the problem mostly start and stop with 'entitlements', a word whose existence largely owes itself to Peterson to begin with. The current head of Concord is Robert Bixby and its current main instrument is its Fiscal Wake Up Tour in which Bixby and former Comptroller General David Walker go around the country essentially selling 'Entitlements Crisis'. Now while Walker is invariably described by his former title and so an a more or less neutral observer, he actually has a day job with a somewhat more revealing title: President and CEO of the Peter G Peterson Foundation, itself endowed by PGP with a cool billion (with a 'b') dollars to promote its mission. About the PGPF On this page you will see the smiling faces of PGP himself and Walker and among other things a link to I.O.U.S.A.: the Movie itself a documentary of the Fiscal Wake Up Tour, which the About page proudly reports:
The Foundation awarded the Concord Coalition $1.5 million to expand its highly acclaimed Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, an urgent, bipartisan call for changes to America's fiscal policies in the tradition of Paul Revere.
. So lesson one. Anytime you see the names Robert Bixby or David Walker know that you are talking full time employees of the PGP founded Concord Coalition or the Peter G Peterson Foundation. Lesson two. Almost every time you see the buzzwords 'fiscal responsibility', 'bi-partisan' anything, 'intergenerational equity' odds are you are only one or two degrees of separation from a PGP entity or employee. But what does this have to do with Cooper-Wolf SAFE Commission. Well if we follow the link on the PGPF About page announcing the grant we find the following:
Partners in the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour include The Concord Coalition, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation. The Concord Coalition is a 501(c)3 organization focused on promoting federal fiscal responsibility.
What the hell is 'left-leaning' Brookings doing in this mix? Well there is a tale. Back in 2008 Brookings and Heritage announced the formation of their 'Fiscal Seminar' which in time produced the following report Facing Our Fiscal Future (PDF) itself signed by sixteen authors, seven from Brookings, three from similarly 'left leaning' the Urban Institute, and one from the Progressive Policy Institute. Certainly seems bi-partisan. Until you realize that PPI is the creation of signatory Will Marshall and was the prime vehicle for sending Clintonism down the DLC/New Democrat/Third Way which mostly adds up to 'Renouncing FDR and All His Works'. And that a bunch of the Brookings people are similarly Clinton-Rubinista Deficit Hawks like Alice Rivlin and that the Urban Institute people include similarly hawkish former CBO Director Robert Reischauer. Plus among the remaining signatories from the center to right we have Robert Bixby (again), Maya MacGuineas (an author of a draconian Social Security 'reform' plan known as Liebman-MacGuineas-Samwick or LMS), and Stuart Butler the author of a detailed plan from 1983 to undermine and kill Social Security under the charming name Social Security Reform: Achieving a "Leninist" Strategy (PDF) which has to be read to be believed. What do we find if we delve into Facing our Fiscal Future? Unsurprisingly we find a reprise of the central message of the Fiscal Wakeup Tour
The authors of this paper are longtime federal budget and policy experts who have been drawn together by a deep concern about the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook. Our group covers the ideological spectrum. We are affiliated with a diverse set of organizations. We have been meeting informally for over a year, under the auspices of The Brookings Institution and The Heritage Foundation, to define the dimensions and consequences of the looming federal budget problem, examine alternative solutions, and reach agreement on what should be done. Despite our diverse philosophies and political leanings, we have found solid common ground. We agree that: • Unsustainable deficits in the federal budget threaten the health and vigor of the American economy. • The first step toward establishing budget responsibility is to reform the budget decision process so that the major drivers of escalating deficits—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are no longer on autopilot.
Once again the "ideological spectrum" means from barely center-left to right, and the only problem that matters is not military spending or regressive taxation, nope everything is the fault of Social Security and Medicare. And what is there solution? One establish a system of triggers that would automatically slash Social Security and Medicare benefits (and so keep Congress's hands clean when and if) or
Alternatively, the trigger process could require that a commission make recommendations for closing the gap to the president and Congress on which an up or down vote must be held.
. I.e. some version of Cooper-Wolf. Pete G Peterson and associates want to kill Social Security under the guise of 'fiscal responsibility'. And PGP has spent decades founding organizations largely or wholly devoted to that end and committed a billion dollars of his own money to do so. In the days and weeks to come look for the key words, starting not least with 'bi-partisan', and names like Bixby and Walker. These people are paid professional agents of the open conspiracy to roll back the New Deal. And that ain't paranoia talking. Follow the links.