Budget-cut hero Erskine Bowles promotes Soc. Sec., Medicare cuts at chichi Schwab conference

I wonder if Erskine Bowles is doing his keynote at this week’s very fancy Charles Schwab conference — Alan Alda will be there — for free.  It would seem rather unseemly to be profiting (profiteering?) from your proposals to make life miserable for everyone less fortunate than you.

Why is it that the people in charge of deciding whether Social Security and Medicare survive are the very people who are so rich they’ll never need either program?

It’s easy for members of Congress (and former White House chiefs of staff — et tu, Bowles) of both parties to tell the rest of us to tighten our belts when they’ve got government-guaranteed salaries approaching $200,000 a year, and government-guaranteed and subsidized health care.  It’s a safe bet that none of these men (and it is mostly men) is ever going to need to rely on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid in their later years.  No wonder they can lecture the rest of us about the necessary pain of budget cuts that won’t affect them.

Then there’s Erskine Bowles, cochair of the infamous Smipson-Bowles Commission, otherwise known as the Cat Food Commission, because if we follow its recommendations the elderly will be left with nothing to eat except cat food.  What’s remarkable about old school Republican Erskine Bowles is that somehow he, and all the other Very Serious People in Washington, DC are convinced that he’s a Democrat.

Where is Bowles this week? He and his Cat Food Commission cohort, former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, are at a conference hosted by billionaire Charles Schwab, who pumped big money into the 2012 election both directly and via right-wing PACs. (I’ll have a flute of Veuve with a side of Medicare cuts, please.) Yes, a conference for the 1%, by the 1%.

But hey, Bowles will tell you that he’s a sensible Democrat, and that we all need to pitch in to do our part to fix the “deficit problem” that the political class created. He’s so sensible that he’s making a nice career out of traveling around and telling people how sensible he is, and how it makes sense to gut the social system for all the rest of us less-sensible people. What a guy — and lucky us to have him on their side!

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The most annoying part of this show is that too many Democrats buy into this garbage that we all need to be “sensible people,” like Bowles and Simpson. As Gaius wrote this week, it’s not a “fiscal cliff” it’s an “austerity bomb.” All of this theater is about the rich, and the Republicans, finally getting a chance to gut the social system in America after it was the Republicans who, yet again, broke the budget just as they did during the Reagan years (remember, Bill Clinton left George Bush with a multi-million dollar budget surplus).

In the case of Bowles, it’s his personal marketing gig that keeps him in the news. Those screaming for the dismemberment of the social system (which is already very small in the US as compared to other developed countries) are only too happy to share the pain, as long as the pain goes mostly towards the middle class and poor (and let’s face it, the Romneys of the world don’t need Medicare, Social Security or health care reform, so it’s no wonder they’re happy to do away with those programs for the rest of us). The bloated military industrial complex isn’t going away, nor are the giveaways for Big Oil or Big Finance, because the system will always be there to protect those least in need. And let’s face it, the main reason that politicians are worried about the fiscal cliff at all is because their blessed military budget will face the same automatic cuts as everyone else.  If DOD wasn’t in there too, we’d all be toast.

Oh sure, they talk about reforming the freeloading big-money interests, but then those interests always use their giveaways to fund massive lobbying efforts in Washington, just as Wall Street did following the recent bailout. Many of us on the left are sick and tired of these “moderate” deals that are always more about what’s good for the Republicans and the 1% than anyone else. We’re also tired of these lousy examples of so-called Democrats, like Bowles, who are almost as eager to destroy Social Security and cut taxes for the rich as any Republican.

This time, will there be any Democrats who stand up and reject this fear-mongering, who stand up for the middle class? Saying that you’re “moderate,” but siding with the 1%, is no longer an option. The so-called “moderates” have been costing us enough money — after all, they’re the ones who supported the Bush tax cuts and the endless wars that broke the budet, not to mention laissez-faire economics that brought the economy crashing down, thus increasing the deficit even further. So please, ignore them and leave our social system alone.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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