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March 23, 2013 1:31 PM “Fix the Debt” wants to hear from you. So let them.

By Samuel Knight

“Fix The Debt” - the astroturf, defense contractor-linked lobbying group seizing upon the manufactured debt crisis to ram through a corporate agenda at the expense of everyone else - is asking Americans to share stories about how the national debt is affecting them.

No, really:

Why is it so important that we Fix the Debt? Why does it matter to your family? To your business? To our country? to YOU?
Our leaders in Washington need to hear from each of us. We need them to know that inaction is NOT an option. We must Fix the Debt.

You couldn’t make it up.

It’s likely that the majority of responses they are receiving are either full of: A) false generalizations about a “spending problem”; B) speculation about the future of Medicare and Social Security under the assumption that rich tax-dodgers can’t do any more or that the government shouldn’t negotiate with drug companies ripping it off; or C) good old incoherent right wing rambling.

American families aren’t feeling that “We must Fix the Debt” through the only way that government borrowing would affect them - higher real interest rates.

So why not send “Fix the Debt” stories about how influential right wing oligarchs pressuring Congress into “Fixing the Debt” is affecting American families? Tell them stories about layoffs and the misery sequestration has wrought. Tell them how you’re worried that Congress’ refusal to raise taxes on those that can afford it is bankrupting American society. Feel free to bombard them with messages. Email me or post what you had to say to them in the comments section, and I’ll publish the best examples of how “Fixing the Debt” has affected you.

Here’s what I sent them:

Please stop your vapid campaign. Obviously your corporate donors can afford to pay more taxes if they can afford this astroturf nonsense. You want to know how the debt is affecting me? Through your selfish, greedy, parasitic efforts to “Fix” it. Just pay for a society that has allowed you to flourish. I know people in academia who have been told that federal grants for their rather important research has been cut off thanks to your right-wing subterfuge. That’s how it’s affecting me. People around me losing their funding so rent-seekers can continue to pay low rates on their unearned investment income. What you’re doing is essentially preventing us from investing in our future. Stop pretending like there’s a debt crisis to ram your libertarian agenda through Washington by threatening to primary Republican Congressman corrupt enough to push your snake oil. Enough.

Have fun.

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.

Comments

  • rover27 on March 23, 2013 2:59 PM:

    Couldn't have said it better.

  • Neildsmith on March 23, 2013 3:04 PM:

    There is all that money wasted on endless war... That was my suggestion. Stop the war and cut off the veterans who murdered in our name. Shame on them!

  • c u n d gulag on March 23, 2013 3:45 PM:

    Samuel,
    Thanks for the link.
    Here was the massive word-turd I just dumped on them:

    My title was, "Our National Woe."

    Dear "Fix the Debt,"
    Ok, I will.

    But first, let me tell you that I'm 55, and after working consistently since I was 14 (part-time, back then), I've been unemployed for almost 3 years - never having been unemployed for longer than a month in the previous 40 years.
    I'm over-50, and a college graduate, so what you folks are saying is very important to me.

    So, how does the debt you're talking about effect me?
    Well, it effects me because people like you folks, at your corporate-funded, astroturf, "Fix the Debt" organization, who can afford to pay a hell of a lot more in taxes, aren't .
    But are, instead, spending your excess wealth paying off Congresspeople and Senators to not have a large enough stimulus, or a number of them, to fix unemployent, which will do more to "FIX any debt' we have than cutting EARNED BENEFITS (aka: "entitlements, as you sociopaths call them) ever will - while at the same time, you folks are spending your excess wealth working to bamboozle the American public about the debt, which is not, repeat, NOT, life, or future, threatening.

    We had a much larger debt load before, during, and after WWII - and during, and after, the Korean War.
    But still, despite that high debt, somehow or other we were able to win a war on two fronts, get involved in Korea, and at the same time, build highways, airports, and assorted other much-needed "public works" projects.
    THAT is what we need NOW!
    NOT "AUSTERTY!!!"
    SPENDING!!!!!

    We don't need you folks squawking about some negligible debt problem, which you have made a mountain out of, what is, essentially, not even an anthill - just a few grains of sand clumped together.

