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02.19 Florida is drowning. Condos are still being built. Can't humans see the writing on the wall? [Fear that Trump & Fox News incite makes us avoid unpleasant information we need to know]

02.18 Tesla big battery is holding its own in a burgeoning energy storage market

02.18 Trump administration condemned over delaying action on toxic drinking water

02.16 New experimental drug rapidly repairs age-related memory loss and improves mood

02.16 Toxic black snow covers Siberian coalmining region [0:49 video; If its killing us, stop doing it]

02.16 Renewable energy will be world's main power source by 2040, says BP [But in America's capitalistic bubble, bribed-to-be-biased media and government defy reality]

02.16 My generation trashed the planet. So I salute the children striking back

02.16 US coastal businesses hit by everyday impact of climate change, study shows

02.16 What the pesticides in our urine tell us about organic food [What does inaction tell us about capitalism and our government?]

02.14 Exposure to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Meta-Analysis and Supporting Evidence [If its killing us, make it illegal]

02.14 To avoid environmental catastrophe, everything must change [Consider why this headline is laughable or confusing to many, if not most, Americans...]02.13 Study Shows Toxic Pesticide Levels in Families Dropped by 60% After One-Week Organic Diet [2:10 video; Produce and canned vegetables laced with toxic chemicals—from fertilizers and herbicides, too—must be quickly phased out to use safe organic alternatives]

02.12 Biggest offshore windfarm to start UK supply this week

02.12 Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition

02.12 Politicians are complicit in the killing of our insects – we will be next

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02.21 Bezos Says Amazon Drones Ready to Deliver Mueller Report to Every American Household

02.21 Devin Nunes Was Trump’s Mole Inside the Gang of Eight

02.21 Alec Baldwin fears for family's safety after Trump 'retribution' threats [0:40 video]

02.20 Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him

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02.20 The 2020 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet

02.20 Why Bernie Sanders' radicalism can take out Trump

02.20 Why vote for Sanders when you can have Elizabeth Warren instead?

02.19 Democratic party elites silence Ilhan Omar at their peril [2:01 video]

02.19 The Political Revolution Is Back: Bernie Sanders Announces 2020 Run for President

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02.19 Fighting pollution: Toledo residents want personhood status for Lake Erie [Hurrah!]

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02.20 Despite the slaughter in Yemen, Britain is still chasing arms sales [and the Great-Again-America is too...Capitalism without morality is horrible]

02.16 Elliott Abrams Defends War Crimes As Happening Back In The ’80s When Everyone Was Doing It

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02.21 Historian who confronted Davos billionaires leaks Tucker Carlson rant

02.20 A Centuries-Old Idea Could Revolutionize Climate Policy

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02.20 House report lays bare White House feud over Saudi nuclear push [Its hard to keep up with all the criminal crap going on...]

02.20 My grandfather was a Nazi. I’ve seen why we need the EU

02.19 Centrism isn’t the solution to the mess we’re in

02.19 Renewables need urgent investment to ease Australia's transmission bottlenecks, experts warn

02.18 Hate-Fest in Warsaw

02.18 They Used To Hold Hands Through the Wall. Now, There’s Razor Wire.

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  Pete Peterson's Anti-Entitlement Juggernaut

COMMENTARY:

Pete Peterson’s Anti-Entitlement Juggernaut

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation on Tuesday, 27 March 2010
Obama has stacked his own commission with people who lean heavily toward one particular solution to the deficit and national debt: cutting entitlements. Whereas cutting the hugely bloated Defense, Homeland Defense and Intelligence budgets—which wouldn't harm anybody on fixed incomes needing health care—are never mentioned.

When Obama’s new deficit commission gets going, it intends to be “partnering“–in the words of executive director Bruce Reed –with outside groups. Among them will be the foundation run by Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson, who on Wednesday will upstage the president with his own fiscal summit in Washington. Obama insists he is keeping an open mind about how to deal with the deficit and national debt–but as I’ve written before, he’s already stacked his own commission with people who lean heavily toward one particular solution: cutting entitlements. And now he is working hand-in-glove with a wealthy private organization whose central purpose is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Talk about foregone conclusions.

