Counterparties: Who is Fix the Debt?
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America’s top CEOs agree on at least two things: America needs to do something about its debt and everyone needs to sacrifice. Under the auspices of the organization Fix the Debt, the (self-serving) CEOs of companies like Goldman Sachs, Honeywell, Microsoft and UPS have amassed a reported $43 million budget to convince Washington to avoid the fiscal cliff and to make broad cuts to bring down the national deficit.
The organization, which has Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as co-founders and policy gurus, says in its core principles that deficit-cutting policy should be enacted now, but implemented gradually. It’s also for reforming Medicare and Medicaid and “pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenue and reduces the debt”.
Fix the Debt’s website includes a set of “CEO Tools“, including a presentation that “you can leverage to communicate the debt story in a visual way”, and a sample letter to employees. Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman seems to have written his own version of that letter.
According to the WashPost’s Tom Hamburger, Fix the Debt has managed to displease both liberals and some business groups:
…at least three companies represented in Fix the Debt also belong to a separate coalition that has sought to cut corporate tax rates.
That agenda of cutting corporate taxes has drawn fire from some within the business community, especially small firms and partnerships that do not pay corporate taxes but instead pay taxes on business earnings according to individual income tax rates. These critics say that the chief executives in Fix the Debt are willing to see individual income tax rates rise – in particular, through the expiration of Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy at the end of year– because this could create flexibility in the federal budget for cutting corporate taxes during a tax reform effort proposed for next year.
There are also the familiar fingerprints of Pete Peterson, especially in the emphasis on cutting entitlements. Michael Hiltzik has called Peterson the most influential billionaire in US politics, and it’s easy to see why. Fix the Debt is project of the Committee for a Responsible Budget, which is, in part, funded by Peterson’s foundation. Many of the members of Fix the Debt’s coalition are similarly funded by Peterson and/or founded by his former employees. From 2007 to 2011, Ryan Grim and Paul Blumenthal report, Peterson has spent almost half a billion dollars of his own money crusading against the national debt. — Ryan McCarthy and Ben Walsh
On to today’s links:
Lloyd Blankfein compares CEO efforts on the fiscal cliff to WWII – Joe Weisenthal
Fix the Debt is more concerned with protecting the Bush tax cuts than reducing the long-term deficit - Next New Deal
People are paying $80,000 to hear Simpson and Bowles speak for some reason – NYT