This is one of the deficit hawk?s favorite frames as they continue to rachet up their campaign to balance our federal books with cuts in Social Security. Their logic, expressed repeatedly at yesterday?s Presidential Fiscal Commission and again today at Pete Peterson?s fiscal extravaganza in Washington, goes something like this:

  • We (meaning you?definitely not Wall Street) must sacrifice
  • Only courageous politicians will tell you the truth (their truth being we must cut Social Security). Conversely,
  • If you don?t support this truth (cutting Social Security) you?re either not being honest, courageous, or willing to sacrifice for the good of our country.

Dan Froomkin has this summary of today?s Peterson event:

Simpson and Bowles, along with a slew of the other members of their commission, spoke at today’s “Deficit Fest”, a swanky, nearly day-long symposium on “fiscal responsibility” sponsored by billionaire investment banker and deficit hawk Peter G. Peterson’s eponymous foundation.The symposium’s core conviction is that “everybody” (as moderator Leslie Stahl put it) recognizes what needs to be done to cut the long-term deficit. But the only concrete areas of agreement seem to be that cuts in Social Security and Medicare must be a part of deficit reduction, while cuts in military spending are (as moderator Gwen Ifil put it) “never an option.”It’s a fundamentally banker-friendly agenda that glosses over the current unemployment crisis and puts the burden of balancing the budget most obviously on the poor, the sick and the elderly.

CEPR Co-Director, Dean Baker, busts several other deficit myths we?ve heard over and over again today: Deficits mean our children and grandchildren will face at a lower standard of living, Social Security is to blame for our deficits, and our debt to China is a threat:

1) Under any plausible set of projections, our children and grandchildren will enjoy far higher standards of living than we do today. On average, real hourly compensation is projected to rise by at least 1.2 percent a year. This means that workers in the year 2040 will enjoy compensation levels that on average are more than 40 percent higher than what workers receive today.2) The reason that the country is projected to face enormous deficits in the future is our broken health care system. We pay more than twice as much per person for our health care as people in Canada, Germany and other wealthy countries.3) The debt to China has nothing to do with the budget deficit and does not present the disastrous risks claimed by the deficit hawks. The United States borrows money from China because of the trade deficit. The budget deficit is beside the point.

Watching the proceedings today, it?s clear the Peterson/Presidential Commission connection can?t be overstated. Both Commission co-chairs and Commission members participated in today?s well-financed event and as, James Ridgeway reports, Peterson will also fund the Presidential Commission?s Town hall meetings:

In June, according to the Washington Post, Obama?s deficit commission will be participating in a 20-city electronic town hall meeting, put together by an organization called America Speaks. It is financed by Peterson, along with the MacArthur Foundation and Kellogg Foundation. This is a truly unusual event because it marks the first time a presidential commission?s activities are financed by a private group thathas long been lobbying the governmenton the very subjects the commission is supposed to ?study.?

In additon,Fiscal Commission?s Director, Bruce Reed, reported yesterday that one of thethree staffers at the Commission is ?on loan? from the Committee for a Responsible Budget, which is– you guessed it– yet another organization funded by Peter Peterson.On abrighter note today, one of the Commission?s strongest voices of reason, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) had the courage to rebut the Social Security fear-mongering in her appearance on CSPAN this morning: