In The Category of “Duh”…And The Omission

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini0 Comments

That the whole phony debt crisis has been driven by people with deep ties to business interests and the elite will not come as a surprise to people who read this blog — I’ve been pointing this out for a long time. It’s not a hidden secret — just one the transcribers of press releases (formerly known as “journalists”) don’t care to mention very often. So, today, there is an exception to the rule — with one glaring omission.

Nicholas Confessore writes:

In Washington’s running battles over taxes and spending, Mr. McCrery and his colleagues at Fix the Debt have lent a public-spirited, elder-statesman sheen to the cause of deficit reduction. Leading up to the fiscal negotiations, they set up grass-roots chapters around the country, met with President Obama and his aides, and hosted private breakfasts for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. In recent days, Fix the Debt has redoubled its efforts, starting a new national advertising campaign and calling on Mr. Obama and Congress to revise the tax code and reduce long-term spending on entitlement programs.

But in the weeks ahead, many of the campaign’s members will be juggling their private interests with their public goals: they are also lobbyists, board members or executives for corporations that have worked aggressively to shape the contours of federal spending and taxes, including many of the tax breaks that would be at the heart of any broad overhaul. While Fix the Debt criticized the recent fiscal deal between Mr. Obama and lawmakers, saying it did not do enough to cut spending or close tax loopholes, companies and industries linked to the organization emerged with significant victories on taxes and other policies.


Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia who is a member of Fix the Debt’s steering committee, received more than $300,000 in compensation in 2011 as a board member of General Electric. The company is among the most aggressive in the country at minimizing its tax obligations. Mr. McCrery, the Louisiana Republican, is also among G.E.’s lobbyists, according to the most recent federal disclosures, monitoring federal budget negotiations for the company.

Other board members and steering committee members have deep ties to the financial industry, including private equity, whose executives have aggressively fought efforts to alter a tax provision, known as the carried interest exception, that significantly reduces their personal income taxes.

Erskine B. Bowles, a co-founder of Fix the Debt, was paid $345,000 in stock and cash in 2011 as a board member at Morgan Stanley, while Judd Gregg, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire and a co-chairman of Fix the Debt, is a paid adviser to Goldman Sachs. Both companies have engaged in lobbying on international tax rules.

Mr. Gregg also sits on the boards of Honeywell and IntercontinentalExchange, a company that has warned investors that a tax on financial transactions would lower trading volume and curtail its profits. The two companies paid Mr. Gregg almost $750,000 in cash and stock in 2011.

In all, close to half of the members of Fix the Debt’s board and steering committee have ties to companies that have engaged in lobbying on taxes and spending, often to preserve tax breaks and other special treatment.[emphasis added]

So, to start with a pat on the back, it’s nice to see someone right a piece exposing who is driving this phony debate.

But, there are two words you don’t see in the article: Pete Peterson. As I wrote in my book, Peterson, with his unlimited resources, is the “godfather” of this campaign, underwriting every aspect of the phony debate, from organizational pressure to his own pontifications. His name does not merit mention, in the author’s view, for reasons that are baffling — it’s either intentional or just laziness.

Not mentioning Peterson as the linchpin of the phony campaign is akin to talking about the greed and destructive behavior of Citigroup in the financial crisis without mentioning Robert Rubin.

Leave a Comment