but if he wins, we lose.
Peter G. Peterson has long used his wealth to underwrite numerous organizations and PR campaigns to generate public support for slashingSocial Security and Medicare, citing concerns over "unsustainable" federal budget deficits. Full of apocalyptic warnings, Peterson failed to warn of the $8 trillion housing bubble, but conveniently sold his private equity firm Blackstone Group on the eve of the financial crisis. He later pledged to spend $1 billion of the money from the sale to "fix America's key fiscal-sustainability problems," launching the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in 2008. As of 2011, the Huffington Post reported that Peterson had personally given $458 million to the Foundation.
Peterson told the Washington Post that he gave Fix the Debt $5 million in funding; Fix the Debt was announced on the Peterson Foundation website and Peterson appeared at the Fix the Debt launch in July 2012. Peterson also funds Fix the Debt parent organization Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget at theNew America Foundation. Even before the 2012 Campaign to Fix the Debt, Peterson poured millions into a multifaceted effort to support the Simpson-Bowles Commission and its $4 trillion austerity package, a plan that would cost the nation four million jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and "destroy Social Security as we know it," according to Social Security Works. He bankrolled nineteen "America Speaks" Town Hall meetings, which spectacularly backfired, launched the "OweNo" TV ad campaign, and funded the Concord Coalition’s Fiscal Solutions tour to take the message to the heartland. When the commission blew up -- failing to get the votes needed to advance a plan to Congress -- Peterson gave Bowles and Simpson a new perch at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to allow them to continue to scold Congress. Learn more about Pete Peterson in "Peterson's Long History of Deficit Scaremongering" in The Nation.
With 127 CEOs able to schedule meetings with President Obama and Congressional leaders, numerous PR firms lending a hand, 80 staff, multiple Peterson funded "partner" groups, and 23 phony state chapters, this incarnation of the Peterson message machine must be taken seriously. Fix the Debt documents say the group is targeting a budget of $60 million for the "first phase,"  but in February 2013 Fix the Debt's spokesperson told CMD the organization had only raised $40 million so far. Fix the Debt engaged in a multi-million dollar paid ad campaign in the run-up to the so-called "fiscal cliff" and now is taking that campaign outside the beltway, which is "increasingly resembling a presidential race with grassroots style organizing and offices in places like New Hampshire and Ohio," writes Fortune magazine. As of February 2013, group was touting it 345,000 members/petition signatures. That sounds impressive until one learns that a number of CEOs, such as the CEO of Caterpillar Inc., wrote to 130,000 employees encouraging them to sign and one recalls that their goal was 10 million.Learn more about the firms and the stunts behind the PR spin in the article "Pete Peterson's Puppet Populists" and the Fix the Debt Partners page.
Fix the Debt biographies fail to reveal that their core leadership team is riddled with conflicts of interest. Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) points to at least 13 steering committee members with financial ties to firms that lobby on deficit-related matters that are not disclosed in their glossy Fix the Debt bios. These firms lobby to preserve dozens of costly tax breaks (including the “carried interest” tax loophole that made Pete Peterson a rich man) or to hold off new taxes, such as the “Robin Hood Tax,” a proposed financial speculation tax that could raise as much as a $1 trillion over 10 years. Click here to see a chart of these conflicts of interest and tax lo...
While Fix the Debt’s 127 CEOs call for cuts to Social Security (a program that does not contribute to the deficit since it is has a surplus and is accounted for outside the federal budget), many of the publicly-traded Fix the Debt firms underfund their employee pension plans by some $103 billion making their employees even more dependent on Social Security. The CEOs, of course, enjoy lavish retirement packages, averaging $9 million each, according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies. Click here to see a chart of CEO retirement assets vs. underfunded ...
Many Fix the Debt firms pay a negative tax rate, which contributes greatly to the federal deficit. Worse, Fix the Debt firms are pushing for a "globally competitive"territorial tax system that would increase the debt by $1 trillion over ten years and encourage the offshoring of U.S. jobs, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. This tax cut is not listed in their online goals and rarely spoken of explicitly, but it is mentioned on a slideshow buried on the group's website. The switch would not only add to the deficit, it results in a windfall of some $134 billion dollars for at least 63 Fix the Debt firms, including Google and GE, according to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies. Click here to see a table of 10 top winners from a territorial tax ...
While Fix the Debt targets government programs for the middle class, 38 Fix the Debt leaders are tied to companies with defense contracts totaling $43.4 billion in 2012, as PAI has documented. Boeing (with $25.1 billion in defense contracts) and Northrop Grumman (with $8.5 billion) lead the pack. Boeing CEO W. James McNerney, Jr. is on Fix the Debt’s CEO Council, and Northrop Grumman board member Vic Fazio is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee. Click here to see a chart of the top six defense contractors with F...
Fix the Debt biographies consistently fail to expose the financial and lobbying ties of Fix the Debt leaders. You can see a chart of undisclosed financial interests by clicking here or visit our Fix the Debt Leaders page for more detail.
Pete Peterson has given at least $5 million to Fix the Debt, according to theWashington Post. Fix the Debt is listed as a project of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) on CRFB's website. Peterson has long funded CRFB and served on its board. CRFB is itself a project of the New America Foundation (NAF). In the 1990s, CRFB partnered with tobacco firms, anxious to avoid higher excise taxes on cigarettes, to tank the Clinton health care plan.Today, critics claim CRFB is a "Trojan Horse" for a similar agenda to cut taxes for wealthy corporations who want to create a territorial tax system.
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation funds at least six of the "partner" organizations listed on Fix the Debt's website:
With regard to Fix the Debt and its many partner organizations, the National Journalobserved: "Singlehandedly, Peterson has created a loose network of deficit hawk organizations that seem independent but that all spout the Peterson-sanctioned message of a 'grand bargain.'"
More than 90 Fix the Debt leaders at the state level are current or former lobbyists, and many lobby for Fix the Debt firms, according to a review of federal and state lobbying databases by the Center for Media and Democracy in February 2013. Click here to see a list of state leaders and their lobbying ties.
Fix the Debt CEOs say they are worried about the debt and deficits, yet many Fix the Debt firms pay a negative tax rate or a tax rate well below the standard 35 percent -- adding greatly to our nation’s deficit. Fix the Debt CEOs say that what is needed to balance the books is cuts to earned benefit programs like Social Security (which is a separate federal program not counted in the federal budget at all). At the same time, many of these same CEOs under-fund their employee pension plans, making it likely that their workers will be even more dependent on Social Security. This hypocrisy has led to a campaign called "Flip the Debt," which calls upon major corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.