The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Beware the stacked deck of the Peterson “Fiscal Conference”

In Legislation Today, Political world on April 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm

You’ll undoubtedly be hearing all about it; the Peter G. Peterson Foundation has a tremendous press operation with a huge budget to support it. Here’s how the April 28th event is being touted:

What do they mean by "our"?

On behalf of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, I cordially invite you to attend the 2010 Fiscal Summit:  America’s Challenge and a Way Forward.   This event will take place in Washington, DC on April 28, 2010, featuring a moderated discussion of the issues with President Bill Clinton.   We will send a more detailed agenda shortly, but we hope that you will save the date and plan to join us for this important forum.

The date of the event is significant–one day after the opening of the president’s Fiscal Commission. And the keynote speaker is a former Democratic president. It seems as though this conference will at least give voice to the liberal and progressive side of the debate.

But read further and you’ll find that the deck is firmly stacked on the Peter G. Peterson side (well, this is his party; he’s paying for it, after all). Here are the other people listed: Alan Greenspan, Judd Gregg, Bob Rubin, Alice Rivlin, John Castellani, Paul Volcker, and John Podesta. There’s only one liberal in that group. (Also only one woman, but that’s another story.)

Robert Kuttner, in today’s Huffington Post, has some acerbic comments about the conference:

If the orgy of financial deregulation that led to the crash had two prime sponsors, the Democratic one was Rubin and the Republican one was Greenspan. Inviting these characters to a fiscal summit to devise a way out of the crisis is like inviting arsonists to design a seminar on fire prevention.

Peterson himself, who underwrites the work of the foundation with a billion dollar gift, made his money as one of America’s private-equity moguls. Private equity companies have been among main offenders in the world of shadow banking that helped cause the collapse, and are now lobbing against tough financial reform and regulation.

This is billed as a “national dialogue on solving America’s fiscal challenges,” but spare me. This is a propaganda event. For the most part, the featured speakers follow the Peterson line. John Podesta, the closest thing to a liberal playing a headliner role, accepts that there is a serious deficit problem, but would entertain a value-added tax as part of the remedy. But the speakers’ list is clearly stacked and there is no one to Podesta’s left.

The Peterson Foundation and its president, David Walker, already know exactly what they want — strict budget caps on social outlay, enforced by a rigid formula, with cuts in Medicare and Social Security leading the way.

Will the mainstream media continue to swallow the Peterson story? Kuttner suggests two sources for the other side:

Take a look yourself, and help correct the almost ubiquitous but incorrect impression in the press and the public that Social Security and Medicare are to blame for the deficit and must be cut.

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