Nonprofit Newswire | Kuttner: Peterson Forum Political Folly

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April 4, 2010; Huffington Post | In Sunday’s Huffington Post, Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect, took issue with an upcoming fiscal summit sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to “further a national dialogue on solving America’s fiscal challenges through several moderated discussions with leaders on the issue from across the political spectrum.” Among those leaders are Bill Clinton, Bob Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Alice Rivlin, Paul Volcker, Judd Gregg, and John Podesta. Kuttner, basically disagrees with the idea that this group constitutes a “political spectrum”.

According to Kuttner, much of the discussion will center on the perils of a rising deficit and debt, rather than on what he believes are the real issues; rising unemployment, jobless recovery, and a “lost generation of prosperity.” He’s particularly concerned that some of those most responsible for the nation’s increasing deficits and debt, Rubin and Greenspan, will be asked to help frame the problem and potential solutions. These two, Kuttner writes, were the “sponsors of the orgy of financial deregulation that led to the crash,” which, in turn required the government to step in with increased public spending. “Inviting these characters to a fiscal summit to devise a way out of the crisis is like inviting arsonists to design a seminar on fire prevention.”

Kuttner reserves his most pointed fire for Peterson himself, who underwrites the work of his foundation with money he made through private equity—another, Kuttner notes, major force behind the financial collapse. With David Walker, the Peterson Foundation’s president, Peterson has not been shy about publicizing his desire to advance a conservative fiscal policy agenda—one that includes strict budget caps on social outlays, enforced by a formula, and cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Kuttner argues that these policies, if enacted fully, would make it nearly impossible for the U.S. to recover from the economic collapse, which he believes requires more, not less, public spending.

Implied in Kuttner’s post is a concern that a seemingly innocuous fiscal policy debate is being used to cloak a hawkish fiscal policy agenda that the Peterson Foundation has been doggedly publicizing and advocating for some time. And while the foundation is hardly the first to promote a political agenda—which it has every right to do—its multi-million dollar advertising campaigns and ability to shore up panels of people with considerable political power—has raised the antennas of those who believe that charitable foundations—liberal or conservative—exist to support efforts to make change, not to make it themselves through sheer spending power.—Cynthia Gibson