Thursday, March 7, 2013

Who Is Pete Peterson and How Did He Come So Easily To the Proud Role of Ruiner of the US Middle Class? The Deficit Is A Virtue, Not A Vice In Times of High Unemployment (The Sequester Is Obama's Fault Because He Has Played It Too Cute By Half)



"Too cute by half?" I like the ring of it.

Especially as the nightmare springing from the sequester picks up speed.

Peter Peterson, founder and chairman of Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Peter Peterson, founder and chairman of Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
(Photo: Lingjing Bao / Talk Radio News)

Is the role Pete Peterson's playing still confusing you?

Pay attention.

For Christ's your own sake!

Much like the many tentacles of the Kochtopus, “Fix the Debt” is more than just one campaign. As SourceWatch’s PetersonPyramid,org brilliantly points out, “Fix the Debt” is like a well-organized machine, made up of PR firms, corporate CEO’s, partner organizations, and so-called “state chapters.” Progressives argue that if the so-called “Fix the Debt” goals are reached, it will worsen the gap between the wealthy elite in America and everyone else.
But here’s the real kicker. Peterson and his “Fix the Debt” campaign have made it into the halls of The White House.
Many of the CEO’s involved with the “Fix the Debt” campaign are the heads of some of America’s largest corporations, and many have testified on Capitol Hill and met with President Obama directly during discussions on the economy and the national debt.
And then there are the corporations themselves that are involved in the campaign. The list of backers is a virtual Who’s Who of corporate greed and corruption, including big banks like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.
Besides defunding Social Security and Medicare, PetersonPyramid.org shows how “Fix the Debt” may also be a front for exploiting a corporate tax loophole to its fullest potential.
Many of the corporations involved with “Fix the Debt” pay a negative tax rate – instead of paying taxes, they get government money back – which is a major reason why we have such a large federal deficit right now.
These corporations are pushing for a “globally competitive” tax structure that Citizens for Tax Justice says would increase the US debt by $1 trillion over the next decade, and would also encourage the offshoring of U.S jobs.
While exploiting a corporate tax loophole isn’t a direct goal of “Fix the Debt,” the proposed “globally competitive” tax structure would bring in $134 billion for at least 63 corporations involved with “Fix the Debt,” according to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies.
And, of course, if Social Security is privatized, guess who takes over? Wall Street takes over. The same Wall Street where Peterson made his money, and where his buddies are salivating over the $2.7 trillion Social Security trust fund.
So what’s the bottom line to all of this?
Pete Peterson and his strong efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare are working. Average Americans have no idea that Social Security is just fine, and has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Instead, in part because of all the PR and advertising and hired talking heads from Peterson's various front groups, Americans – particularly young Americans – are more likely than not to doubt Social Security will survive as long as they will.
This perception that the social safety net in this country is failing is helping turn America into a feudalistic state. Like in Dickens' 19th Century England, the wealthy elite increasingly control everything, and the working class is forced to live off of billionaire scraps.
Every day that the “Fix the Debt” and other Pete Peterson efforts succeed at destroying Americans' faith in our own government, We The People lose.
To learn more about Peterson and his campaign, and his millionaire CEO buddies, go to www.PetersonPyramid.org. And spread the word. Our national wealth, our national retirement and social safety net programs, should not be handed off to Wall Street.


The Sequester Is President Obama's Fault

4 March 2013

President Barack Obama during a news conference regarding sequestration, in Washington, March 1, 2013. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)
President Barack Obama during a news conference regarding sequestration, in Washington, March 1, 2013.
(Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
Now that we are counting up the days of the sequester instead of counting down, it would be a good time to cast blame. And my candidate is President Obama.

I'm not blaming Obama for the reasons that Bob Woodward came up with in his fantasyland. I am blaming President Obama and his administration for trying to be cute and clever rather than telling the public the truth about the economic crisis. The result is that the vast majority of the public, and virtually all of the reporters and pundits who deal with budget issues, do not have any clue about where the deficit came from and why it is a virtue rather than a problem.

