Corrente

If you have "no place to go," come here!

A Fiscal Sustainability "Teach-in" Counter-Conference?

letsgetitdone's picture

On April 28, 2010, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is sponsoring a “Fiscal Summit” in Washington, DC. The purpose of the Conference, which is scheduled for the day after the first meeting of the President's recently constituted National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (btw, where the Conference is happening is a mystery not cleared up on the PGPF web site) is:

”. . . 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. In addition to President Bill Clinton, who will be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos, we will hear from a range of experts, including Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan, Former Chairmen of the Federal Reserve; Bob Rubin, Former Secretary of the Treasury; Alice Rivlin, former OMB Director and Member, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform; Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), Member, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform; John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress; John Castellani, President of Business Roundtable, and others."

Robert Kuttner's comment on the Conference is very apropos:

”This is billed as a "national dialogue on solving America's fiscal challenges," but spare me. This is a propaganda event. For the most part, the featured speakers follow the Peterson line. John Podesta, the closest thing to a liberal playing a headliner role, accepts that there is a serious deficit problem, but would entertain a value-added tax as part of the remedy. But the speakers' list is clearly stacked and there is no one to Podesta's left.”

And for good measure, the left-right paradigm is not even very applicable here at all, because everyone listed above whether “liberal” or conservative, shares the neo-liberal assumption that Government spending in the United States is operationally constrained by the ability to tax or to borrow money from non-Government sources. Given this false assumption, all the participants in this so-called “national dialogue” will share the assumption that fiscal sustainability has something to with Government deficits, debts, and the ratio of debt held by the public to GDP. There will be disagreements among them about how long the Government has over time to bring deficits down, or to moderate the trend toward increasing debt, or about what a “responsible” ratio of debt held by the public to GDP ought to be. But none will entertain or discuss the idea that deficits, debts, and debt to GDP ratios are inappropriate tests of fiscal sustainability, irrelevant measures of the degree of fiscal challenges we face, and, in fact, nothing more than a by-product of the real fiscal challenges facing us, namely achieving renewed economic growth and full employment.So, this Conference will take “off the table” any ideas about what fiscal sustainability, that don't center around Ben Bernanke's neo-liberal definition of the idea as:

“… as achieving a stable ratio of government debt and interest payments to gross domestic product, and setting tax rates at levels that don’t impede economic growth."

It will also, by virtue of this definition “take off the table” any “solutions” that address other goals than the ones mentioned in Bernanke's very limited idea of fiscal sustainability, and, also, it will begin to set up a public debate over public sustainability analogous to the one we've just been through on health care, a debate that constrains and leaves out the best alternative solutions to the fiscal sustainability problem, because these solutions are literally “unthinkable” in the neo-liberal paradigm of economics.

The Fiscal Summit Conference is meant to call attention to and magnify the significance of the first meeting of the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and to propagandize the line of thinking and the course of action that the Peterson Foundation thinks the Commission should take. The Peterson Foundation, in other words, means to create a reality in which the President's Commission would become popularly known as “The Steal Our Retirement Commission.” We need to do what we can to stop that. It will be a long fight, and it will dog our efforts at progressive change, because everything we want to do will be subject to the false tests of “fiscal responsibility,” and “fiscal sustainability” put forward by the deficit hawks, unless we can carry out a campaign of our own that persuades the public of our view that the neo-liberals idea of fiscal sustainability are a fantasy, and that if we continue to give them credence, they will only exacerbate our economic situation ad create a dark future for our children and grandchildren.

I know that time is short between now and April 28th. But nevertheless, I propose that we organize a counter Fiscal Summit "Teach-in" Conference in Washington DC, on that day. Such a "teach-in," depending on how many people we could get to attend, could steal media attention from the Peterson-sponsored event, and introduce an opposing narrative to the ones coming out of the deficit hawk events on the 27th and 28th. To have such a Conference would take money. Speaker expenses would have to paid, as would hotel expenses if it were possible to get a hotel site at this late date. On the other hand, it would not be hard to think of high-level speakers for such a Summit. Here's my list of speakers who could do a really good job delivering a Modern Monetary Theory counter to the neo-liberal paradigm: L. Randall Wray, William K. Black, James K. Galbraith, Warren Mosler, Marshall Auerback, Bill Mitchell, Rob Parenteau, Yeva Nersisyan, Scott Fullwiler, and some other very good top-level participants who would question the neo-liberal paradigm to at least some degree are: Yves Smith, Simon Johnson, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Johnson, Robert Reich, Robert Kuttner, and Dean Baker. Finally, someone who ought to be invited, since he's expressed frequent and very explicit criticism of the neo-liberal paradigm is George Soros. It would be valuable to get him into direct discussions with others on the relationships between hedge fund traders and nations with unencumbered fiat monetary systems.