Peterson, according to Forbes, was the 149th richest man in America last year, with $2.8 billion in assets. During his long career he has been, among other things, CEO of Bell & Howell, head of Lehman Brothers, a co-founder of the Blackstone Group, and head of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was Nixon’s Secretary of Commerce, and in 1994 served on a Clinton bipartisan commission on entitlements and tax reform. He launched his own Peter G. Peterson Foundation with a grant of $1 billion.

Pete Peterson
Pete Peterson: Beating a Dead Horse

A fiscal conservative, Peterson has long been issuing dire warnings about the the nation’s skyrocketing debt. The key cause of the problem, in his analysis, is that entitlement programs–primarily Social Security and Medicare, but Medicaid as well–are out of control; the only solution is to cut them. Peterson is the self-appointed head of what some people have begun to call the “granny bashers,” who argue that greedy geezers are ruining the lives of younger generations with their unconscionable demands for basic healthcare and a hedge against destitution. (Peterson himself is in his eighties–but of course he’s too rich to worry about such things.)

The granny bashers’ real agenda, of course, is to cut the social safety net programs that they have long abhorred–but they have gained far more ground with their intergenerational inequity claims than they ever would with a straight-out attack on Social Security and Medicare. The majority of the Washington punditry seem to have fallen for it–and so too, apparently, has the White House. A year ago in Newsweek, Peterson wrote:

For the first time in my memory, the majority of the American people join me in believing that, on our current course, our children will not do as well as we have. For years, I have been saying that the American government, and America itself, has to change its spending and borrowing policies: the tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded entitlements and promises, the dangerous dependence on foreign capital, our pitiful level of savings, the metastasizing health-care costs, our energy gluttony. These structural deficits are unsustainable. Herb Stein, who served alongside me in the Nixon White House as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, once drily observed, “If your horse dies, I suggest you dismount.” And yet, we keep trying to ride this horse.

In June, according to the Washington Post, Obama’s deficit commission will be participating in a 20-city electronic town hall meeting, put together by an organization called America Speaks. It is financed by Peterson, along with the MacArthur Foundation and Kellogg Foundation. This is a truly unusual event because it marks the first time a presidential commission’s activities are financed by a private group that has long been lobbying the government on the very subjects the commission is supposed to “study.”

The Peterson summit is crammed with luminaries in finance and government. First there’s the keynoter, Bill Clinton. Then there’s Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman widely credited with getting us into our current economic mess, and Paul Volcker, his conservative predecessor at the Fed. Robert Rubin, Clinton’s secretary of the Treasury, and another pillar of the current economic debacle, will speak. So will Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, a leading GOP guru, who among other things wants to replace Medicare with a system of vouchers and tax breaks. Judd Gregg, the senior and probably most important conservative senator when it comes to finance, will be featured as well; he is a keen proponent of Peterson’s entitlement cuts.

The heavy hitters are all to be interviewed by big names in mainstream media: ABC’s George Stephanopolous will question his old boss Clinton; Leslie Stahl will speak with presidential commission co-chair Erskine Bowles, one of Clinton’s a White House chiefs of staff. Ranked below the big guys are a slew of lesser lights including some liberals like Lawrence Mischel of the Economic Policy Institute, Robert Greenstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, John Podesta of the Center for American Progress (and another former Clinton chief of staff), and former Congressional Budget Office head Alice Rivlin.

All-in-all, it seems to be dominated by Clinton-era officials, who oversaw much of the Wall Street deregulation that nearly drove the country broke. These are the people who will now try to make up the losses on the backs of the poor and the old by rewriting the hard-won entitlement programs created during the New Deal and the War on Poverty.

Meanwhile Obama–who seems to have learned nothing about strategy from the health care wars–will not say what he thinks about any of it. Instead, he prefers to sit on the sidelines and see what these people come up with–as if that horse wasn’t already out of the barn.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found at JamesRidgeway.net and at his newest web site, Solitary Watch.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on April 28, 2010.
 

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