Next week, fiscal conservatives in both parties will be dominating the airwaves even more than they have been with their calls for a style of “fiscal discipline” that is designed to impose pain on those who are least capable of bearing it—the elderly, the poor, the disabled, and others who are struggling economically.
Progressives have been marginalized in that debate, and that must end.
Our contribution to placing progressive viewpoints at the center of this debate is the launch this week of the “Virtual Summit on Fiscal and Economic Responsibility For Those Who Did Not Wreck the Economy.” That’s a long title, but behind it is a succinct goal: Let’s hear a diagnosis of the problem and real solutions from the perspective of Main Street, not Wall Street or K Street.
Much of the inspiration for the summit title comes from today’s kickoff post from Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He examines the leading voices in the so-called debate around “fiscal responsibility” to be highlighted at a high-profile meeting of deficit hawks that is scheduled to take place after President Obama’s own deficit commission has its inaugural meeting.
One is former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who Baker points out sounded no alarms about the housing bubble that was about to explode on Wall Street (and, it should be added, expressed shock when his blind faith in self-correcting markets was shattered).
There’s also Robert Rubin, the former Clinton cabinet secretary (and, before then, Goldman Sachs executive) who championed financial deregulation while at the White House, then took advantage of the Wild-West climate he created when he took at top job at Citigroup and watched as the conglomerate gambled its way toward bankruptcy, earning more than $110 million along the way.
Let’s not forget, of course, the man who is providing a platform for the likes of Greenspan and Rubin, Peter G. Peterson. He’s the Wall Street billionaire who is pouring his fortune into a foundation dedicated to the proposition that the biggest threat to our economic future is an “entitlement crisis” that can only be solved by convincing the public to throw most of these “entitlements” overboard.
Sadly, the combination of Peterson’s oversized wallet and a compliant media has warped the both the political and the intellectual platform for the debate. Progressives have been sidelined as “tax-and-spend liberals” who want to perpetuate the deficit problem, when in fact it is the unholy trinity of Capitol Hill conservatives, K Street lobbyists and Wall Street tycoons that have not only created the fiscal mess that has been so costly to the middle class and the poor, but are advocating policies that would keep the middle class and the poor on the losing end of the economy of the future.
We have to set the story straight. Progressives have concrete, reality-based proposals for putting our unemployed back to work, growing our economy, providing security to our most vulnerable and lowering our budget deficit over time. We’ll be publishing those ideas on our Virtual Summit page each day over the next few days.
We encourage you to discuss this issue by going to one of the Virtual Summit links on our Facebook page or by clicking the “Discuss” button and leaving a comment. And, most importantly, we urge you to share these ideas with your relatives, friends and neighbors. Make it clear that there is a progressive side to the “fiscal responsibility” debate that is in fact more responsible, and serves a greater good, than the agenda of those who have tried to monopolize the fiscal responsibility mantle before now.