WASHINGTON -- Former President Bill Clinton began his appearance at Pete Peterson's annual fiscal summit Tuesday by approvingly invoking the name of the movement's arch ideological enemy.
Paul Krugman, The New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist, has been the leading opponent of deficit hysteria and austerity, while Peterson has spent some $500 million since 2007 encouraging deficit reduction.
Clinton, interviewed on a keynote panel by MSNBC's Tamron Hall, began by saying he wanted to address "one factual dispute."
"I think everybody in this debate has an obligation to say what they believe," said Clinton. "I think Paul Krugman's right in the short run."
We are still in the "short run" where austerity is the wrong policy.
Then Bill fibbed and sucked up to the Austerity Funders who are hosting the event:
"Pete Peterson and Simpson-Bowles and all those guys, everybody's right in the long run. And the question is timing."
Everybody't right? Then Krugman is right again. Booyah!
Blue America vs. Blue Dogs - find out which Dems are on your side
Blue Dogs have been losing elections for years now. But the type (Socially progressive, economically Republican) keeps metastasizing a, on CNBC, as The Third Way Co-Chairs with the same old, broken prescriptions.
Let's be clear about what's not true. From the point of view of the interests of the 99%, there was no legitimate reason for President Obama to do this. The President's marketing strategy will be to say that Obama had to do this because it was necessary to get a deal with Congressional Republicans to raise taxes.
But from the point of view of the interests of the 99%, there is no urgency or benefit to getting a deal to raise taxes if Social Security cuts are the price of doing so. Raising taxes, even raising taxes on the 1%, isn't an intrinsic good. Raising taxes on the 1% is a good thing if it enables the government to do good things and avoid doing bad things. Raising taxes on the 1% is a bad thing if it enables the government to do bad things and avoid doing good things.
If there is no "grand bargain," then under the sequester, the Pentagon budget will be cut and Social Security benefits will be protected. If there is a "grand bargain"-- a "Grand Betrayal"-- Social Security benefits will be cut and the Pentagon budget will be protected. Thus, to be only a little bit crude, the "grand bargain" is about cutting Social Security to protect the Pentagon budget. Raising taxes on the 1% as part of a deal to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits and protect the Pentagon budget for wars and useless military junk is a bad deal for the 99%.
In general, liberals who follow budget issues know this. We are at a fork in the road: one branch of the fork leads to cutting Social Security to protect the Pentagon budget and the other branch of the fork leads to cutting the Pentagon budget while protecting Social Security.
Yes, America's super-rich are both more likely to be politically active and have access to lawmakers, a recent study from Benjamin Page and Jason Seawright, professors at Northwestern University, and Larry Bartels, a professor at Vanderbilt University. But those wealthy Americans tend to have political priorities more in line with those found on cable news networks than in Americans homes, the study found.
What are those priorities exactly? First and foremost, rich people care about the deficit. More than 85 percent of the survey participants said they considered the nation's budget deficit to be a "very important" problem facing the country, the researchers found. In addition, nearly one-third of those surveyed said the budget deficit and too much government spending is the nation's biggest issue.
That stands in contrast to the rest of the country, only 7 percent of which focused on the budget deficit, instead zeroing in on jobs and the economy, according to a 2011 CBS survey cited by the researchers.
"Why did policymakers focus so intently on the deficit issue?" Page and Bartels wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. "One reason may be that the small minority that saw the deficit as the nation's priority had more clout than the majority that didn't."
Rich Americans also have ideas about how to cut that deficit that differ from the less wealthy. Compared to others, the survey found the rich are more likely to want to cut government-subsidized health care and social welfare programs like Social Security. They're also less supportive of initiatives that help the unemployed and raise the standard of living for low-wage workers than the rest of the country.
"If wealthy Americans wield an extra measure of influence over policy making, and if they strongly favor deficit reductions through spending cuts - including cuts in Social Security and Medicare - this may help explain why a number of public officials have advocated deep cuts in the very social welfare programs that are most popular among ordinary Americans," the researchers wrote.
Have the Wall Street Democrats of "Third Way" or their predecessors in the Clintonite "Democratic Leadership Council" ever been right about an important economic issue?
