Tag Archive: Pete Peterson

Oct 21 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Blue Clowns in Bondage

Theatre Bizarre - Scaredy Cat Club by Patricia Drury

It’s Intermission here under the Beltway Bigtop.  The house lights are back on, the Clowns are taking a brief break and the Audience is taking the opportunity to catch their breath after the remarkable performance that they’ve just been witness to as the red clowns and blue clowns faced off in the Scaredy Cat Sideshow.

For the past several days the blue clowns have been celebrating their big (temporary) win.  Audience polls have shown that the audience holds the red clowns responsible for the clown war that left the lights turned off at the Bigtop for 16 days. Despite the audience’s sentiments, the blue clowns’ big win may not be worth getting too worked up about:

Because the deal only includes minor concessions, the Beltway consensus is that it represents a resounding defeat for Republicans, who “surrendered” their original demands to defund or delay Obamacare. In the skirmish of opinion polls, that may be true, for now. But in the war of ideas, the Senate deal is but a stalemate, one made almost entirely on conservative terms. The GOP now goes into budget talks with sequestration as the new baseline, primed to demand longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And they still hold the gun of a US default to the nation’s head in the next debt ceiling showdown.

Surrender? Any more “victories” like this and Democrats will end up paying tribute into the GOP’s coffers.

Speaking of surrender, the blue clowns’ “idea guys” in the Bigtop Office of Promotions are hot on a way for the blue clowns to “win” the next round, too…

Ezra Klein: Democrats Should Return To Being Wimps Quickly

No matter which deal ultimately resolves the U.S. government shutdown, it’s almost certain to include a new bicameral budget commission. This will be the eighth major budget commission since 2010. Until now, every single one of them has failed for the same reason: taxes. And if nothing changes, this one will fail too.

But something should change: Democrats should admit the obvious. For the time being, they’ve lost on taxes. And you know what? That’s OK. At least, it could be, if they were willing to admit it and smartly negotiate the terms of their surrender.

Then, the Ringmaster delivered a speech to celebrate the end of the shutdown and decided to blame bloggers for the trouble:

You cannot make this stuff up.

Obama gave his usual adult talking to the children, meaning American citizens, type of speech to mark the cease-fire in the budget battle so that the two sides can work out a peace accord. Of course, it goes without saying that both sides keenly want a pact that will inflict cuts on middle and low-income Americans while only imposing at most token costs on the wealthy, and in particular, secure the prize that the leadership of both parties keenly desire, namely, cuts in Medicare and Social Security, dressed up as “reforms”.

“And now that the government has reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul. That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.”

Apr 30 2013

Obama in a web of deceit – is he a spider or a bug?

Now that the academic and evidentiary support for austerity is shot full of holes, President Obama has an opportunity to perform a face-saving extrication from his position.  Will he do it?

A recent study by a grad student at the University of Massachussets has pointed out critical errors in celebrated Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff’s study which has been the much-cited intellectual underpinning of the austerity movement.  In short R-R’s study showed a correlation between high levels of national debt (with a stated critical threshold point at 90% of GDP) and slow economic growth.  The results of the study have been often stated as proof that debt at 90% GDP causes slow economic growth and that austerity measures must be employed to bring down debt.  

Reinhart-Rogoff quickly achieved almost sacred status among self-proclaimed guardians of fiscal responsibility; their tipping-point claim was treated not as a disputed hypothesis but as unquestioned fact. For example, a Washington Post editorial earlier this year warned against any relaxation on the deficit front, because we are “dangerously near the 90 percent mark that economists regard as a threat to sustainable economic growth.” Notice the phrasing: “economists,” not “some economists,” let alone “some economists, vigorously disputed by other economists with equally good credentials,” which was the reality.

Many prominent economists had previously pointed out another major error in the way that the study has been used by those who favor austerity:

There were good reasons for not accepting the Reinhart and Rogoff results even before this error was uncovered, as many of us had argued. Most importantly there is a serious issue of the direction causation. Countries tend to have high debt levels because their economies are doing poorly.

