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Pete Peterson And the New America Foundation

Matt Bai

Matt Bai (photo: MNicoleM via flickr)

When I wrote this piece, I just guessed that Matt Bai was relying on garbage from the Catfood Commission or its tools in his meretricious reporting on Social Security. Reader TomThumb checked for himself and found out that a) Bai was relying on information from the New America Foundation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, b) that the CRFB is a partner of the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, and c) the PPCBR is a tool of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. He also thinks that maybe we shouldn’t describe the New America Foundation as “left-leaning”.

Now one might be forgiven for thinking that Bai was just making it up when he described the New America Foundation as his source, and that he called it non-partisan, a group that just wants “to present the situation for what it is.” People who pay attention know that Peter Peterson has been trying to gut Social Security for years. He gave a billion dollars to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which didn’t dent the vast fortune he got in the finance business. Now he uses that foundation to fund his obsession with destroying Social Security.

The New America Foundation thanked Peterson’s foundation for its gift of between $250,000 and $999,999 in 2009. Another of his pet projects is the CRFB, which created a budget adjustment game in which the goal is specious and the choices so limited as to be pointless. It is funded in part with money from Peterson’s foundation. It is housed at the New America Foundation, which lists it as a related tax-exempt organization on its Form 990.

This is the way ideologues like Peterson operate. They give money to foundations with respectable reputations and the foundations provide a non-partisan veneer to their little obsessions.

As to the claim that the New America Foundation is left-leaning, here are the directors:

Liaquat Ahamed: investment manager
David Bradley: owner of Atlantic Media Company, member Trilateral Commission, Council of Foreign Relations
James Fallows: writer
Roger Ferguson: chair TIAA-CREF, former vice-chair of the Fed
Francis Fukuyama: Professor at Johns Hopkins, writer of The End of History
Atul Gawande: doctor and writer
William Gerrity: real estate
Ted Halstead: founder and author of The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics
Noosheen Hashemi: philanthropist, formerly officer of Oracle
Rita Hauser: lawyer with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Chair of The International Peace Institute
Laurene Powell Jobs: heads social reform group
Zachary Karabell: investment management and economic research
Jeffrey Leonard: Global Environment Fund, a private equity firm
Kati Marton: reporter, human rights advocate
Walter Russell Mead: Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations
Richard Medley: investment fund manager
Lenny Mendonca: Director in McKinsey & Company
Eric Schmidt: CEO Google
Bernard L. Schwartz: private investment firm, formerly CEO of Loral Space & Communications
Laura D’Andrea Tyson: Dean Business School at Berkeley, former economics advisor to Clinton
Daniel Yergin: Chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates
Fareed Zakaria: Editor-at-large, Time Magazine.

The CEO is Steven Coll, formerly with the Washington Post, and a writer for the New Yorker. Left-leaning? The public figures are a conventional consensus group of the usual suspects from within the Beltway. Then there are some wealthy people and one or two academics. It isn’t just new economists Bai needs to meet. He needs to meet some real left-leaning people. There are quite a few of us, but we don’t get paid by Peter Peterson or his foundation.

(photo: Matt Bai by MNicoleM via flickr)

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I read a lot of books.