Will Democrats Embrace “Austerity American Style”? Crash This Party And Find Out


Heard about the meeting that's being held to decide your economic future? If the answer's "no," don't feel bad: That's because you weren't invited. But Tim Geithner was. So was Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican member of Congress whose radical right-wing plans for cutting Medicare have made him the subject of a Mitt Romney "bromance." So was Bill Clinton, who showed up last year and uttered the usual Beltway insider's falsehoods about what's really wrong with Social Security.

 

Hey, maybe your invitation to billionaire Pete Peterson's "Fiscal Summit" got lost in the mail. Or maybe they really, really didn't want you there. Who cares? That's no reason not to go anyway.

 

Hey, Sen. Bernie Sanders wasn't invited, and his proposal for Social Security was much more popular with the American people than anything that's likely to be discussed at this little get-together.

 

It's Your Party

That's right: There's a "summit," and nobody invited the American people. They didn't even invite the guy who proposed the fiscal plan that most Americans – including most Republicans – wanted, according to the polling data. But he's going anyway.

That's Bernie for ya.

 

In fact, there will be a rally outside and Bernie will be speaking there. The rally's on Monday, May 15, at 1 p.m. outside 1301 Constitution Avenue NW. Call it the "people's summit," the "sidewalk summit," or – in honor of MCA – a "fight for your right to crash their party." Whatever you call it, it's on. Some of my CAF colleagues will be there, along with some other good folks.

 

 

I'd go myself, but I burned through my travel hours this month by coming to Charlotte for the Bank of America shareholder's meeting and Occupy protests. That was another party where the public wasn't very welcome. (I'm on the plane back home right now, as a matter of fact. Inflight wireless: it's both a blessing and a curse.)

 

Party Favors

Peterson, who served in President Nixon's cabinet, has funded a lot of events and "educational" materials to promote the misguided and destructive ideas about government spending that dominate the discourse inside the Beltway. They're the same austerity ideas that have broken Europe's economy – and are now breaking down its social and political order.

 

These ideas that were most recently packaged as the "Simpson/Bowles" plan, which was put forward by those two individuals when they failed to lead their Presidential Deficit Commission to a successful conclusion. (These personal opinions are often misrepresented in the press as the "Deficit Commission proposal"; actually the Commission failed to agree on a proposal.)

 

The Simpson/Bowles plan will be the main course on this party's menu. It is a far-right proposal that leaves Bush tax cuts in place for the super-wealthy. It would even lower their overall tax rate, while providing cover for this radical wealth shift with the elimination of tax breaks that the middle class depends on. (They don't say which ones, but employer health insurance, child tax credits, and the home mortgage interest deductions are the main targets.)

 

The Simpson/Bowles plan would trigger across-the-board cuts to government spending, including programs that serve middle-class and lower income people. Corporate tax rates would be cut, too, while the middle class would be forced to contend with gasoline taxes and cuts to both Social Security and Medicare.

 

Its mix of spending cuts to tax increases confirms the fact that it's a far-right plan. Three quarters of Simpson/Bowles' deficit reductions would come from spending cuts, while only one quarter would come from tax hikes. (And those would be directed at everybody but the rich.)

 

Simpson/Bowles: It's Austerity, American-Style.

 

The Guest List

No wonder the public hasn't given the chance to have its say at Peterson's Summit. The public hated the Simpson/Bowles plan when it was announced, with 70 percent of those polled saying they were either "somewhat" or "very uncomfortable" with it. And if they're uncomfortable now, imagine how they'd feel after they retired.

 

But the political and economic lemmings who are pushing these ideas want us to jump off the cliff with them anyway.

 

Alan Simpson, the Republican co-author of Simpson/Bowles, is an intemperate motormouth whose rude and vulgar comments toward women and his fellow senior citizens earned him the justified disapproval of most Americans … except billionaire Peterson, who invited him to attend this year's summit again, and the undemocratically "bipartisan" Democratic pals who will join him once on the Peterson dais next Monday.

 

As far as I can tell, the only attendee at next Monday's Summit who isn't a return invitee from the "Austerity American Style" crowd is Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic House member who's closely allied with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. His remarks should be interesting, especially after Pelosi's shocking statement that she would have voted for Simpson/Bowles if it had come to the House floor – a comment she later affirmed.

 

Get Your Party On

Van Hollen has an opportunity to walk back those disastrous remarks on behalf of the House Democratic leadership. if he doesn't, the Dems are setting themselves up for another drubbing like the one they got in 2010. That's the year the WHite House's Simpson/Bowles-style "Grand Bargain" trial balloons gave the Republicans a chance to run against Dems on these popular programs … from the Left.

 

The GOP called its leftist-style rhetorical assault on Democrats the "Senior Citizens' Bill of RIghts." It was baloney, of course, but the Democrats gave them the cutting board and the knife that let them cut it up and serve it. Something like that could happen again this year.

When it comes to Democrats these days, you've got to fight for their party against its right.

That's one more reason to show up on Monday: To let Chris Van Hollen and other Democrats know they have only one choice. They can fight against cuts to Social Security and Medicare, or they can lose support – and seats – in November.

 

If you don't want that to happen (and who does?) – and if you want to protect Medicare, Social Security, and other vital government programs – why not show up and let them know how you feel? You'll be the life of the party crashers' party.

This post was updated to revise the time of the protest. 

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