I was trying to explain this to someone the other day: that the Obama administration has handed the decision-making power over Social Security to a group of wealthy men who know what’s best for all of us [via Neiman Watchdog]:
President Obama and the leadership in Congress have delegated enormous, unaccountable authority to 18 unrepresentative, inordinately wealthy individuals. The 18 individuals are meeting regularly, in secret, behind closed doors, until safely beyond this year’s mid-term election. If they reach agreement, their proposal will be voted on in December by a lame duck Congress, without the benefit of open hearings and deliberations in the pertinent committees and without the opportunity for open debate and amendment on the floors of the House and Senate. Despite the speed and lack of accountability, the legislation will affect, in substantial ways, every man, woman, and child in this nation.
Who are these powerful people and what are their views?
They are the members of President Obama’s newly-formed National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. They lack racial and gender diversity, and more importantly, they lack diversity of opinion. Their mantra is that “everything is on the table,” but their one member who has any expertise with respect to defense spending, for instance, is the CEO of a major defense contractor that devotes millions of dollars each year to lobby Congress for more defense spending.
“Everything is on the table,” they say, but the members appointed by the minority leaders in the House and Senate have made clear that they do not believe that the problems in this country stem from under-taxing, rather from overspending. The one area that they seem to be in agreement on — and which they are in fact, focusing on like a laser — involves programs that help the middle class and those Americans who are the most vulnerable. Even liberal Senator Richard Durbin has stated, “the bleeding-heart liberals… have to…make real sacrifices to strengthen our nation.”
The co-chairs, in particular, seem to have a clear agenda. Even before the commission held its first meeting, Erskine Bowles went on record before the North Carolina Bankers’ Association saying that if the Commission doesn’t “mess with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security … America is going to be a second-rate power” in his lifetime. (And he is already 64!) Alan Simpson, known for giving ugly voice to harsh, ageist stereotypes, described the future of the fiscal commission: “It’ll be a bloodbath. Let me tell you, everything that Bush and Clinton or Obama have suggested with regard to Social Security doesn’t affect anyone over 60, and who are the people howling and bitching the most? The people over 60. This makes no sense. You’ve got to scrub out [of] the equation the AARP, the Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare, the Gray Panthers, the Pink Panther, the whatever. Those people are lying… [They] don’t care a whit about their grandchildren…not a whit.” (For more about Alan Simpson, see Trudy Lieberman in CRJ: More Words of Wisdom from Alan Simpson.)
We write to raise questions and encourage press inquiry now, before the commission reports, at which point its recommendations could be on track and moving fast. Here are a few angles to explore:
Q. Have the members of the Commission made up their minds, at least with respect to the broad outlines, making the whole exercise simply an effort by elected officials to escape political accountability?
Q. Why is the Commission apparently working so closely with billionaire Peter G. Peterson, who served in the Nixon administration and who has a clear ideological agenda?
Q. Mr. Peterson has been on a decades-long crusade against Social Security. The day after the first meeting of the commission, which focused heavily on the need to cut Social Security, the co-chairs and two other members of the commission participated in a Peterson event that reinforced the same message. A Peterson-funded foundation is supplying commission staff. And Peterson’s foundation is funding America Speaks to develop a series of high-profile town halls across the country to host “a national discussion to find common ground on tough choices about our federal budget.” (For more background about Mr. Peterson, see William Greider in the Nation on Looting Social Security — Part 2.)