Who should hold this counter-conference? I propose that Firedog Lake, The Huffington Post, New Deal 2.0, and The American Prospect jointly sponsor and provide financial backing for this Conference. If the Conference could be planned and implemented over the next three weeks, it could go a long way toward beginning to blunt the impact of the Peterson Foundation Event and the first meeting of the President's Commission. We need to blunt that impact if we expect to have any material success in getting progressive legislation on a host of issues in the coming decade. “We must make this commission politically radioactive.”

(Also posted at firedoglake.com and the Alllifeisproblemsolving blog where there may be more comments)

0
No votes yet

Comments

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Thanks DC. So far, nothing from FDL.

I don't really have much hope it will be taken up because of the short time between now and April 28th. But the group I mentioned could put it together.

Submitted by lambert on

This is news, lets.... What can we do?

There's a media blackout on this, just like single payer. And when Bush wanted to do privaitize Social Security, the "progressives" were all over it. I doubt that will happen this time, and Bill Clinton's presence at this thing really worries me.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I think we all need to call attention to this and to oppose it as part of the run-up to the meeting.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

It's great that you'll do it. Bill Mitchell's in too. I heard from him last night. I'm about to check in at FDL and see what the uptake to it is there.

Submitted by lambert on

... that if the big guys don't come through, we can't do this in the lo-tech Correntian way IFF we can get somebody on the ground in DC who can do a little street theatre, say. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

can be very positive, if that's what we have to do. What would be good for that though would be to get Medicare for All folks involved, and also any other activists who want jobs programs or anything past that is going to have to done currently on a pay-go basis. All of these folks share an interest in getting the deficit hawk frame busted.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

lo-tech or low cost, blog about it and do youtubes, and get some attention, but we may not have too many of the MMT speakers except local people.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

since time is short.....

could it be done (even speakers) on line? maybe second life? or maybe questions from the public on a blog, answered in real time via live youtube (i think i recall suin doing this a couple of times with senator dodd and some others - i could ask her what is involved. maybe she would even be willing to help.). there needs to be a way to get some msm attention, and while the need to counter the peterson conference is great, it may also provide the hook for msm. controversy, he said/he said (some say the earth is flat, those crazy mmt folks say it's a globe) etc.

random brainstorming:

even a small protest at the peterson conference, with handouts (especially for msm) including:

1) memorable name for the deficit terrorists - "catfood conference" or similar?
2) short statement, preferably with quotes from some of the experts, on why the peterson folks are ignorant (avoid anything with the taint of elitism).
3) short statement, preferably with quotes for non-experts, with a bit of class warfare (socialism for the rich, banksters, etc.)
4) url and directions for public participation, or url for archives...
5) it would be great for fdl, et al. to participate, but even if they don't, if they are willing to both help spread the word and also to report on it, that would be very helpful.

...........

i don't know, maybe these are dumb ideas. but if something is to be done, please let me know what i can do to help make it happen.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

We ought to pursue them alongside the big conference idea, with the proviso that the online and protest efforts can continue to go on. BTW, to protest, we need to know where the meeting will be. Thus far, I've seen no announcement. Not even on the Peterson Foundation site.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Thea Harvey reports that Jamie Galbraith said that he's in too.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

actually, i think the word james galbraith used was, "inspired."

thank you!

Submitted by lambert on

Plan A:

For real press coverage (and probably the expectations of many of the speakers) a (hold your nose) K Street hotel would be best.

Then again, that requires a budget and we're also in a time crunch.

Plan B:

Can anybody suggest alternative venues? Classy enough (like, not a basement somewhere) but alternative? Thoughts?

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

There are a ton of organizations in DC, many with spiffy offices in good locations. I wonder if any of them might be interested in hosting. I have absolutely no connections in that world, so I don't have a clue.

Submitted by lambert on

And we'll try to make the connections.

Heck, why not the lobby of the National Portrait Gallery? They've got WiFi! (Ha ha, only serious...)