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Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson Reach New Heights of Hypocrisy in "Fix the Debt" Ad

The Campaign to Fix the Debt, the $40 million dollar astroturf “supergroup” that CMD exposed on the cover of the Nation magazine, has shifted into high gear in an effort to leverage the debt ceiling crisis into cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Today, the group launched a six figure TV ad buy that reaches new heights of hypocrisy -- and that is saying a lot.

Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley board member Erskine Bowles have long been spokespersons for Fix the Debt. The "folksy" Simpson: "For cryin' out loud, Erskine, who isn't fed up with what's goin' on in Washington?" The Bowles tsk tsk: “These politicians are playing games jerking our country around from crisis to crisis.”

This is rich from a group that has been hyping a debt and deficit crisis since its launch in July 2012, even though the deficit has been cut in half in recent years. In January 2013 Fix the Debt steering committee member and former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen admitted that Fix the Debt's strategy was to create an "artificial crisis" to achieve a "grand bargain" on Medicare and Social Security.

Moreover, Fix the Debt was started with a $5 million donation from crisis king Pete Peterson. Peterson has been warning that our Social Security would create a “Pearl Harbor” type crisis for decades as my colleague Lisa Graves documented in her Nation piece “Peterson’s Long History of Deficit Scaremongering.”


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Bowles and Simpson have long been Peterson retainers. Peterson launched a massive effort to prop up the Simpson-Bowles commission and its $4 trillion austerity package, he bankrolled “America Speaks” town hall meetings, launched a TV ad campaign and bankrolled bus tours to the heartland to gin up a faint patina of grassroots support for austerity. 

For the Fix the Debt austerity hounds, cuts are the goal as their latest letter makes clear. Under their “chained CPI” proposal, over the next 25 years the average retired federal employee would lose $48,000; the average Social Security recipient would lose $23,000; and, the average military retiree would lose $42,000, says U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Make no mistake a Simpson-Bowles type plan would be disastrous for our economy, costing some 4 million jobs for starters says the Economic Policy Institute. 

Cartoonist Mark Fiore brilliantly skewers the phony Fix the Debt gang in his new video.

As the debt ceiling looms and the horse trading continues, you can follow the conversation on Twitter at #nocuts and learn more at

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy's Real Economy Project and editor of their site.

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