That's not meant as a thoughtless insult or flippant one-liner. We consider it a legitimate line of inquiry, especially at a time when their pronouncements are being used as ammunition for an aggressive campaign against Social Security, Medicare, and other vital government programs.
We can omit topics of limited economic importance from our investigation. The "centrist" Democrats often adopt the 'liberal' line on social issues like gun control or gay marriage -- which, coincidentally or not, are also issues which have little or no financial impact on their corporate and high-net-worth individual sponsors.
But what's the verdict on the core economic issues of our time?
Prof. William K. Black Jr. was understandably displeased by The New York Times' description of the Third Way think tank as "center/left." Prof. Black writes that "Some lies will not die ... Third Way is Wall Street on the Potomac. It is funded secretly by Wall Street (it refuses to reveal its donors), it is openly run by Wall Street, and it lobbies endlessly for Wall Street."
Black adds that "Third Way, like every Pete Peterson front group, is dedicated to shredding the safety net as its highest priority and throwing the Nation back into a gratuitous recession through self-destructive austerity."
The description of Third Way as a "Pete Peterson front group" might seem to contradict the "Wall Street" label. It doesn't. Peterson's a hedge fund billionaire who has devoted decades of his life, as well as an enormous sum (he spent nearly a half-billion dollars in one five-year period alone) to slashing Social Security and lowering taxes for himself, his ultra-wealthy peers, and large corporations.
Black's words are likely to be deemed uncivil in most Washington circles, where it's considered impolite to mention a gentleman's or lady's wealthy (and potentially corrupting) funding sources in polite company. Besides, who wants to find themselves thinking negative thoughts about lobbying when you may want to pursue it yourself someday?
This "civil" attitude toward an uncivic activity proved very useful in the 1990s, as corporate Democrats joined with Republicans in the extremely civil exercise of deregulating Wall Street on behalf of their common paymasters.
Wild in the Streets
In those days Third Way President Jonathan Cowan was predicting -- or attempting to instigate -- a generational war over Social Security and Medicare benefits. In 1994 Cowan and Rob Nelson co-authored a book called Revolution X, which argued that greedy baby boomers were going to ruin the economy with their rapacious appetites for things like medical care and financial security when they grew old.
Cowan, who was born in 1965, was young enough back then to have employed a slogan like "Don't respect the Social Security Trust Fund of anyone over thirty."
The book predicted cataclysmic events in 2011 when, said the authors, rapacious Boomers "will stop working, many will stop paying taxes, and all will start gobbling up pensions and health care benefits." (Note the use of the word "gobbling": it's a classic Peterson-ism.)
The result, predicted Revolution X, would be a "shock wave" that would "blast people from their homes, rapidly plummet millions into poverty, and threaten the economic security and financial stability of our entire nation."
Cowan and Nelson were so eager to stir up an anti-elderly frenzy that they actually actually conducted a demonstration outside the headquarters of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). That was done while they were leading a Peterson-funded group called "Lead or Leave," and it was as unsuccessful in provoking intergenerational warfare as their subsequent efforts have been.
Their failure did not, however, prevent them from continuing to "gobble up" Peterson funds.
It's the nineties now. The time's ripe for a generational uprising which calls for lower government spending, right? Wrong.
Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, favorites of the Tea Party, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Times that said the treaty "calls for government agents to supersede the authority of parents of disabled children and even covers abortion."
Dole and other supporters of the treaty viewed the charges as laughably false. The treaty legislation clearly stated that it required no change in US law, and there were no new abortion rights, they said.
The question for Tea Party Republicans has to be: what won't they lie about?
Two-thirds of Americans who are over the age of 65 depend on an average annual Social Security benefit of $15,168.36 for at least half of their income.
How easy is this mathematical problem to solve?
Earned income in excess of $113,700 is entirely exempt from the 6.2 percent payroll tax that funds Social Security benefits (employers pay a matching 6.2 percent). 5.2 percent of working Americans make more than $113,700 a year.
Simply by eliminating the payroll tax earnings cap - and thus ending this regressive exemption for the top 5.2 percent of earners - would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, solve the financial crisis facing the Social Security system.