Unfortunately, there was not much press notice of the causation problem in R-R’s study, probably because it’s the kind of story that the media find too difficult to explain.  But when the grad student from the University of Massachussets discovered spreadsheet errors in their work, now there was an issue that our news media could latch onto with confidence that it was within their ability to explain it.  Consequently it has gotten quite a bit of coverage and R-R’s study has been discredited.

Mar 01 2013

What You Need To Know About “Fix The Debt”

Billionaires for Austerity: With Cuts Looming, Wall Street Roots of “Fix the Debt” Campaign Exposed

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 reshape 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.

Sequestration Is Austerity, but Not Enough for Simpson and Bowles

by John Nichols, The Nation

Sequestration?

Cue the return of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, frontmen for American austerity. [..]

The former Republican senator and defeated Democratic senate candidate who praises Paul Ryan’s budget don’t particularly like the death-by-slow-cuts of sequestration. They prefer a full frontal assault on the most vulnerable Americans and a redistribution of the wealth upward.

As President Obama has noted, Washington has already reduced the deficit by $2.5 trillion.

But the co-chairs of the failed National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform now want another $2.4 trillion.

To wit, in a “rehashed” plan to “Fix the Debt,” Simpson and Bowles are busy promoting schemes to “modernize…entitlement programs to account for” an aging population. That’s code for schemes to delay the point at which the hardest working Americans can get access to Social Security and Medicare.

Simpson and Bowles are arguing specifically for the adoption of “chained CPI.” That’s the assault on Social Security cost-of-living increases that Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, correctly identifies as “a benefit cut.”

Remember who appointed these two charlatans to head the “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” when Congress refused to create it, Pres. Obama. Remember who embraced their recommendations when the committee failed to come to an agreement, Pres. Obama.

Remember who was privately financing the commission, Peter G. Peterson.

Sperling: Obama Wanted Sequester to Force Democrats to Accept Entitlement Cuts

by Jon Walker, FDL Action

The way Obama has handled basically every manufactured crisis from the debt ceiling, to the Bush tax cuts expiration, to the sequester has been about trying to force both Democrats and Republicans to embrace his version of a “grand bargain.” While it is clear this has been the driving force behind Obama’s decisions, if you pay close attention to his actions is is rare than an administration official will directly admit this. This is actually what I think it most interesting about the recently leaked email exchange between Bob Woodward and Gene Sperling up on Politico. Sperling wrote:

   But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding – from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios – but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

Pres. Obama has close ties to Mr. Peterson, both want cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That the president is calling for tax increases is a cover so he can get away with unpopular cuts. If he can get a bipartisan agreement that cuts entitlements and raises taxes then everyone, and no one, is to blame. What John Walker said, “That is why even now Obama isn’t calling for the sequester to be simply repealed or delayed. Obama still wants to use this manufactured crisis to force congressional Democrats to betray their base by adopting Social Security cuts and get Republicans to accept revenue increases.

This is a fine mess you’ve got us into, Barack.

Nov 16 2012

Warning: Swallowing the President’s Bitter Pills May Cause Harsh Austerity

We are being told that the mess this President caused when he helped pass the Bush tax cuts in exchange for 1 year of unemployment insurance – which was unnecessary because Republicans caved on UE extension before – WITHOUT even securing a rise in the debt ceiling by putting his full trust in John Boehner with the full faith and credit of the US. This of course gave Boehner immense political power and the right hostage needed to cause the debt ceiling debacle just like I predicted. Well here are are again dealing with the fallout.

Already? Obama Tells Supporters to Expect ‘Bitter Pills’

As the Huffington Post, who listened in on the call, reports:

The president, speaking from a White House phone, cautioned listeners to expect disappointments during his second term. As he has in the past, Obama warned that he was prepared to swallow some bitter pills during the negotiations, including some that would agitate the base.

“As we move forward there are going to be new wrinkles and new frustrations, we can’t predict them yet,” he said. “We are going to have some triumphs and some successes, but there are going to be some tough days, starting with some of these negotiations around the fiscal cliff that you probably read about.”

