Next weekend will feature another milestone in the drive to cut Social Security and Medicare. The organization America Speaks will be hosting a series of 20 meetings in cities across the country. They will ask the people at these meetings, a cross section of the nation, to come up with proposals for dealing with the country’s projected long-term budget deficit.
The way the problem is outlined for these meetings virtually guarantees that most of the participants will opt for big cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The results of this song and dance exercise will then be presented to President Obama’s fiscal responsibility commission on June 30th, which will use it as further ammunition for plans by its co-chairs to gut these programs.
The rigged deck approach should come as no surprise. America Speaks is largely funded by Peter G. Peterson, the investment banker billionaire who has been on a decades long crusade to gut these programs. In recent years Peterson has redoubled his efforts, committing more than a billion dollars to a wide variety of groups in addition to America Speaks. To advance his agenda Peterson has even set up a fake news service, the “Fiscal Times.” To fill the staff, Peterson’s son hired a number of reputable reporters who were displaced by the collapse of the newspaper industry.
The “Federal Budget 101,” the guidebook for the discussion, follows a predictably shoddy path. The book discusses the budget in almost complete isolation from any larger discussion of the economy. There is virtually no discussion of the ways in which the budget fosters growth, for example by funding education, research and infrastructure; nor the way in which the pattern of growth affects the budget.
For example, the booklet never discusses the extent to which the economic mismanagement that allowed the unchecked growth of an $8 trillion housing bubble contributed to the debt that is its central concern. The downturn caused by the resulting economic collapse will eventually add more than $3 trillion to the country’s debt according to the Congressional Budget Office’s projections.
The booklet also neglects to point out the extent to which the long-term budget disaster story is driven by our broken health care system. If per person health care costs in the United States were the same as in any other wealthy country, we would be looking at enormous budget surpluses in the long-term, not deficits…