Horses, Nazis, Fake Presidential Candidates and Lots of Old White Dudes
Earlier today I attended a press conference in an elaborate 8th floor room overlooking the U.S. Capitol at the Newseum for an unveiling of billionaire Pete Peterson’s latest attempt to crush Social Security with his bags of money. Peterson and his son launched “OweNO,” a $6 million national and regional ad campaign to supposedly “educate Americans about the consequences of our soaring debt and deficits.” Just before the press conference a reporter whose badge indicated he worked for the Associated Press asked a fellow reporter if he’d had any luck getting information on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The other reporter indicated he hadn’t as did the AP scribe.
Peterson started the press conference by telling a joke from a Tricky Dick “Nixon administration humorist.” The one-liner designed to put the audience at ease before Peterson attempted to convince Americans once again that their Social Security should go to people like him and his greedy friends on Wall Street by using the smoke and mirror tactics he’d inherited from his former boss President Nixon.
It’s appropriate Peterson opened with a joke because the press conference could have been a scene from Caddyshack or a similar 80’s romp. Those in the room of about fifty included billionaire Pete Peterson and his son, U.S. Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Kent Conrad (D-ND), former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), a whole bunch of white guys (including myself), several women, and not more than three or four from different ethnic backgrounds, one of whom was serving food and beverages and one of whom was behind a television camera taping the event. We might as well have been at Bushwood Country Club toasting to the rich getting richer.
The “elite” men, 2 billionaires and 3 U.S. Senators, told us in their country club lingo that the deficit in the medium and longterm might kill our country while working people doing their jobs with their hands there in the Newseum were likely somewhat more worried about paying their own bills and keeping their own jobs.
They launched their ads, featuring an older white guy as an out of touch Presidential candidate saying he wanted to grow the debt and didn’t care about children or grandchildren. This bit, though not appearing to dawn on the assembled media was humorous only in that Peterson really doesn’t care about future generations that aren’t as loaded as him. If he did, he’d work to find a way to strengthen Social Security and our economy, not cut big payouts to his Wall Street cronies.
Everything was going swimmingly until Domenici came to the podium after having stepped away, with tears in his eyes, to tell those assembled that his eldest sister had just passed away. Everyone there seemed sympathetic, and it wasn’t clear if he would go on speaking. But then the elderly, shaken Domenici went on a rant to the room, comparing our national deficit to the Nazis, and defeating the deficit as important if not more, than defeating the Nazis. He then said that the Nazis were an overt enemy and the deficit must be understood to be a “freedom losing event that might turn us in to a second rate country.”
My sympathies still go to Domenici and his family but when you compare the deficit to the Nazis while you live on your comfortable Senate pension, and maybe more, it deserves to be noted that no deficit will kill members of my family and millions of others. But metaphoric or not, the deficit ain’t World War II.
During the Q&A Conrad then let slip the words of the day: “Social Security,” which to that point hadn’t crossed anyone’s lips. Conrad, a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, said that he had met yesterday behind closed doors with the Co-Chair of the commission, failed U.S. Senate candidate and Wall Streeter Erskine Bowles, to discuss proposals for several hours and mentioned that the commission itself hadn’t met in some time. He then called both the right and the left “divorced from reality” if they didn’t think we’d have to cut Medicare and Social Security. “On the right, those who say no new revenue, I believe, are also in denial,” continued Conrad in his attempt to make everyone mad at him. But according to the latest polling, 69% of Americans want to protect Social Security and Medicare, hardly a vast right or left wing conspiracy.
It seems the elite guys in the room, not just the one in the ads were the ones “divorced from reality.” Peterson is likely familiar with another phrase that his $6 million will get him to once again. It’s not quite as amusing but Pete, and wealthy Senators: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.
Americans may watch your amusing ads, but they’re not going to swallow your bogus explanations for trying to cut or privatize their Social Security. Cue the credits to this out-of-touch old rich guy comedy and let’s focus on real solutions, not solutions for America’s greediest buffoons.
To stop the sequel, sign this petition to strengthen Social Security today.