Revolving Door-Social Security edition

LittleSis undertook a project earlier this year wherein we (I participated as a research analyst) looked at the composition of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was loaded with longtime Social Security Looters, to discern any and all connections, no matter how seemingly minute, between the participants, and more importantly, whether they stood to gain financially from privatizing Social Security.  We uncovered some interesting things.  The final summation has yet to be written, but I learned a lot about important and influential think tanks and non-profits such as the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (it’s billionaire founder is perhaps the key figure in the crusade to privatize and loot Social Security), the Concord Coalition and the Hamilton Project, founded by omni-present, professional economic disaster catalyst Robert Rubin.

William Greider has been doing excellent work on this subject for years, including this recent piece wherein he expertly dissects the Deficit Commission, correctly describing Obama as being “arm and arm with GOP conservatives like Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who for decades has demonized Social Security as a grave threat to the Republic.”   In Greider’s estimation this pairing can be devastating because:

“Obama’s initiative rests on two falsehoods spread by Peterson’s propaganda—the notion that Social Security somehow contributes to the swollen federal deficits and that cutting benefits will address this problem. Obama and his advisers do not say this in so many words, but their rhetoric implies that Social Security is a big source of the deficit problem. Major media promote the same falsehoods. Here is what the media don’t tell you: Social Security has accumulated a massive surplus—$2.5 trillion now, rising to $4.3 trillion by 2023. This vast wealth was collected over many years from workers under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) to pay in advance for baby boom retirements. The money will cover all benefits until the 2040s—unless Congress double-crosses workers by changing the rules. This nest egg does not belong to the government; it belongs to the people who paid for it. FICA is not a tax but involuntary savings.”

The numbers Greider cites in that excerpt are confirmed by research conducted by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.  Yet, as the Social Security project started, I naively believed that these ideas and concepts wouldn’t gain widespread Democratic acceptance until, of course, I started to hear actual rumblings of acquiescence from Democratic ‘leaders’ such as Steny Hoyer, who in May of this year said, in a speech to the Bipartisan Policy Center, in terms “as stark and dire as any Republican would use” according to the Hill, that:

“‘By 2025 the debt held by the public will exceed the historical high of 109 percent of GDP, reached at the end of World War II. By then the money we spend on interest on that debt, along with the ‘Big Three’ entitlements, will equal 18.5 percent of GDP — and that spending will consume virtually all of our revenues,” Hoyer warned, adding: “’We have a very short window of time in which to act.’”

Notice how Hoyer’s words conform almost exactly to what Greider termed “falsehoods spread by Peterson’s propaganda.”  Scary talk about Social Security and other “entitlements” causing debts?  Check.  The act of cutting said benefits cast as the time-is-running-out catch-all solution?  Check.   The author of The Hill’s recap of Hoyer’s speech excerpted above, A.B. Stoddard, noted almost as an aside that Hoyer “has long had an interest in taking on this heretofore untouchable issue.”  Could that be because for the last 3 years Hoyer’s Senior Policy Adviser was a man named Ed Lorenzen?  In a perfectly insidious-insidery piece of Revolving Door precision Lorenzen arrived to work for Hoyer in 2007 directly after a stint as the Concord Coalition’s Policy Director. Lorenzen initially came to my attention last month because I noticed this: (emphasis mine)

“House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) today announced staff changes in his leadership office.  Hoyer has hired James Leuschen as Senior Policy Advisor, replacing Ed Lorenzen, who will be joining the Peter G. Peterson Foundation as a Senior Policy Advisor to the CEO. In acknowledging the departure of Ed Lorenzen, Hoyer said: “’I want to thank Ed Lorenzen for his years of service to my office and the Democratic Caucus.  He is a tireless worker, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is fortunate to have someone with his outstanding expertise.'”

This is text-book case of the Revolving Door at its worst as well as a perfect example of how talking points like those advocated by the Concord Coalition and the Peterson Foundation gain entrance into mainstream, supposedly liberal, debates.   They deliver their acolytes into behind the scenes Policy Advisory positions in offices on both sides of the aisle to guide and give words to empty cipher politicians like Hoyer, who become their spokespeople and do their bidding and dirty-work against the public interest for cash to get re-elected so they can perpetuate their power and old boys and gals martini network into infinity.   Lorenzen got Hoyer to advance these ridiculous and destructive Wall-Street favored proposals, inject them into more mainstream, less obscure channels, giving them a veneer of respectability and bi-partisanship (at least to Beltway media types) and even though he is no longer working directly for Hoyer, he’ll always have complete and total access to his office with ghost-written talking points and face time whenever they are needed.  Mission accomplished.  Time to cash in.  This is how it works.

To recap: Mr. Lorenzen bookended his time as the Senior Policy Adviser to the second most powerful Democrat in the House with positions in 2 of the pre-eminent organizations attempting to loot and privatize Social Security.  I’m sure the fact that while Lorenzen worked for Hoyer as his Senior Policy Adviser, Hoyer was viewed to “have long had an interest” in the hugely unpopular “fix” Social Security enterprise and actually used the exact same cynically manufactured, manipulative and factually challenged propaganda regarding Social Security put out by Pete Peterson and his ilk is surely just one of those exceedingly rare, yet far too common, aw-shucks “Wouldn’t you know it” by God coincidences that somehow always seem to happen in Washington DC these days.


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