Protest The Fiscal Summit Why We Reject The Austerity Agenda

Roger Hickey

The following was drafted for delivery at the Protest The Fiscal Summit demonstration outside the Peter G. Peterson Fiscal Summit in Washington on May 15.

Thank you, Sen. Sanders. And welcome to all of you to Andrew Mellon Auditorium, named after one of the wealthiest Americans of the 1920s and 1930s.

As Secretary of the Treasury, Mellon advised President Hoover to “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system.” He advocated spending cuts to keep the federal budget balanced, and opposed fiscal stimulus measures – and the result was the downward spiral known as the Great Depression.

The Fiscal Summit inside is organized by one of today’s richest people.

The vast majority of the American people don’t agree with Peter G. Peterson.

Most of us think the economy is not producing enough jobs – and we take the common-sense view that you can’t balance the budget unless millions of Americans go back to work.

Peter G. Peterson and his friends inside his fiscal summit are the equivalent of Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron in Europe, leaders whose cruel austerity policies are choking off growth from Spain to Ireland to Great Britain and France.

Oh yes, they will admit, as a matter of theory, that there are times when cutting budgets can destroy economic growth and make the economy much worse. But they sure don’t talk or act like this is one of those times.

Do you hear them agreeing with President Obama that we need to invest in infrastructure jobs? Or in aid to the states to prevent the layoffs of teachers and cops and firemen?

The answer is no. They know their Republican friends will block all such job creation in this election year. But you don’t see them protesting Republican anti-growth obstructionism.

Peterson and his friends are really gathered here to try to lay the basis for a post-election “grand bargain” that would slash public spending for the middle class and the poor – and cut or dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – while once again cutting taxes for the big corporations and the super-rich.

Their Simpson-Bowles austerity plan would not only kill our weak economic recovery, it would reward the powerful 1 percent once again, while sticking it to the rest of us.

Peter G. Peterson and his friends patronizingly tell us that we are not really serious about deficits – because we are not willing to cut what they call “entitlements.”

They are right that we refuse to allow them to cut Social Security benefits – or restructure Medicare out of existence.

But we know how to reduce the deficit – now and in the future:

First, we invest in jobs and growth.

Then we roll back the Bush tax cuts and make the rich and corporations pay their fair share.

Then we reduce military spending on unneeded weapons and end the war in Afghanistan.

Over the long term, we don’t dismantle Medicare, as Rep. Paul Ryan, who is inside, wants to do. We make American medicine as cost-effective as in other big countries – by reducing the monopoly pricing power of the big drug and insurance companies.

We have a fiscal plan for America. You can read it in the proposals put forward by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Calif. – and in the alternative budget proposals of the Progressive Caucus and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

And you can hear more about these plans at our summit June 18-20. called Take Back the American Dream.

But our plan – supported by the common sense of the American Majority – is so different from the austerity plans of Peter G. Peterson and his friends that they won’t debate people who dare to disagree with him about our countries fiscal future.

I ask you, what kind of a summit meeting excludes the views of strong majorities of the American people?

And the answer is: a summit meeting of a powerful and arrogant elite who can’t see that they are bound to lose.

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