New York City
Ari Berman’s characterization of Pete Peterson as a proponent of austerity at all costs in “How the Austerity Class Rules Washington” [Nov. 7] is inaccurate and misleading. Peterson has stated many times that given the economic situation, we need a plan that stimulates short-term job creation while setting reasonable goals to reduce our long-term structural deficits.
In addition to recognizing the need to create jobs now, the foundation and Peterson have consistently stated that our fiscal challenges must be addressed in a compassionate way that maintains a strong safety net. One of the primary goals of the foundation is to ensure that Social Security and other key safety net programs are strong, solvent and secure for future generations—particularly for America’s most vulnerable populations.
While the article suggests that the Peterson Foundation funded the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, a more accurate and responsible description would have noted that the foundation was one of a diverse group of organizations (including progressives) that donated staff and expertise to the commission. The foundation did not provide monetary support to the commission.
The primary mission of the Peterson Foundation is to raise public awareness about debt and deficit issues, not to advocate specific solutions. We are pleased to have voices from across the political spectrum engage in this important conversation. That is why we are proud to provide grants to organizations with a broad range of opinions, including the Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute and the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network.
The foundation and Pete have publicly stated that given the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, no single solution can address these imbalances. All options, including tax increases, reductions in defense spending and a review of benefits for better-off Americans, must be part of a comprehensive reform plan. The foundation and Pete are dedicated to assisting with the development of a bipartisan consensus that puts the country on a more secure and sustainable fiscal path. If we fail to do so, we will put our safety net programs, our economic future and the future living standards of Americans at risk.
LORETTA UCELLI, vice president
Peter G. Peterson Foundation
There is nothing inaccurate in my article or in my portrayal of the Peterson Foundation. I wrote that Peterson-backed groups had staffed the Bowles-Simpson commission and organized town hall events on its behalf, underwriting what was purported to be an independent government entity. The November 11, 2010, Washington Post reported that “the salaries of two senior staffers, Marc Goldwein and Ed Lorenzen, are paid by private groups that have previously advocated cuts to entitlement programs. Lorenzen is paid by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, while Goldwein is paid by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is also partly funded by the Peterson group.” Furthermore, the Post noted that America Speaks, which has received nearly $2.4 million from the Peterson Foundation, organized a twenty-city electronic town hall meeting for the commission in June 2010. “This is a truly unusual event,” added Mother Jones, “because it marks the first time a presidential commission’s activities are financed by a private group that has long been lobbying the government on the very subjects the commission is supposed to ‘study.’”
The foundation did give $200,000 apiece to the Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute and the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network (with grants to the conservative Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute); but that money pales in comparison with the millions it has donated to center-right groups like the Concord Coalition and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.