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"Fix the Debt" Shows Its True, Billionaire-Funded, Anti-Tax Colors

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- 1996 days ago -
Now, confronted with some runaway executives and an aggressive Senator, this allegedly "nonpartisan" group and its most public spokesperson are finally showing their true colors.

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Kit B (276)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 3:29 pm
(photo credit: Shutterstock)

“Fix the Debt” is allegedly an impromptu alliance of America’s largest CEOs. But it’ really the latest manifestation of a perenially right-wing, pro-billionaire, pro-corporate lobby – one created years ago by hedge fund manager and former Nixon Cabinet member Pete Peterson. It has assumed many shapes, forms, and identities over the years, always in the guise of a noble and “bipartisan” effort to address what it describes as the “urgent” issue of the Federal deficit.

Any organization that promotes a policy agenda may wind up advocating for goals that benefit some groups more than others. What’s surprising is how routinely this network of organizations undermines its own stated goal of deficit reduction, and how starkly and consistently it serves the self-interest of its sponsors.

Now, confronted with some runaway executives and an aggressive Senator, this allegedly “nonpartisan” group and its most public spokesperson are finally showing their true colors. Behind all the “independent” rhetoric, it’s a network of covert Grover Norquists out to protect tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations.

The Thing

Peterson’s Hydra-headed operation has gone by many names over the years, including the “Comeback America Initiative,” “The Can Kicks Back,” and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, to name just a few. But while the guises have been many, the message has always been the same: Gut Social Security and Medicare. Shrink government. And absurdly, reduce tax rates for millionaires and corporations in the name of deficit reduction.

Like the creature from The Thing, it assumes many forms: A group of young people “spontaneously” organizing themselves. A sudden movement to have town hall meetings on the deficit. And now, America’s CEOs sharing their selfless concern for the national debt’s impact on others.

Whenever it morphs itself it tries to present each new form as a spontaneous reaction by some segment of the population. But the makeshift illusion of grassroots support is hard to maintain, given that a small group of key players forms the core cadre of this shapeshifting antigovernment entity: Erskine Bowles. Alan Simpson. David Walker.

And Maya MacGuineas, who has served as the multifaced creature’s chief spokesperson in several roles, including as nominal head of both the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Fix the Debt.


In the John Carpenter movie, the doctor identifies the disguised creature in the crew by heating a sample of everyone’s blood with wire. Sen. Chuck Schumer got somebody’s blood boiling last week when he said that CEOs from “Fix the Debt” supported a higher tax rate for the wealthy. That sent MacGuineas racing to the Internet to issue a statement:

“”The Campaign to Fix the Debt does not have a position on raising tax rates.”

This statement is credited to “Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and head of the Campaign to Fix the Debt,” and it’s unequivocal. It’s also … how shall we put it? … an untruth.

Fix the Debt has a very clear position on tax rates for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations, right there in the group’s “Core Principles” statement. It says that any fiscal plan should include “comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues, and reduces the deficit.” (Emphasis ours.)

That’s the very same position all of the Thing-like incarnations of the corporate/Peterson lobby hold. Coincidence? We report, you decide.

The Lobbyist At Work

MacGuineas herself has been an extreme anti-tax ideologue for quite some time, using her billionaire-funded platform for years to write appropriately revenue-unfriendly commentary, often with chirpy sales-brochure-ish titles like “The Corporate Tax Is Dying!” (Exclamation point included.) That 2005 piece, published in Legal Affairs, included statements like this one:

“American corporate tax rates are higher than those imposed by most of our trading partners, and that disadvantage takes its toll.”

Not so. The official tax rate is on the high end, but the actual taxes paid by US corporations are lower than those of most other industrialized countries.

“Corporations don’t pay taxes,” MacGuineas writes, “people do.”

Hmmm … where have we heard that argument before?

Then there’s this:

“Ireland’s recent economic success, where per capital GDP went from well below European Union averages to well above, is attributed in part to the country’s reducing its top corporate tax rates …”


MacGuineas, consistent with later “Fix the Debt” declarations, also argues here that US companies shouldn’t pay American taxes for the money they earn overseas. That position would not only worsen the deficit, it would give companies added incentive to keep shipping jobs overseas.

Target: Elderly and Disabled America

In a 2004 piece for The Atlantic called “Radical Tax Reform,” MacGuineas called for eliminating Social Security’s independent funding mechanism, the payroll tax. This would leave the financially independent program dependent on general revenues for the first time in its 75-year history. The upside? As MacGuineas helpfully explains, it “would free employers from matching employees’ Social Security contributions.” This tax break would allow corporations to “create jobs” instead. (CEOs and billionaires to USA: This time we really mean it!)

In its place, MacGuineas proposes a severely regressive consumption tax that would hit consumers far harder than corporations. (There are arguments for well-structured “VAT” programs; MacGuineas doesn’t make any of them.) She also argues for eliminating home mortgage deductions and employer health benefit tax breaks, which would have a devastating impact on the middle class.