    Hmm...
    How was all of that building-up of the infrastucture of this country done in the middle part of the last century?
    HIGH TAXES!
    Whodathunkit!!!

    But, of course, that is what you sociopathic folks at "Fix the Debt" are doing everything you can to avoid - an increast in YOUR taxes.

    "Fix the Debt" is the best evidence I've seen yet for why we need to go back to, if not to Ike-like tax levels on upper income, certainly at least pre-Reagan levels.

    This way, you sociopaths can spend the excess wealth you'll still have on finding good Tax Attorneys and CPA's, to try to find loopholes, and not trying to screw the working people in this country.

    You people are parasites (with apologies to actual parasites - many of which do more good, than bad).
    Sociopathic parasites.

    Most of all y'all weren't screaming about the debt while Reagan/Bush I, and then W, were adding to it.
    What did we hear then?
    *Crickets*

    Where were you folks in the last few decades, when our Congress, in its infinite NOT-wisdom, decided to deregulate financial institutions, to the point where the economy of the whole world damn nearly imploded/exploded?
    *Crickets*

    Where were you folks while W was pissing away what Bill Clinton had left him, and the country?
    *Crickets*

    Where were you folks when Bush decided to cut taxes during a time of "War" (and occupation) - something not even Kings and Queens, even after many generations of inbreeding, ever thought was anywhere near a good idea?
    *Crickets*

    Where were you folks when Bush decided not to pay for those wars with tax increases?
    *Crickets*

    Where were folks when Bush decided to give his monsterous gift to Big Pharma?
    *Crickets*

    Where were you folks, while that debt you're screaming about at the top of your lungs, was accumulating?

    Making monsterous profits - that's where.

    And now, you sociopaths want the old, the sick, the poor, the disabled, and other disadvantaged people to pay the debt that you were

  • Anonymous on March 23, 2013 3:56 PM:

    Ooops!
    Really, really, long word-turd!

    Here's the rest, if anyone's interested.

    ...completely silent about?

    But the "debt," which not only didn't any of you bitch and whine, or scream, about, as it was accumulating - but were, in fact, making profits off of them - isn't what you folks are really interested in, is it?

    There are many of us out here who know that folks like you have been trying hard for almost 50 years to ruin the middle class, and find reasons to put this country so deep in debt, that you can justify cutting EARNED BENEFITS (aka: "entitlements, as you sociopaths call them), and skim off the leftovers.
    Or, more likely, steal them outright.

    As I said earlier, you rich sociopaths need to be taxed at a much, much higher level.
    Never have so few, with so much, been asked for less.

    And still, you want more.

    91% seems like a more than fair rate, on top income - especially after the tax breaks you sociopaths have had for the last 30 to 40+ years. Which, not coincidentally, has been how long this country has been in decline - THANKS TO YOU RICH SOCIOPATHS!

    Think of the alternative to higher taxes.
    Some of us may start to cease idolizing our great American Revolution, and start to think that maybe the French had the much better idea.

    As President Obama said to Mitt Romney at a debate, "Please proceed, 'Fix the Debt.'
    At your own peril, "please proceed," you sociopaths.
    "Please proceed..."

  • elisabeth on March 23, 2013 4:28 PM:

    Here's what I sent (and the captcha was easy):

    I want the US legislature -- and individual state legislatures -- to increase taxes on the rich -- that may even include me, since we have an income larger than the US average. There IS enough money to do what we need to do in the US -- without cutting funding to important programs. We DON'T need to cut spending, we need to increase revenues, and among the ways to do that is to end sweetheart tax deals for businesses and raise the taxes paid by "the rich."

  • Rick Massimo on March 23, 2013 4:35 PM:

    Mine:

    Well, since you've utterly failed to convince the actual American public of the need for your fake, tax-dodging, society-destroying campaign and are soliciting "real" stories in the hopes that you can get some Real Americans to mouth the lies you've been spewing for the past year, I figured I'd let you know you're not fooling me.

    You are all CEOs, mostly of companies with billions of dollars of defense contracts. Not one of you has suggested that you yourselves should pay anything approaching the tax rates your crowd paid while the American economy was becoming the strongest in world history, with a standard of living envied the world over.

