Update below: Online petition calls for mayor to resign from Fix the Debt. Villaraigosa responds.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has joined the Committee to Fix the Debt
, thus completing his transformation from firebrand Chicano organizer to servant of the plutocracy.
Fix the Debt wants lawmakers to address the federal deficit by cutting Social Security and Medicare and by enacting "pro-growth tax reform." The group's leadership council is a roll call
of the nation's corporate elite, including the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, JPMorganChase, GE and Bank of America. One of its two "corporate members" is Wal-Mart.
Villaraigosa, a onetime labor activist and ACLU leader, has cast his lot with that crowd as his mayoral term draws to a close.
He becomes the first currently serving Democratic elected official to sign on with Fix the Debt. His participation boosts the group's bipartisan cred and Latino outreach, while giving Villaraigosa a bigger profile among the 1 percenters. So it works out for everybody.
Villaraigosa has actually been doing this Bloombergian dance for a while, proclaiming himself
a member of the
"If we're serious about long-term economic growth, we need a balanced approach for reducing the federal debt," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "That approach should include spending cuts, raising revenue and reforms that put our entitlement programs on a sustainable footing."
Set aside for the moment the balls required for Villaraigosa to pretend to be a deficit hawk. His handling of L.A.'s municipal finances is a matter of record
Let's instead look more closely at the "balanced approach" advocated by Fix the Debt, especially its "pro-growth" tax reform ideas. What counts as "pro-growth"
? Well, any reform that "broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues, and reduces the deficit."
That last part makes no sense in terms of the group's ostensible mission, but makes perfect sense if you look at the array of big corporations, from Goldman Sachs to the UnitedHealth Group, that are involved in the effort and would benefit from tax cuts. Hey, sacrifice is for the little people.
In the same vein, Matt Yglesias argues at Slate
that Fix the Debt is not really that concerned about fixing the debt: "What they believe in, instead, is the overwhelming importance of rate-cutting tax reform and reduced spending on retirement programs."
You'd think that Antonio Villaraigosa, an ostensible liberal, would want to pay attention to those voices. Evidently not.
Update, 2 p.m. Wednesday:
More than 5,000 people have signed an online petition
calling on Villaraigosa to "immediately resign from the organization."
Angela Garcia Combs, a MoveOn member, sent the petition this morning to L.A. MoveOn members. In her email, she says she volunteered and knocked on doors for Villaraigosa. Now, she says, "I feel disappointed and betrayed":
"Fix the Debt's plan includes major cuts to Social Security and Medicare while cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires. This approach is not balanced and it is unfair to people like me. Expecting us to give up essential portions of our social safety net to give the wealthiest more tax breaks is wrong."
Update 2, 7 p.m.: Villaraigosa responds to the critics:
As a progressive Democrat, I joined the Campaign to Fix the Debt because Democrats and Republicans need to come together to find a balanced approach to our fiscal future.
We need job-creating investments in our nation's infrastructure.
We need to ensure a safe and secure retirement for all Americans.
We need to preserve the social safety net for the most vulnerable.
We need to demand that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.
That's why I join President Obama in advocating a balanced approach that includes spending cuts and letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the top two percent of Americans.
But I also believe that there are tough decisions ahead and the only way that we are going to find long-term solutions is by stepping out of our ideological boxes and reaching out to a broader coalition to get something done.
Translation: Let's turn over our nation's fiscal policy to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. What could go wrong?
First posted 3:47 p.m. Tuesday.