Irresponsible, Thy Name Is Peterson

Tuesday, 24 February 2009 06:50 By Bill Scher, Truthout | name.

Irresponsible, Thy Name Is Peterson

    In advance of Monday's "Fiscal Responsibility Summit" [1] at the White House, summit participant Pete Peterson and his foundation launched a $1 million ad campaign, irresponsibly peddling false information [2] about the nation's budget.

    The ad begins: [2] "Everyone's focused on the obstacles now facing our economy. But there's a much larger threat: 56 trillion dollars in unfunded retirement and health care obligations."

    But that is not a larger threat than the current economic crisis. In fact, it's not really a threat at all. [3]

    The Nation's William Greider exposes Peterson's baseless alarmism: [3]

Peterson describes a "$53 trillion hole" [the number keeps going up apparently - ed.] in America's fiscal condition-but the claim assumes numerous artful fallacies. His most blatant distortion is lumping Social Security, which is self-funded and sound, with other entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs do face financial crisis-not because the elderly and poor are greedily gaming the system but because the medical-industrial complex has the profit incentive to drive healthcare costs higher and higher. Healthcare reform can solve the financing problem only if it imposes cost controls on private players like the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

    And on yesterday's media conference call [4] hosted by Campaign for America's Future - listen to the audio here [4] - economist Dean Baker further illustrated the point: [4]

...we don't have an entitlement crisis. we have a health care crisis ... the horror stories that the Peterson foundation and others have put out there, talking about $54 trillion unfunded liability - this is a health care story...if we could zero out Medicare and Medicaid, we could just go "OK Mr. Peterson, you win, we're getting rid of Medicare and Medicaid tomorrow," our economy would still be devastated because we haven't fixed health care.

    (UPDATE: Baker's Center for Economic and Policy Research offers graphical proof, showing what our long-term budget would look like if we had the per capital health care costs of most other nations [5].)

    What's more irresponsible than using one's massive wealth to misinform the public and pressure politicians to make life worse for senior critizens? Maybe doing it in the name of "responsibility."

    Hopefully Monday's summit will be a responsible discussion about our long-term fiscal health, based on facts and not hysterical propaganda.

    --------

    Links:

    [1] http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/02/20/obama_fiscal_responsibility_su.html?hpid=topnews

    [2] http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0209/Petersons_fiscal_push.html?showall

    [3] http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090302/greider/print

    [4] http://www.ourfuture.org/audio-media/2009020819/economists-hickey-discuss-fiscal-responsibility-summit

    [5] http://www.cepr.net/calculators/iousadeficit/calc_iousa_deficit.html

Last modified on Tuesday, 24 February 2009 08:15