Though his encouragement to his activist base may be encouraging to some, the President’s preemptive admission that he’s willing to give away bargaining chips so early in the game will surely irk those who criticized Obama for his negotiating style throughout his first term. That will be doubly true for progressives who have publicly called for a more hardline stance when it comes to defending key social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

We know from the president’s interview with the Des Moines register that much of what was in the memo revealed by Bob Woodward as part and parcel of all of this nonsense we shouldn’t even have to be dealing with in the first place is a starting point. Oh yes, many will screech about how Simpson Bowles is dead because the commission was a failure, but the horrible ideas live on through our elected leaders that keeps bringing them back to life.

Obama vows debt-cutting ‘grand bargain,’ immigration reform in Des Moines Register interview

“I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs,” Obama said. (The White House quickly clarified that he meant $2.50 of spending cuts for every dollar in new tax revenue.)

We can easily meet-‘easily’ is the wrong word-we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years …

This is not going to help the unemployed and it’s economic illiteracy. When you hear things like, “We all agree we must pay down the deficit,” it might as well be, “We all agree on economic illiteracy. Come on. Everybody’s doing it.”  Anyone who is still making excuses for this doesn’t even understand why this fake fiscal cliff, really an austerity bomb as Brian Beutler of TPM puts it, is coming back up in the first place.

“The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” – William Faulkner

This is quite literally true so for all those “that was then this is now” excuse makers, you have a lot of studying and reading to do.

Oct 25 2012

The Captains of Catfood and their Phoney Baloney Debt Crisis

The Captains of Catfood are getting ready for another big push to steal your Social Security.  Simpson and Bowles are getting into high gear again:

Fifty-eight million Americans saw President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tangle over former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles’s deficit reduction plan. “Simpson-Bowles” was the most popular Google search during the 90-minute debate.

But behind the scenes, the two deficit hawks are enjoying more than just a search engine moment. The pair is heading to Virginia’s Mount Vernon next week to meet with the new bipartisan Senate “Gang of Eight” in an effort to hash out a major deficit and tax package. …

Inside the Capitol, there’s an increasing recognition that any major deficit deal will at least need the imprimatur of Simpson and Bowles in order to win over votes from both sides of the aisle.

Along with former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), they’ve met with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), upwards of half the Senate, major columnists and business leaders seeking support for a massive deficit compromise inspired by the original Simpson-Bowles framework.

Not content to merely lobby the heck out of congressmen, Pete Peterson’s favorite guys, Simpson and Bowles have raised $25 million to fund a “Campaign to Fix the Debt” and they’d like you to help the billionaires by volunteering to bird dog your congressmen.  Simpson and Bowles’ Wall Street Austerians Amen Corner has been abuzz with activity, too.  They’ve just issued marching orders to their government lackeys demanding that the president and congress fix the deficit problem.

Still seeking to push through his neoliberal austerity plan, President Obama says that he is eager to rekindle the negotiations to create a 4 trillion dollar grand bargain based upon Bowles and Simpson’s plan:

President Barack Obama laid out an astoundingly ambitious second-term agenda in an interview published Wednesday, vowing to forge a “grand bargain” with Republicans to reduce the national debt and achieve comprehensive immigration reform-all in 2013. …

“I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs,” Obama said. (The White House quickly clarified that he meant $2.50 of spending cuts for every dollar in new tax revenue).

We can easily meet-‘easily’ is the wrong word-we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth,” Obama said. “Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.”

May 14 2012

1% Want To Steal Your Social Security, Pres. Obama Is Helping Them

Practically since the modern social safety net was created wealthy, powerful right-wingers and organizations have been trying to kill it.  In recent years, those right wing forces have had a lot of help from Democrats in making their twisted dreams a reality.  Organizations like the billionaire Koch family created and funded Cato Institute and hedge fund billionaire Peter Peterson’s namesake foundation have led the fight against Social Security.

The extreme right wing’s attacks and deceptive campaigns over the course of decades are now close to fruition with the help of neoliberal Democrats.

President Obama has come very close to helping right-wingers realize their long-desired goal; only the incredible intransigence of congressional Republicans has saved the social safety net thus far.  