The basic story is incredibly simple. Demand from the private sector collapsed when the housing bubble burst. We lost $600 billion in annual demand due to residential construction falling through the floor. We will not return to normal levels of construction until the vacancy rates return to normal levels. Vacancy rates are still near post-bubble record highs.

We also lost close to $500 billion in annual consumption spending due to the loss of the $8 trillion in housing-bubble-generated equity that was driving this consumption. This demand will also not come back.


This creates a gap in annual demand of more than $1 trillion. The stimulus, which boosted demand by roughly $300 billion a year in 2009 and 2010, helped to fill part of this gap, but was nowhere near big enough. Furthermore, stimulus spending fell off quickly in 2011, and the stimulus is now pretty much gone altogether. This means that we are still faced with a huge hole in private-sector spending.

We know the Republicans love the Job Creators and President Obama has gone out of his way to show his love, also. But in the real world, investment in equipment and software has never been much above its current share of GDP, except in the days of the dot-com bubble. This means that unless we drug investors so that they are willing to throw hundreds of billions of dollars into the stock of worthless companies, we are unlikely to see any substantial rise in investment.

As a result, we are stuck with an economy that is mired well below full employment. President Obama's top economic advisers from his first term all claimed that they understood this point. But they said that they could not get a bigger stimulus package through Congress.

That assessment may well be true, but the real issue is what President Obama did after the stimulus package passed. He could have told the country the truth. He could have said what all his advisers claim they told him at the time: the stimulus was not large enough and we would likely need more. He could have used his presidency to explain basic economics to the public and the reporters who cover budget issues.

He could have told them that we need large deficits to fill the hole in demand that was created by the collapse in private-sector spending. He could have shown them colorful graphs that beat them over the head with the point that there was very little room for investment to expand even under the best of circumstances.

He could have also explained that consumers would not go back to their bubble levels of consumption since the wealth that had supported this consumption had disappeared with the collapse of the bubble. The public would likely understand this point, since most homeowners themselves lost large amounts of equity and understood that they were much poorer as a result of the collapse of the bubble.

In this context, the only choice in the near term is between larger budget deficits and higher unemployment. The people who clamored for cuts in government spending and lower deficits are in fact clamoring to throw people out of work and slow growth.

We will never know if President Obama could have garnered support for more stimulus and larger deficits if he had used his office to pound home basic principles of economics to the public and the media. But we do know the route he chose failed.

He apparently thought the best route to get more stimulus was to convince the deficit hawks that he was one of them. He proudly announced the need to pivot to deficit reduction following the passage of the stimulus and then appointed two deficit hawks, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, to head a deficit commission.

This set the ball rolling for the obsession with deficit reduction that has dominated the nation's politics for the last three years. Instead of talking about the deficit of 9 million jobs the economy faces, we have the leadership of both parties in Congress arguing over the debt-to-GDP ratios that we will face in 2023.

This would be comical if lives were not being ruined by the charade. The unemployed workers and their families did not do anything wrong - the people running the economy did.

Now the sequester comes along, throwing more people out of work, worsening the quality of a wide range of government services and denying hundreds of thousands of people benefits they need. Yes, this is really stupid policy, and the Republicans deserve a huge amount of blame in this picture.

But it was President Obama who decided to play deficit reduction games rather than be truthful about the state of the economy. There was no reason to expect better from the Republicans in Congress, but we had reason to hope that President Obama would act responsibly.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University. He is a regular Truthout columnist and a member of Truthout's Board of Advisers.

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2 comments:

TONY said...

A poster boy GOPer in the pic. The first pic I mean. Not the black guy.

Suzan said...

Gee, Tony,

I thought he was the original bag lady.

You know, the tea party lover in that TV documentary who then hops on the motorcycle after spitting on "those socialists!" who were trying to mess with her Medicare and Social Security.

The "black guy" is the center right GOP-er. Getting righter every day.

Love ya and thanks for playing!

S