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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Cure

by digby

If any of you happen to find yourself or anyone you know infected by the propaganda at the Peterson Deficit Summit today, Campaign For America's Future's Virtual Summit is the antidote. There is a ton of useful information about deficits and rebuttals to the nonsense that's spewing forth from nearly every villager in the land.

Yesterday, they held a conference call, which is summed up here. (You can hear the audio at the link.):

[Yesterday] morning, the White House debt commission convened and largely presented a skewed picture of America's finances, with much scapegoating of Social Security and Medicare. [Yesterday] afternoon, Campaign for America's Future convened top economic experts to offer journalists facts and views that the commission has yet to pursue.

Campaign for America's Future Roger Hickey expressed deep concern that Pete Peterson deficit hysteria propaganda is taking hold on the commission, noting that a new key staff member was hired from a Peterson-funded organization, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Hickey also pointed out while Social Security and Medicare were repeatedly flogged, there was little mention of the Bush-era tax cuts that actually vaporized the surplus.

The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner offered an entirely different approach to deficit reduction, one based on strong economic growth with "more social investment in the short-run." He mentioned you certainly can cut the deficit with an "austerity approach" but "if you put the cart before the horse, it's the more painful way to get to budget balance."

Institute for Women's Policy Research President Heidi Hartmann emphasizes the pain that will be inflicted on elderly women if Social Security is needlessly slashed, and the attacks on "greedy geeezers" have nothing to do "the typical retiree in America today." She raised an eyebrow at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comment that we should go after Social Security because "that's where the money is." As Dr. Hartmann recalled, the quote was originally about "bank robberies."

And Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director hammered the commission for pushing the false assertion that "everyone agrees" on the basic issue, saying that's "not an honest way to proceed." Baker rejected the commission's arbitrary goal of major budget cuts by 2015, which is before anyone expects unemployment to come down to a reasonable level.

There are many motives for flogging the deficit right now, not the least of which is political. Republicans use this as a weapon whenever Democrats get into office Case in point:

Clinton's experience shows what such pressure can do to a president's agenda. Promises of spending on education, public works and a middle-class tax cut fell by the wayside as advisers led by Robert Rubin, who later became Treasury secretary, convinced the new president the best thing he could do for the economy was to show investors his resolve on fiscal discipline
``You mean to tell me that the success of the economic program and my re-election hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of fucking bond traders?'' Clinton raged at aides, according to journalist Bob Woodward's book, ``The Agenda.''

Obama got health care, which is hardly an "entitlement" so I'm guessing the Grand Bargain is in full effect: agree to be deficit hawks going forward. Those are the terms set forth by the Big Money Boyz. (You didn't think they were going to allow the peons in congress to insult them to their faces and get nothing in return, do you?)

Here's a handy primer which explodes the myths about the Social Security. Everyone needs to bone up on this subject --- it's going to be with us for a while. Pete Peterson has a billion dollars devoted to this cause and he's going to use it.

And sadly, our president seems to have a burning desire to be the Democrat who "fixed" Social Security. I suppose he thinks it will make all those important people respect him in the end. But it won't. Bill Clinton left a surplus and Pete Peterson and instead of devoting it to social security, all his buddies took that money for themselves and ran. There is no margin in pandering to the millionaires. They think these presidents are chumps either way.