Deficit Scaremongering By “Fix The Debt” Campaign

Reprinted from Pete Peterson Pyramid under Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike

Fix the Debt Astroturf Supergroup

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The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation’s “debt problem.” Through this special report — and in partnership with The Nation magazine — the Center for Media and Democracy exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and phony state “chapters” of this $60 million “astroturf supergroup,” whose goal is to achieve a grand bargain on austerity by July 4, 2013.[1. Campaign to Fix the Debt, CEO Talking Points 10/2/12, organizational document, October 2, 2012.]

Move over, David Koch and George Soros! Pete Peterson is “the most influential billionaire in America,” says the LA Times.

Peter G. Peterson has long used his wealth to underwrite numerous organizations and PR campaigns to generate public support for slashing Social 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.[1. Peter G. Peterson, Why I’m Giving Away $1 BillionThe Daily Beast, May 29, 2009.] As of 2011, the Huffington Post reported that Peterson had personally given $458 million to the Foundation.[1. Ryan Grim and Paul Blumenthal, Peter Peterson Spent Nearly Half A Billion In Washington Targeting Social Security, MedicareHuffington Post, May 15, 2012.]

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[1. Josh Bivens and Andrew Fieldhouse, Fiscal commissioners’ proposal would cost millions of jobs, Economic Policy Institute, November 16, 2010.],  and “destroy Social Security as we know it,” according to Social Security Works.[1. Social Security Works, No Drastic Changes to Social SecurityThe Olympian op-ed, September 25, 2009.] 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.

Fix the Debt Firms: Unpaid Taxes and Underfunded Pensions

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.


  • Honeywell
    • CEO David Cote, compensation: $37,842,723
    • David Cote’s retirement assets: $78,084,717
    • Honeywell’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -0.7%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$2,764,000,000


  • General Electric
    • CEO Jeffrey Immelt, compensation: $21,581,228
    • Jeffrey Immelt’s retirement assets: $53,301,387
    • GE’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -45.3%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$21,756,000,000


  • Verizon
    • CEO Lowell McAdam, compensation: $23,120,499
    • Lowell McAdam’s retirement assets: $8,725,445
    • Verizon’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -2.9%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$6,472,000,000
  • Boeing
    • CEO W. James McNerney, Jr., compensation: $22,958,313
    • W. James McNerney, Jr.’s retirement assets: $39,089,893
    • Boeing’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -1.8%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$16,598,000,000
  • Corning
    • CEO Wendell Weeks, compensation: $10,333,531
    • Wendell Weeks’ retirement assets: $21,229,195
    • Corning’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -0.2%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$454,000,000


  • Merck
    • CEO Kenneth Frazier, compensation: $13,347,652
    • Kenneth Frazier’s retirement assets: $14,428,904
    • Merck’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): 11.5%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$1,935,000,000
  • Delta Air Lines
    • CEO Richard Anderson, compensation: $8,854,554
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$11,504,000,000
  • Aetna
    • CEO Mark Bertolini, compensation: $10,556,335
    • Mark Bertolini’s retirement assets: $1,499,282
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$833,500,000

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3 Responses to “Deficit Scaremongering By “Fix The Debt” Campaign”
  1. RickD says:

    The smoke and mirror politics that continue to hide the real path to deficit reduction, namely; ending corporate loopholes in our tax structure, ending the enormous expenditures on the military, and forcing individuals of great wealth to assume greater responsibility in shouldering their fair share of the tax burden, cannot long endure I suggest.

    I am confident that, as things continue to worsen, as the working and middle classes continue to carry the major burden of taxation and of loss of entitlements and safety nets, as our children continue to be uneducated and unemployed, there will come a time when the slope is just too slippery for us to endure the flow of our wealth to fewer and fewer very selfish and callous people. I would ask your indulgence in citing two quotes that I think are very pertinent to this discussion:

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron”

    Here in America we are descended in blood and spirit from revolutionaries and rebels, men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrines. As their heirs we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

    Both citings are from Dwight David Eisenhower.

  2. depelton says:

    Great quotes by Ike. I find myself referring to him more and more these days. A Republican I admire.

  3. RickD says:

    Yes, as do I as well. Ironic isn’t it that a four star general and then the Commander-in-Chief would be so perceptive. Worse than ironic that his insight has been so ignored for so long.

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