May 09 2012

The Democratic Gutting of the Social Safety Net

It will be a Democratic Congress and President that will destroy the social safety. Ryan Grimm at Huffington Post reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi supports the Simpson-Bowles plan:

During a recent press conference, and again during an interview with Charlie Rose, the California Congresswoman said that she would support what’s known as the Simpson-Bowles plan, a budget proposal that was created by the co-chairs of a fiscal commission set up by President Obama (dubbed the “Catfood Commission” by progressives). The plan was rejected by members of the commission, failing to win the necessary votes to move to a vote in Congress. Yet the co-chairs — former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Morgan Stanley director Erskin Bowles, a Democrat — have worked recently to revive it, and the political class speaks of it as if it passed and is an official recommendation of the commission.

At the end of March, a version of the Simpson-Bowles plan was given a vote on the House floor. It was annihilated, 382-38, with Pelosi and most Democrats voting against it.

But Pelosi, the day after the vote, said that she could still support the plan if it stuck more closely to the original version put out by Simpson and Bowles. “I felt fully ready to vote for that myself, thought it was not even a controversial thing … When we had our briefing with our caucus members, people felt pretty ready to vote for it. Until we saw it in print,” she said. “It was more a caricature of Simpson Bowles, and that’s why it didn’t pass. If it were actually Simpson-Bowles, I would have voted for it.”

Yet when the Simpson-Bowles plan had been originally unveiled, Pelosi called it “simply unacceptable.”

In early April, Pelosi was asked about her initial opposition. “My problem with it was what it did as far as Social Security is concerned. Apart from that we said, there’s a lot to work with,” she told Charlie Rose. “It was a good framework in terms of revenue and in terms of cuts, in terms of defense spending and the rest. It was very bold.”

The Simpson-Bowles plan is a mix of tax increases and spending cuts that trims four trillion dollars off the deficit in ten years. Its cuts to social spending and entitlement programs made it “simply unacceptable” to the Democrats’ liberal base almost as soon as it was announced. Pelosi’s rhetorical retreat from that hard-line position has progressives worried they’ll have nobody left to defend the social safety net, even Medicare and Social Security.

Progressives need to be really worried, as Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog tells us the “push is on” to “compromise” on Social Security:

All you need to know? Pete Peterson lives for one reason only – to kill off Social Security. Every crazed billionaire has a project. This is his. (No exaggeration; check the link. It’s an excellent William Greider piece.)

From the “Summit” invite (but click fast; pages that name these names disappear fast at the “Summit” website). The underscoring below is mine:

   

Media Advisory

   PETERSON FOUNDATION TO CONVENE 3RD ANNUAL FISCAL SUMMIT IN WASHINGTON ON MAY 15

  Participants to include President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Senator Rob Portman, Congressman Paul Ryan, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, and National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Co-Chair Alan Simpson

   NEW YORK (May 08, 2012) – Against the backdrop of the upcoming elections, and with a series of key fiscal deadlines approaching at the end of the year, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s 2012 Fiscal Summit: America’s Case for Action will feature the nation’s leading experts and elected officials in discussions about the fiscal, economic, and political crossroads facing the country. …

   This year’s summit will explore opportunities for compromise and establish the urgent need for action on these challenges, as well as highlight the voices of engaged citizens from across the country. The 2012 Fiscal Summit will work to generate the momentum necessary to motivate lawmakers to take action essential to preserving the American Dream.

Two videos that Gaius featured are significant because as he points out President Barack Obama is on the same page Bill Clinton, Paul Ryan and Pete Peterson.

5-25-2011 Leaked cell phone footage of Bill Clinton cozying up to Paul Ryan. The day after the stunning upset in the special congressional election in upstate New York, Rep. Paul Ryan is a man under fire.

Barack Obama’s speech on April 5, 2006 at the launch of The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project where Obama says that “most of us are strong free traders” and praises the goals of the Hamilton Project.

This is the “real grand bargain”

The real Grand Bargain isn’t between the Dems and Republicans. It’s between both of them and you. They’re offering to sell out your children’s Social Security, in exchange for letting you keep your own.

Send Nancy a message. Sign the petition and tell her: Draw a line in the sand on cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits