Pete Peterson…success or failure?
Dean Baker on occasion mentions the influence of Pete Peterson, and Peterson funded the Simpson Bowles efforts, and this piece by Thom Hartmann takes a current look:
While a name well known to some, it is interesting I rarely hear it mentioned in less political circles. I run into the Soros name more often…
But it is hard to credit Soros having more influence that happen to pop up in discussions around my hometown. Peterson’s influence and funding goes far beyond the reported 500 million of his personal money being spent.
When Angry Bear Bruce Webb and Dale Coberly were so diligently writing about Social Security a few years ago, many thought it was time not well spent as Social Security was safe. Even now many I speak with have little idea about the chained CPI being pushed by Democrats.
I call “chained” CPI “cascading” CPI. If people get paid less or welfare drops they eat more rice and less pork. Then, the CPI reports inflation lower than the real price rises of both foods because folks are eating more of the cheaper food. In turn, people get even poorer as their pay or welfare lowers even more so they eat even more rice and even less pork, etc., etc., etc.
Reminds me of the Republican plan — “hedonics”; should have been called “headonics” — to give Social Security retirees less money to eat because they were getting a better deal every year on computers and such — same overall value in their stipend (also same hidden value in the taxpayers’ left over money, so no real unfairness).
I wasn’t the earliest person on the Peterson beat, obviously I picked up my information hither and yon. On the other hand I was already onto him before what was probably the best early piece on PGP ever was published: William Grieder’s cover story in The Nation “Looting Social Security” (and a follow up “Looting Social Security Two”), and rather than debating credit I would just advise everybody to Google and read those pieces.
That said I am pretty proud that I, and with some of my posts Angry Bear, were on the leading edge of the pushback against THIS round of The War Against Social Security. ‘This round’ because ‘Third Rail’ or not the Bad Guys never gave up since their first failure to kill SS with the Election of 1936 and Alf Landon.
And yes I laughed in 2008 as now at the people who suggested I was just Don Bruce-ote tilting at windmills and just seeing enemies that were are insubstantial as the clouds.
Because PGPs Billion Dollar Pledge to the Peter G Peterson Foundation is and was pretty God damn substantial. As we are seeing.
All credit to Bruce for bringing Peterson and his network to our attention.
My own contribution was unaware of Peterson et al, but I did notice that the Trustees Report was written in a way so the honest-as-far-as-could-tell numbers were twisted to mean something that was not at all honest.
This means that an “actuarial deficit” could be presented as a “debt” of 5,6, 8,20, 44 Trillion dollars.
when all it meant was a possible need to raise the payroll tax one half of one tenth of one percent per year to account for changing life span, birth rate, and wages to workers.
Not much doubt that Peterson was behind that, as it was Peterson spawned “experts” appointed to SS that put the spin on the Report, and especially the “Trustees Summary”.
And now they are deliberately confusing that “debt” (which is not a debt) with the national debt… which was created by defense spending, tax cuts, wars, and unregulated banking caused collapse of the financial system.
And the Press and the President and the Congress and Democrats and Progressive Pundits all jump on the confusion as an opportunity to destroy SS and replace it with their favorite fantasy… infinite wealth from stocks and bonds, going down in history as the Great Moderator, establishing Social Democracy in America…
Because they don’t want the workers to see that they can pay for their own retirement when their money is insured (but not paid) by “pay as you go” financing.
The last thing anybody wants is for the workers to understand they can pay their own way.
Hell, that might lead them to demand a living wage.
The Peter Peterson brand may be well known at this late date, but it is all the more important to keep the names of his proteges and ghost writers in the public view. Maya MacGuineas comes to mind as the most potentially destructive of the group given her current position on the so-called “Fix the Debt” committee.
This is a dangerous group of propagandists who form a latter day Financial Fifth Column working diligently to continuously increase the disparity in income and wealth distribution in this country. Bowles, Simpson and David Walker are only the higher profile members of this greedy group who have spent their careers supporting the Peterson brand of ideology and grown personally wealthy if not hugely so.
Funny. I was on to MacGuineas before I ever heard of Peterson.
This was a direct result of the LMS Social Security Plan of 2005.
LMS of course stands for the ‘Liebman-MacGuineas-Samwick Non-Partisan Social Security Reform Plan’ and was self described by the authors as follows:
“The three of us — former aides to President Clinton, Senator McCain, and President Bush — did an experiment to see if we could develop a reform plan that we could all support. The Liebman-MacGuineas-Samwick (LMS) plan demonstrates the types of compromises that can help policy makers from across the political spectrum agree on a Social Security reform plan. The plan achieves sustainable solvency through progressive changes to taxes and benefits, introduces mandatory personal accounts, and specifies important details that are often left unaddressed in other reform plans.
