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Monday, July 14, 2008

Peterson's One Billion Dollar Debt Crusade

Wow, here's what's coming (from here):

From the NY Times:

Spending $1 Billion to Restore Fiscal Sanity, by John Harwood, NY Times: Gaffes have commanded presidential campaign headlines lately... Peter G. Peterson wants people to focus on what he considers real news: the nation is going broke.

Because he wasn’t born yesterday, Mr. Peterson, co-founder of the Blackstone Group and a secretary of commerce under President Richard M. Nixon, will spend $1 billion in an effort to get the public’s attention. The money ... will finance a media blitz, starting with a documentary, “I.O.U.S.A.”

The film aims to startle voters and politicians alike, and summon them to the task of closing the long-term imbalance between what the government will take in and what it has promised to pay out, most notably through Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Peterson, 82, says he yearns for the can-do spirit that helped politicians forged by the Depression finance the G.I. Bill of Rights, the Interstate highway system and the Marshall Plan from the ashes of World War II. ...

“Has something fundamental happened to the character of our people or our societal structure, or has no one stepped up to provide the leadership?” Mr. Peterson asked. “We’re not going to know that until we try.” ...

Though Mr. Peterson has endorsed Mr. McCain, his efforts to control debt are bipartisan, and he has enlisted Robert E. Rubin, President Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary, to make his case. The foundation does not expect the candidates to propose comprehensive solutions while chasing votes; instead, it will pursue the more limited goal of dissuading the candidates from ruling out potential solutions.

Money Talks

At the center of Mr. Peterson’s plan lies “I.O.U.S.A.,” which will be screened for the news media in Washington on Monday and opens in 400 theaters next month. ... “I.O.U.S.A.” hopes to give as much cachet to long-term fiscal policy as “An Inconvenient Truth” gave to environmentalism.

Mr. Peterson’s foundation is planning an active Internet strategy, tapping bloggers and social networks to reach young voters, who typically pay little heed to far-off fiscal obligations. In early 2009, as the new president takes office, the foundation will try to draw attention with programming on public television, and possibly television advertisements and infomercials.

The effort resembles those of public policy advocacy groups, with a big exception: the money Mr. Peterson has put behind it. ... “You can buy a lot of airtime” with $1 billion, Mr. Peterson said. “People are going to hear from us.”

At some point we do have to face budget realities, and if we are going to deal with this problem, which is mainly a problem with rising health care costs (and that will be a problem whether it's paid for publicly or privately), I'd rather have it happen with a Democrats in charge. That way, the process is less likely to result in large cuts to necessary social programs (and we'd be more likely to get universal health care, something that could also help with the health care cost problem).

I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know for sure how the problem is presented, but the little bits shown above lead me to worry that this will create unnecessary fear about the budget in areas where such fear is unwarranted (e.g. Social Security, a place Peterson has focused in the past). The problem is that this can lead to solutions that satisfy ideological or political goals, but don't deal with the major problem. In any case, it looks like the budget hawks are about to become more vocal and aggressive.

    Posted by on Monday, July 14, 2008 at 12:06 PM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Video | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (114)


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