The Chicken Little campaign orchestrated by billionaire Peter G. Peterson to rally public support behind cutting Social Security was kicked up a notch on Tuesday with the launch of the $20 million “Owe No” campaign. With references to “a growing crisis” that will “threaten the livelihoods of Americans and our standing in the world,” Peterson hopes to build consensus for policies that will persuade working-class Americans into swallowing a permanent state of austerity for themselves while the wealthiest grab even more for themselves.
“Owe No You Don’t” is the immediate response of the Strengthen Social Security coalition, of which Campaign for America’s Future is a part. Its reaction to the Peterson campaign:
Mr. Peterson has the gall to lecture Americans on fiscal responsibility while refusing to support taxing Wall Street billionaires at even the same levels as the middle-class Americans whose retirement benefits he proposes to cut.
… This Wall Street billionaire thinks that the right way forward is to cut the already low Social Security benefits that people have earned during their whole working life. The fact that around 70% of all Americans, Republicans, Democrats, and even self-identified Tea Partiers oppose cutting Social Security benefits isn’t going to slow this billionaire down.
The first step to fiscal responsibility is everyone paying their fair share, not asking middle-class Americans with physically demanding jobs to work longer and undermining people’s fragile retirement security cutting Social Security.
Though majorities of the American public have been rather insistent in poll after poll after poll that it does not support cuts in Social Security benefits—and despite the strong case against such actions—Peterson has succeeded in persuading a bipartisan group of people to join his cause.
His campaign sets the drumbeat for the most imminent threat to future Social Security beneficiaries, the White House deficit commission. That group is due to release at the end of the month a series of secretly concocted, take-it-or-leave-it recommendations to Congress that people with knowledge of the commission’s internal deliberations say will primarily consist of raising the retirement age and curbing future cost-of-living increases in benefits.
What will not be anywhere close to the menu of options is perhaps the simplest solution to address what will be a shortfall tin the Social Security trust fund about 25 years or so into the future: raising the $106,800 cap on taxable income for Social Security. That single act would assure the solvency of the trust fund for decades into the future.
The “Owe No You Don’t” campaign will be supported by a series of actions this month to counter the effort to cut Social Security.
The first step is to sign the “Hands Off Social Security” petition, which tells the White House deficit commission that “we need to strengthen Social Security, not cut it.”
Next up is pushing back next week against an endorsement of the Peterson agenda by a group headed by Brookings Institution senior fellow Alice Rivlin. She is already being used by mainstream media to give the Peterson drive a bipartsan and cross-ideological gloss and marginalize progressive calls for policies that protect Social Security benefits.
Then watch for the Campaign for America’s Future’s own “citizen’s commission” report on how to address the future of Social Security and the federal deficit. That report will build on the themes of the “Don’t Kill Growth and Jobs” statement endorsed by hundreds of economists and economic experts this summer. It will offer sound alternatives for reducing the deficit, protecting Social Security benefits and growing the economy.