The plan also illustrates that a compromise plan can contain sensible but politically unpopular options (such as raising retirement ages or mandating that account balances be converted to annuities upon retirement) — options that could realistically emerge from a bipartisan negotiating process, but which are rarely contained in reform proposals put out by Democrats or Republicans alone because of the political risk they present.”
The key words jump out: “across the political spectrum” (which in practice means from the Centrist DLC/Clintonista position to the Bushie Right), “compromises”, “progressive changes” (raising retirement age), “realistically”, “bipartisan negotiating process”. And of course above all the self-evident assumption that “reform” is absolutely necessary.
All of which meant that when I saw the name “MacGuineas” pop up in confunction with all kinds of “sensible” “centrist” “bi-partisan” “reponsible” positions and organizations my Bullshit Meter was already dialed up to maximum sensitivity. Because consider this one fact:
The LMS Plan proposed a 5.2% of payroll solution to a plan then scored at 1.92% and then didn’t fully address the ‘crisis’ that supposedly triggered the need for ‘reform’. You really couldn’t come up with a more classic instance of Bait and Switch.
(And if the name ‘Liebman’ rings vague bells, it is because Jeff Liebman was one of the first three economic hires to the Obama campaign and he ended up as the number three guy at OMB under fellow SS ‘reformer’ Peter Orszag. Ever wonder why Obama has an odd hardon against Social Security? Well his hire of Liebman was either a symptom or a cause of that, I don’t know which).
“Ever wonder why Obama has an odd hard-on against Social Security? Well his hire of Liebman was either a symptom or a cause of that, I don’t know which).”
There are two choices to the question, why does Obama want to fuck with the Social Security system?
The first seems untenable; that he is simply a dumb ass who is led around by the nose by his handlers. That seems very unlikely. Bush looked and sounded like such a dumb ass. Obama has no such stigma. He sounds intelligent enough to know the facts and understand the reality of the situation.
Choice two, he is in fact a Manchurian Candidate. Hew doesn’t mean one thing he says and he only sounds reasonable in contrast to the incredibly idiotic musings of people like McConnell, Cantor and Boehner. I keep saying it, but I feel as though I’m screaming into the wind on some lonely mountain top. Obama is a Republican ideologist. There is virtually no progressive membership in the Congress. Certainly not even a dozen or so elected members can be described as such. Calling Obama a socialist is simply a manifestation of Tea Bagger stupidity and left wing wishful dreaming.
The only way to stop a bad guy with a billion bucks… now what was the rest of that saying?
This Tom Edsall piece in the NYTimes today isn’t specifically about Peterson, but more broadly about how insane is the debate we are having (which, of course, is largely driven by Peterson and his minions). I wish everyone over 45 could read it.
I wish Edsall had read his own piece.
He sets out the reasons why we are never going to “increase the cap” (opposition from “elites”)
and breezes right by the NASI study that says workers are willing to raise their own tax fifty cents per week each year for twenty years to solve “half” the shortfall.
uh… did anyone ask them if they would increase their taxes a dollar a week to solve “all” the shortfall?
Me, i’d settle for half, now. And when that works so well, we can go for the other half later.
I can’t agree with you regarding Edsall’s opinion piece in the Times this morning unless your directive for “everyone over 45” to read it is to provide a good example of one man’s gross misunderstanding of the program and the need to avoid its taking on any welfare characteristic. That is what Edsall’s article boils down to, “there’s a crisis so lets do what will most aggrevate the elites of our economy and give them yet additional amunition to skuttle the program.” The worst part of the piece auggests first remove the cap so that wealthier earners pay in more to the program. Then means test recipients so that benefits to lower income workers really becomes welfare by way of grossly skewing the deductions/benefits formula in favor of the lower paid workers. Just great!! Now we’ve turned FDR’s intention on its head and given the wealthy something that approaches a legitimate gripe.
Tax the mother f_____s all you like, but make sure its income taxes, not FICA contributions. If the income cap is to be raised be sure to raise the benefits that go with the increased contributions. If, and that’s only an if, the program is running out of asstes ten years down the road then raise the percentage from 6.5% whatever small amount is necessary to offset that crisis.
The point is not to tamper with the annuity character of the system. We all contribute a similar percentage amount and we all receive a benefit reflective of those contributions. You want bigger benefits? Fine, then raise the cap and the percentage depending on how one wants the increased benefits to be applied. But there is no good reason to markedly change the structure of the system. It works. It isn’t supposed to be a wealth accumulation fund. It is supposed to be a means to an old age free of impoverishment. Changes that smell like something more that costs less are the same canard that all something for nothing schemes propose. Edsall’s suggestions play into the hands of the destroyers. We only have to make minor adjustments to a good plan rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and ending up changing the well balanced character of the Social Security program.