AmericaSpeaks for Whom?

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Written by Nicole Woo   
Friday, 25 June 2010 09:21
If you regularly read CEPR co-director Dean Baker's columns, you already know that the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (a.k.a. the Catfood Commission on FireDogLake) is stacked with deficit hawks (a.k.a. Zombies on Paul Krugman's blog) who are intent on gutting Social Security, under the guise of reducing federal budget deficits.  This Saturday, the billionaire deficit hawk Pete Peterson is largely bankrolling an organization called AmericaSpeaks to conduct Town Hall meetings in 20 cities across the nation to "find common ground on tough choices about our federal budget." 

Even worse, AmericaSpeaks will be presenting the results of these meetings just four days later at the next meeting of the Fiscal Commission in Washington DC.  Groups such as MoveOn, AARP and the AFL-CIO are planning to leaflet outside the Town Hall meetings on Saturday.  And experts across the nation, including Dean Baker, are expressing their misgivings about these Pete Peterson-funded events.

A closer look at the  discussion materials for the Town Hall meetings shows that Saturday's game will be played with a stacked deck.  They claim to include input from a broad range of view points in order to frame an intelligent discussion of the nation's long-term budget problems.  But, as CEPR's analyses of AmericaSpeaks' Federal Budget 101 and Options Workbook detail, their guides do not live up to their hype. 

For example, the materials do not discuss the cause of the recent explosion of the deficit, the collapse of the housing bubble -- the downturn resulting from this collapse will add more than $4 trillion to the national debt between 2007 and 2017. And while the guides note that most of the growth in future budget deficits is due health care costs, they do not explain the full extent to which the deficits are the result of the inefficiency of our health care system. If our per person health care costs were the same as any for any other wealthy country, then the U.S. would face huge surpluses rather than deficits.