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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Thief businessman via Shutterstock

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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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg Moderator4

    Yes, it is. He’s gone. Thank you, karmanot.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    SPAM ALERT

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    Exactly so

  • confusion

    Nailed it!

  • A reader in Colorado

    People who peddle the myth that Social Security is a cause of the deficit are LYING.

    They need to be called LIARS, and called out on their LIES. That includes people like Erskine Bowles, Ed Rendell, and yes, anyone else up to the POTUS who makes such statements.

    That includes anyone who calls for the “reform” of Social Security as a way to solve our deficit. Social Security is not part of the deficit. So anyone who just randomly includes Social Security as part of the issue labeled the budget deficit, no matter how sneakily they attempt it, is LYING.

    That means, if the President of the United States is talking about fixing the budget deficit by changing Social Security, he is a LIAR and needs to be called a LIAR for saying it. Anyone who tries to change social security “because of the budget deficit” is trying to STEAL from present and future retirees and is LYING in order to do it.

    I notice so many people who call themselves Democrats being so willing to call Republicans liars when they lie, but not so much people in their own party when they lie.

    But diplomatic language is not going to save Social Security. Calling people what they are and embarrassing them with the truth might help.

    The Federal government owes the Social Security System money.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    Erskin Bowels is full of s**t.

  • condew

    Shameless plug?

  • condew

    Yes, I want a new commission on Social Security and Medicare NOT in the context of deficit reduction, and with a membership all of whom expect Social Security and Medicare to make the difference between a reasonable retirement and an old age plagued by poverty.

    And lets roll the retirement plans for Elected officials like the President and Congress, and political appointees, into Social Security and Medicare so they have a little skin in the game. I’m really sick of hearing the people who don’t need Social Security and Medicare telling the rest of us we can do without it.

  • condew

    I think the real problem is that the Federal Government owes the Social Security system a lot of money, it’s time for the Federal Government to repay the loan now that the baby boomers are retiring, and the Federal Government is looking for an excuse as to why it would be OK to not pay, to be a deadbeat, to break promises, to default on what is owed to the American people while it isn’t OK to default on similar loans (U.S. Treasury Notes) owned by the wealthy class of every nation on Earth.

  • Mike Mathiesen

    How to survive the coming economic collapse – http://newnewnews.com

  • hollywoodstein

    Filibuster reform will help a little bit in the undemocratic Senate. Online registration to increase voter participation will help a little bit, as in California. The decline of Civil War racism and religious based gay hating being used to divide us will help a little bit. Climate disasters caused by big business polluting the air will help a little bit.
    If enough cracks in the wall cause enough erosion, then maybe someday the dam will burst, and the will of the people will be expressed.
    I can dream can’t I?

  • hollywoodstein

    Chris in Paris, love your work, but I must say this is one of your finest posts ever.

  • S1AMER

    Bowles is quite wealthy. People who are quite wealthy should not have any control on a program that’s essential to the quality of life and well being of people who aren’t quite wealthy.

  • confusion

    Eliminate social security….? Savings to federal budget….$ 0000.00

    There is no one on capitol hill that does not know this.

  • nicho

    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?

    I worked for a guy who was a multi-millionaire. He owned four newspapers. The day he turned 70, he couldn’t contain his glee — because now he could make as much as he wanted and still collect the full boat on Social Security. They don’t need it, but they still take it.

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