Pete Peterson’s puppet populists

Or, everything you really need to know about the sequester “crisis.” Mary Bottari in Common Dreams:

Fix the Debt’s stable of CEOs are a PR flack’s dream. Not only are they able to get meetings with everyone from John Boehner to President Obama; they can flood cable news with laughable messages of “shared sacrifice” and be treated with fawning respect. Fix the Debt’s David Cote, CEO of Honeywell, “brings serious financial muscle to the table” when he pushes “market credible solutions,” chirps The Wall Street Journal. There is no mention that Cote is a tax-dodging, pension-skimping hypocrite: Honeywell has a negative average tax rate of -0.7 percent and underfunds its employee pensions by -$2.8 billion, making Cote’s workers even more reliant on Social Security.


Creating a crisis is key. “America is more than $16 trillion in debt,” Fix the Debt’s website warns, calling it “a catastrophic threat to our security and economy.” The CEOs echo this warning, writing to Congress of the “serious threat to the economic well-being and security of the United States.”


But as Dean Baker shows, this talking point just isn’t true—and the inventors of Fix the Debt know it. Indeed, they have admitted it: former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who is on the steering committee, has said publicly that the goal is to create an “artificial crisis” to get Congress to act.


To foster the illusion of a grassroots uprising, Peterson has nursed what the National Journal calls a “loose network of deficit-hawk organizations that seem independent but that all spout the Peterson-sanctioned message of the need for a ‘grand bargain.’”


In addition to throwing money at groups for national tours and town hall meetings, the 86-year-old Peterson is obsessed with creating the fantasy that young people care more about the national debt than their own. This time around we have The Can Kicks Back, complete with a mascot—“AmeriCAN,” a staffer dressed as a giant can—who in December taught former Senator Alan Simpson to dance “Gangnam Style.” This goofy press stunt went viral—Peggy Noonan labeled it “merry and shrewd”—and the group enjoyed puff pieces in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.


Even Chelsea Clinton and George Stephanopoulos are in on the fix. In his latest effort to birth a group of bipartisan baby hawks, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation has announced a $10,000 cash prize to the college student who creates the best project “designed to educate their peers on the effects of the nation’s rising debt.” Chelsea and George will judge the contest, along with Simpson and Bowles.


Fix the Debt leader Maya MacGuineas, head of the Peterson-funded Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which once partnered with Big Tobacco to tank the Clinton healthcare plan, has tried to cast these efforts as part of a grassroots phenomenon, one of many “popping up all around the country of people who want to get involved.” To this end, Fix the Debt has prepared a “Citizen’s Toolkit” to facilitate a national uprising against debt and deficits. It provides scripts for talking to legislators, sample letters to the editor and advice for forming grassroots groups. (“Include everyone,” it suggests. “Be yourself.” “Dream.”) It also encourages using Meetup Everywhere, along with assorted social media, to spread success stories.


How has the uprising gone since it was launched in July?


So far, only two meetups have been attempted. (By contrast, the 2011 Halloween Zombie Apocalypse had 497 meetups.) Fix the Debt has collected some 345,000 petition signatures, directed at Congress and the president. This sounds impressive until you learn that the goal was 10 million, and that some CEOs instructed their employees to sign—among them, the 130,000 employees at Caterpillar (it’s unknown how many did).


In October, Fix the Debt launched the first of twenty-three state chapters using a simple template: select bipartisan co-chairs along with a passel of business leaders, write a press release, hold a teleconference et voilà!: a “chapter” is born that looks like an organic, bipartisan effort. Many of the 442 state leaders are corporate lobbyists, of course, some for Fix the Debt firms. By our count, more than ninety are current or former lobbyists.


This strategy seems to be convincing enough for many media outlets. With a staff of eighty people and a $60 million budget, Fix the Debt “increasingly resembles a presidential race, with grassroots-style organizing and offices in places like New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida and Michigan,” writes Fortune. Ultimately, the goal is to create a sense of momentum and urgency that feeds back into Washington and gives members of Congress the political cover to meet Pete Peterson’s demands.


“This is probably the most important phase as we see it,” gushes spokesman Jon Romano. “This is where we actually think something will happen.” It’s enough to make ace astroturfer David Koch jealous.

3 Responses to Pete Peterson’s puppet populists

  1. quixote February 24, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    “Fix the Debt” sounds so much better than “More Money For Me!” doesn’t it?

    The billionaires look further down the road than us ordinary folk. It’s obvious to them that there are only two ways to “Fix the Debt”: cut Grandma or tax them.

    So they’re trying to move heaven and earth to make sure we get it out of Grandma.

    Screw that. Every time they whine about THE DEBT, we ought to repeat, “Sure. If you think it’s a problem, we’ll raise taxes on you.”

    And when they scream, act all surprised. “You’re fine with that, right? Cuz you care about the debt, right?”

  2. Izquierdo February 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Oh, but taxing them would make the debt situation worse, because they are job creators and would have to lay off people, and/or outsource jobs, and/or kill cute little kittens and puppies.

  3. ProNewerDeal February 25, 2013 at 4:04 am #

    These HugeCorp “job creators” need to get fired or outsourced for being utterly incompetent at “their job” of “creating jobs”. IIRC the number US non-farm private sector jobs was LOWER than the 1999 number! Aka the “job creators” as a group haven’t created 1 job in 14 yrs, despite significant population growth!

    It’s past time for a Federal Job Guarantee “on-demand” to any USian adult who wants a job, either a government job (say working on that 2 Trillion of infrastructure backlog the Civil Engineers Org described) or at a worker-owned cooperative. It is criminal for we USians to be forced to SOLELY rely on these Incompetent Job Creators for jobs for pay for survival basics like food, given the IJC’s atrocious track record in the last 14 yrs.

    We could also use 1 of several capable policies (simple tariff, Warren Buffett Import Certificate idea) to force exports to equal imports, which IIRC would add 5M US jobs. In this case the IJCs would actually rediscover their “talent” for “creating US jobs”. The IJCs have actually been creating many jobs in low-pay, low-regulation offshore-outsourced nations, & eliminating jobs via automation/partial automation of some job tasks via robotics/software/etc.

    1%er PR hacks like Obama/Boner/Bush43 are not discussing any such sane job-creating, actually useful economic policy, “quelle surprise” (c) Yves Smith.

    Elizabeth Warren 2016, a possible chance to break the 30+ yr Reagan-esque 1%er PR hack control of the US President office

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