Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tireless advocate for rich white men, dead at 91

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

After we're gone, we're remembered for the cause for which we dedicated our life.  That's why the first graf of Alan Dershowitz's obituary will recount his unrelenting advocacy of O.J. Simpson and torture.  George W. Bush's obituary lede will recall a war that has consumed hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars for no discernible purpose.

But we're not writing their obituaries today.  Today's passenger on the ferry crossing the Styx is one Pete Peterson, taken from us at the ripe age of 91.  He too will be remembered for his life's work: protecting the rich.  Did we mention that he was rich?  Funny coincidence.

He started out as a run-of-the-mill corporate CEO at the company once renowned for supplying loot to quiz shows (Bell & Howell) and from there served a term in the Nixon Administration without being convicted of any felonies.  The ability to run with thieves without being caught naturally brought him to the attention of Wall Street.

There he co-founded one of today's titans of financial finagling – Blackstone Group – which buys, sells, leverages, and destroys companies on behalf of institutional investors while creaming off the first inch or so of pelf for its principals.  Peterson eventually cashed out of Blackstone with billions of cash and stock.

Lest you think he was consumed by greed – well, in fact he was.  While other billionaires devoted some of their jack to good causes like universities, curing diseases, or The Washington Post, Peterson lavished a billion dollars on a foundation devoted to making sure that government did not try to ease the plight of the poor by taxing the rich.

Or as The New York Times more elegantly put it (by using the stiff's own self-serving words), his foundation sought “to raise public consciousness about long-term “politically untouchable” national challenges involving entitlements, foreign borrowing, health care costs, national savings, education, energy and nuclear proliferation.”

Let's stop there for just one second.  His foundation, humbly named after himself, was a tax-exempt entity.  Donations to it were deductible from what the donor would otherwise have to pay to the U.S. Government for all the good things it does.  If he donated $1,000,000,000 to this Foundation in 2007, that means, let me see here, that he reduced his tax bill that year (or future years if needed) by $396,000,000.  Now getting a tax cut of $396 million is no different from the Government spending $396 million.

So let's thank the American people who kicked in $396,000,000 to spread the word about how spending money on taking care of the poor and unfortunate was bad for the country, by which Pete Peterson meant bad for him and his fellow finagling plutocrats.

As the years went on, Pete's Foundation would weigh in on efforts to cut spending on fripperies like Social Security (which keeps old people out of poverty).  Somehow, that same concern about the crushing effect of deficits and debt never carried over to concern about tax cuts for the rich, like those just enacted by the Grifter-in-Chief and his Republican co-conspirators.

On Wall Street, Pete Peterson had a voracious
appetite for deals
Why is that?  If your great concern is the supposedly unsustainable debt burden we are bequeathing to those young people not mowed down in third-period Algebra II, why wouldn't you be just as concerned about revenues as spending?  Sadly Pete Peterson is no longer around to explain this to us.

The only clue he left was this faux-humble confession to the Times: ““I’ve always been involved with causes of various kinds,” Mr. Peterson said in the 2007 Times interview, “kind of a closet, second-rate intellectual, I guess you’d say. . . .”  We'd say he was being much too kind, notwithstanding the praise lavished on him by former Ayn Rand boy toy and clueless ideologue Alan Greenspan.

For a while there were actually schmucks who fell for his granny-starving program. As late as the Obama Administration, supposedly “centrist” Democrats were touting the benefits of a grand compromise through which Social Security benefits would be cut and Republicans in turn would agree not to shut down the U.S. Government forever.

Since then, though, Democrats have realized that immiserating the old will do nothing to appease the Republican lust to dismantle the social welfare system in the United States and therefore they are better off politically and morally opposing any such cuts and daring Republicans to enact them while they still have Congressional majorities.  Despite Peterson's persuasive money [Surely, efforts? – Ed.], that hasn't happened yet.

Indeed it may be fair to say that the “centrist” program of tormenting the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich is as dead as Pete Peterson.

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