MacGuineas is also given to arguing for another position: means-testing Social Security and Medicare. That’s not surprising, since the idea was first widely promoted by another Peterson entity, the Concord Coalition. And while the idea may sound reasonable, the Concord Coalition’s idea of “high earners” who ought to see their benefits cut starts at a lifetime average annual income of only $20,000 per year.

Target: Middle Class

MacGuineas couches her “Radical Tax Reform” piece in progressive terms, but overall it makes a case for a corporate tax bonanza. And while she bemoans our increasingly regressive tax code, she never gets around to mentioning the obvious fix: raising tax rates on our highest earners.

With all these tax breaks for high earners and corporations, do MacGuineas and Crew have any ideas for raising revenue? Actually, they do: take it from the struggling middle class. MacGuineas co-authored a paper with economist Martin Feldsten arguing for a cap on individual income tax deductions – a move that would effectively gut employer health insurance and other vital middle-class programs. (Feldstein’s name may ring a bell with viewers of Inside Job, which explored his use of government positions to promote deregulation – to the great advantage of corporations he served as a board member.

That’s the hidden agenda behind the Peterson/corporate/billionaire lobby: cut tax rates for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations; end the payroll tax; downsize government, including Social Security and Medicare; and gain a little added revenue by shifting the tax burden onto the middle class. And that’s why the lobby’s “Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget” runs articles promoting “rate-reducing tax reform” and others with titles like “Reducing Both Tax Rates and the Deficit is Possible.”

Sure it is: Just give away the store its wealthy sponsors, and stick the rest of us with the bill. (And about those titles: We warned you they sounded like sales brochures.)

The “Bipartisan” Wing of the Republican Party

Fix the Debt’s “Core Principles” also include a statement of support for the private “Simpson-Bowles” proposal issued by those two gentlemen. That proposal was embraced today by the Republican Party as the foundation for its response to President Obama’s fiscal proposal.

But then, the Thing-lobby has many Republican tentacles. MacGuineas’ bio describes her as “John McCain’s advisor on Social Security.” Republican Alan Simpson and putative Democrat Erskine Bowles have both praised far-right Rep. Paul Ryan to the skies, and both endorsed Tea Party Congressional candidates in 2012. Now Bowles is accompanying Fix the Debt’s CEOs to meetings on Capitol Hill, which has given John Boehner’s aides the opportunity to crow that Bowles is pushing a plan similar to the GOP’s.

And, in case you’ve forgotten already, MacGuineas’ comment – “corporations don’t pay taxes; people do” – quickly morphed into Mitt Romney’s infamous comment that “Corporations are people, my friend.” And Romney lost.

Let’s be clear: This crowd doesn’t really care about deficits. It never has. It’s an anti-tax group which pursues its goals by fighting to downsize government programs and “reform” the Internal Revenue code. Its natural allies are the Republican Party, the nation’s mega-corporations, and billionaires.

It’s time they stopped pretending.

By Richard Eskow - | Campaign for America's Future |

Roseann d (178)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 4:02 pm
What, these corporate jerks think they are ENTITLED TO single-payer taxpayer bailouts anytime they want, it would be better to use that money for our own single-payer healthcare system.

Roseann d (178)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 4:06 pm
This jerk actually said..."Corporations don't pay taxes, people do." But they also want corporate personhood. Sorry double-talking jerk, you can't have it both ways. Either you contribute to society, or it's time to boot your company and you to the curb.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 7:45 pm
The spin meter measured so high reading this cumbersome collection of chimeras that MacGuineas and company must be permanently dizzy!

Pogle S (88)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 1:09 am
Robber Barons!

Giana Peranio-paz (398)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 2:18 am

Ben O (171)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 4:58 am
I saw a TV documentary the other day about the richest SOB:s in the United States. I just couldn't believe it!

Craig Pittman (52)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 7:17 am
Warren Buffett said the other day during an interview that it was outrageous that he pays less income tax than the author who was also being interviewed. He said that the wealthy need to be taxed at a much higher rate. Well Warren 99% of your fellow citizens would agree with you. And if corporations are people they are extremely wealthy people and sure should be paying their fair share.
The wealthy might do well to read their history. Every once in a while the inequity in society motivates sudden and dramtic change.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 2:44 pm
Thanks again Kit--great post.

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 4:35 pm
Noted, thanks, Kit. This "Fix The Debt" is such malarky! I'm glad it's being well exposed here. The Simpson-Bowles Plan was never a "balanced" approach to reducing the debt. I rued the day Obama appointed those two. The worst problem is with the title: Fix the Debt---this mentality would bring about the horribly painful austerity that much of Europe is suffering under now.
We need to fix the economy by ending tax cuts AND loopholes for the wealthiest, while keeping middle-class tax cuts....end dirty energy subsidies, rein in commodity speculation, take the payroll cap off Social Security, implement the Financial Transaction Tax, break up the banks, pass Medicare For All, drastically cut Pentagon funding and bring home troops and private contractors from Afghanistan & those still in Iraq. For starters. I'd add a super Luxury tax to items purchased by the wealthiest--like airplanes, yachts, jewelry....that are over a certain amount.

Dorothy N (63)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 11:16 pm
There's way more astroturf than grass-roots, these days, and some of the grass-roots gets labelled as being astroturf by the astroturf, lol.

Greedy jerks are greedy jerks...

The election may be over, but our work has just begun.We've all got to speak out to ensure a bright future and a fair shake for our families. With a "fiscal cliff" deadline looming at the beginning of the year, we need to ask you to act quickly.

Send your e-mail today and tell your Congress member:

Don’t give millionaires and billionaires a tax cut at the expense of farm workers and their families. If Congress doesn’t adopt the President’s balanced approach, farm worker programs and funding including--federal funding for farm worker housing, migrant education, wage and hour inspectors, etc.-- could be cut drastically. It's time to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans whose household makes over $250,000 a year in order to prevent drastic cuts to healthcare, education and protect middle class families across the nation."

Send your email today. And please forward this email--and post the above action link on Facebook--so your friends and family can sign too.

Congress must act quickly to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. Why?

Ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% – those households making over $250,000 a year – would generate about $1 trillion in revenue. [1] But if these special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans continue, we won’t be able to protect middle-class priorities like education, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, from deep cutbacks. Clearly, we can’t afford to keep giving tax cuts to those who need them the least.

This is the time for all of America's families to speak up about our nation's priorities! By simply taking action, you're making an important, much-needed statement. A lot is at stake in Congress:

If the House and Senate don't reach a deal quickly, then massive across the board cuts, called sequestration, will begin in January. This could cost millions of jobs and hurt healthcare, education, aid to state and local governments, and other vital programs for kids and families like Head Start, child care, and food safety.
What's at stake gets even trickier. Some lawmakers are trying to use this high-stakes moment of legislative complexity as a way to sneak in drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, in addition to cutting many other programs that are essential to creating jobs and protecting families.

Our voices are needed to counter corporate lobbyists who are trying to help billionaires while working men and women across the nation struggle. We simply can't balance the budget on the backs of children, seniors, families, and those most in need.

Take Action TODAY!

PS: We have to ask for your complete street address and zip code in order to be able to send your e-mail to the correct congress member.

Dunno if anyone's interested, happen to have a list some videos I wanted to see today that I'm saving to check out tomorrow, if I've time; thought I might as well post them, since they're here, not sure if they are worthwhile, but did see the the One Percent one, and if you hang in there there are a few details in there that might be of interest.

J&J are absolute scum, as probably pretty much everyone is aware, although the young gens apparently have no idea.

The One Percent

ploaded by WarZalez on Nov 1, 2011

This 80-minute documentary focuses on the growing "wealth gap" in America, as seen through the eyes of filmmaker Jamie Johnson, a 27-year-old heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. Johnson, who cut his film teeth at NYU and made the Emmy®-nominated 2003 HBO documentary Born Rich, here sets his sights on exploring the political, moral and emotional rationale that enables a tiny percentage of Americans - the one percent - to control nearly half the wealth of the entire United States. The film Includes interviews with Nicole Buffett, Bill Gates Sr., Adnan Khashoggi, Milton Friedman, Robert Reich, Ralph Nader and other luminaries.


Uploaded by NCState on Mar 21, 2008

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

The Crisis of Global Capitalism: ten years on

Uploaded by lsewebsite on Dec 17, 2010

Speaker: Professor John Gray
Chair: Martin Jacques
This event was recorded on 21 October 2009 in Old Theatre, Old Building
The financial upheavals of the past two years have occurred against the background of a decade of crisis in global capitalism. The neo-liberal model has collapsed. What comes next, and what are the geopolitical implications? John Gray is emeritus professor at LSE and author of Gray's Anatomy: selected writings and False Dawn: delusions of global capitalism. This event is supported by the LSE Annual Fund.

For me, this stuck at 14:47 and refused to load further

Blast from the past - the hard, slow results of the Republican refusal to cooperate in helping to bring
America back from the Bush policies

Robert Reich (1/22/10)

Uploaded by commonwealthclub on Feb 1, 2010

Bank of America Walter E. Hoadley Annual Economic Forecast

Robert Reich, Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, U.C. Berkeley; Former U.S. Secretary of Labor; Author, The Work of Nations

Is the U.S. economy showing signs of recovery, as some indicators suggest, or are these assertions dangerously premature? Having served in three administrations, written best-selling books and published articles in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Reich is uniquely positioned to share his take on the 2010 economic outlook for California, the U.S., and the rest of the world in this years annual installment of the Walter E. Hoadley Economic Forecast.
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