We took on a Wall Street Front Group...and we WON!

Together we took on Fix the Debt and we won.

Since December, reports have been trickling in that Fix the Debt – Pete Peterson’s Wall Street-backed group – is scaling down and shedding staff after failing to achieve their toxic goals.[1]

Last week, news broke that the group’s fake millennial outreach wing, “The Can Kicks Back” may run out of money and kick the bucket by April.[2]

Yes, you read that right. An astroturf group for the same scolds who’ve been telling politicians we had better cut grandma’s social security check to pay for more corporate tax giveaways are apparently facing their own budget crisis.

Fix the Debt failed because Americans aren’t interested in cutting Social Security to offset more tax handouts to big corporations.

What if Fix the Debt had gotten what it wanted? Fix the Debt’s Wall Street backers would be poised rake in at least $173 billion in corporate tax handouts. We’d see a chained CPI system that would have reduced Social Security benefits by 3% every ten years. The retirement age would be higher and Medicare could have seen more than $400 billion in cuts.

But we countered corporate power with people power from around the county – and it’s working.

From policy and research groups in Washington to journalists in New York and farmers in Iowa, we’ve turned the spotlight away from phony deficit crises toward rising inequality and corporate tax dodging.

Check out some of actions that made this moment possible:

November 2012 

– The Institute for Policy Studies argues that Fix the Debt’s proposed “territorial tax system” is a Trojan Horse for billions of dollars worth of corporate tax cuts.– Public Campaign reports on “How ‘Fix the Debt’ Companies Buy Washington Influence & Rig the Game.”

December 2012

– Grassroots leaders crash a Fix the Debt “town hall meeting” and confront elected leaders who support cuts to Social Security.

February 2013

 – The Center for Media & Democracy partners with The Nation to create a Fix the Debt Wiki that exposes Peterson, intensive lobbying, and fake state chapters.
– Activists protest a Fix the Debt lobbying junket on Capitol Hill with a 20-foot-tall inflatable pig in tow.

March & April 2013

– The Campaign for Community Change teams up with grassroots groups in Iowa and Michigan to organize the resignation of Fix the Debt state chapter co-chairs along with other chapter members in New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington.

August 2013

– National People’s Action’s “Summer of the C.E.O. (Corporate Evil Outing)” launches with demonstrations in 15 states like Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and New York, where leaders target Fix the Debt tax dodgers like Verizon and General Electric and call on Congress to stand with us not them.

October 2013

– Alex Lawson, of Social Security Works, crashes a Can Kicks Back press conference dressed as a pirate to protest the offshoring of “corporate booty.”

December 2013

– With the political momentum behind a “Grand Bargain” winding down, Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan unveil an austerity-lite budget that doesn’t cut a dime from Social Security and Medicare.

February 2014

– The House and Senate pass a clean debt ceiling bill to enable the Federal Government to pay its bills through March 2015.
– President Obama eliminates proposed cuts to Social Security from his budget proposal.

READ MORE in The Nation Magazine about the movement we built together.

We still have many battles ahead of us. Peterson and his Wall Street buddies aren’t likely to let their “zombie ideas” stay dead for long.[3] The push for corporate tax breaks, the assault on earned benefits, and the demand that we gut the programs that matter most aren’t going to end anytime soon.

Let’s continue building a movement to make sure the economy works for everyone, not just Wall Street CEOs.


More press:

“One of the seemingly countless number of Grand Bargain advocacy groups funded in part by billionaire Pete Peterson is experiencing a problem the United States never will: running out of money.”[4] – Salon

Fix the Debt, the $43 million advocacy group that staged press conference after stunt after press conference to “seize the moment” on entitlement reform, is winding down and shedding staff.”[5] – Slate

“[The Can Kicks Back] has always been an astroturf operation, and a clumsy one at that, doing things like hiring dancers to stage fake flash mobs and placing identical ghostwritten articles in college newspapers. Now, The Can Kicks Back’s campaign against debt is running into trouble, because it’s, um, running out of money.”[6]


[1] “The Era of Big Deficit Concern is Over.” Alex Seitz-Wald, The National Journal, February 20, 2014.
[2] “Pete Peterson-aligned anti-debt group The Can Kicks Back is going broke.” Elias Isquith, Salon.com, February 13, 2014.
[3] Maya MacGuineas, a key leader with group, said Fix the Debt is “morphing into a sort of longer-term coalition and changing our structure to reflect the fact that this is going to be a long game.”  (See Footnote [1].) The austerity movement may be taking some hits, but the groundwork is being laid for the next stage in this fight.
[4] See footnote [2].
[5] “Good Riddance, Grand Bargain: How the Democrats routed the GOP on spending and stopped the raid on entitlements.” David Weigel, Slate.com, December 11, 2013.
[6] “Faking It.” Paul Krugman, New York Times Blogs, April 13, 2014.