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Blowback: Progressive Groups Mounting Challenge to Pete Peterson, Social Security Cutters

Tommy Christopher is right to wonder why Alan Simpson’s uninformed rant about Social Security didn’t get enough attention in the traditional media, and I’m glad he asked Robert Gibbs about it at a White House press briefing. I hope he continues to do so. Gibbs stonewalled him with a “no comment;” let him do it again.

But that discussion between Simpson and Social Security Works’ Alex Lawson had a very particular audience – liberal elites. They suddenly had to worry that this deficit commission was dead serious about taking an ax to Social Security and other entitlement programs, based on erroneous talking points about spent trust funds. It hit Paul Krugman’s radar screen, as well as others. You’re seeing the Social Security argument crop up in television ads opposing Republican candidates. And now, MoveOn is basically calling for a mirror-image replay of the Republican town hall meeting storms, by asking liberals to infiltrate America Speaks events all over the country.

America Speaks is the brainchild of billionaire hedge fund manager and tax cheat Pete Peterson, who is helping fund the deficit commission. These town hall-style events are designed to be a propaganda tour for the need to scale back deficits by cutting social spending. In a letter to supporters titled “Rally to save Social Security,” MoveOn asks members to attend the America Speaks events.

The Deficit Commission is the executive panel charged with deciding our country’s spending priorities. The problem is, it’s filled with people who are obsessed with using the deficit as an excuse to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Until now, the commission has been holding only closed-door meetings in Washington. But this Saturday, an outside group that will report back to the commission is holding town halls on the budget across the country.

Here’s the catch: that outside group is sponsored by a billionaire hedge fund manager who’s been working to gut Social Security and Medicare for decades, and the organizers get to decide who can attend.

We need to speak out now so the commission knows that Americans won’t let their Social Security be cut. So we’re partnering with a bunch of progressive allies to hold rallies outside their events. We’ll speak out and make sure the media knows about the many progressive solutions to the deficit—like rolling back the Bush Tax Cuts and rooting out wasteful military spending.

Peterson isn’t stupid – he’s going to try and block any rabble-rousers from entry, and turn these events into infomercials. But at least MoveOn, among the largest progressive groups out there, is taking this on directly. I’m told the AFL-CIO will also pitch in. It was literally Nancy Altman, 20 bucks and a staff of about 2 a week ago.

RJ Eskow has more on these town halls. One of these events is in Los Angeles this Saturday, so I’ll try to report from it.

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David Dayen

David Dayen