    That's the only way we're going to fix this problem (if it even needs to be fixed, and there's a pretty good debate going on about that). But you don't really care about that. All you care about is lowering your own taxes and destroying Social Security and Medicare to do it. You are the intellectual (I use the term very loosely) descendents of the people who tried to stand in the way of the very progress the country made in the 20th century.

    Your taxes have been cut in half over the past 30 years, and the government is out of money. Pretty simple solution - which is why your group smears lies in the hope of obscuring that.

    You've got enough money to fill the airwaves and fool a lot of people, particularly those in the bought-and-paid-for media. But you're not fooling the real American public, particularly not me.

  • bos'n on March 23, 2013 4:45 PM:

    Kudos to all above.

  • T-Rex on March 23, 2013 6:31 PM:

    I'm a little late to this party, but I was happy to favor them with the following rant, entitled "Destroy public education so that billionaires can have tax cuts:

    "I'm a professor at a state university, a type of institution that was a uniquely American idea -- that deserving students had a right to a good education regardless of income level. Well, "state" universities are "state" in name only these days, because states pinched by federal cutbacks have slashed funds to them, gleefully abetted by Republican governors and legislators who are convinced that universities are hotbeds of radical indoctrination and other such subversive ideas such as climatology and evolutionary biology. So, we have been forced to raise tuitions, which in turn has caused serious financial pain and debt to our students.

    The standard response from the state capital to this has been to threaten to cut our funding still further if tuitions rise too high, while demanding more and more "assessment" and other paperwork from us to prove, I suppose, "is our children learning?" -- something that universities have always assessed, using a quaint old fashioned concept called exams, assignments, and grades.

    So, how is the debt affecting me? Because it provides the likes of Governor Snyder with an excuse to do what he wanted to do anyway, namely, gut public education. If you go on encouraging conservative politicians with your astroturf organization, you may succeed in making American students totally unable to compete in the global economy because you've destroyed one of the nation's greatest strengths, its education system.

  • biggerbox on March 23, 2013 7:31 PM:

    The Debt affects me by acting like an acid, eating away at the body politic of the land I love. Politicians, many of them the same men who threw away the Clinton surplus on foolish tax cuts and a pointless war of agression, use "the Debt" as an excuse to promote their attacks on our social safety net, and to defeat spending on the vital infrastructure improvements we need. Meanwhile, millions of hard-working men and women see an unfair tax system that allows wealthy oligarchs to prosper, while they must fight for every dime, an injustice that destroys their faith in a government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

    It is clear we must fix the Debt. That is why I am strongly in favor of immediate and massive cuts to the spending on the Department of Defense, and an increase in top income tax brackets. A short-term luxury tax should also be considered, to retire the debt. I think we must institute a financial transactions tax that would restrain the ongoing computer-based trading that has made our financial markets so vulnerable. We should institute some form of carbon tax, both to raise revenue and more importantly, to address climate change.

    What must absolutely NOT be done is to "fix the Debt" by further punishing those who have suffered the most in our economy over the last decades. We should be increasing Social Security benefits, not cutting them, and moving to a more financially efficient single-payer health care system.

    To fix the Debt, we should follow Willie Sutton's principle, and go where the money is. Tax the rich, cut defense spending, boost the economy with massive government spending based on short-term borrowing.

  • david1234 on March 23, 2013 8:34 PM:

    I would suggest to "Fix the Debt" an Iraq war tax to pay for cost of the Iraq war. It was paid for by borrowing. It seems to me that anyone who is serious about the debt would demand that we not pass the costs of wars down to our children.

  • RaflW on March 23, 2013 8:35 PM:

    Admittedly I didn't spend much time writing this, as it's all just a crap campaign by these wankers. But here's my little screed:

    "In the fullness of time"
    Fixing the debt matters to me because far too many conservatives and Republicans have been demagoguing the debt for the past five years or so. Ohh, how these self-same conservatives have forgotten Karl Rove's chant that "Deficits don't matter," and more to the point, our former VP, Dick Cheney said "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

    Except now they magically do matter, when a Democrat is President and when 10s of millions of working-age Americans can't find a job.

    We're now told, by orgs like Fix the Debt, that we cannot tax the so-called job creators and that average Americans must tighten their belts while the caviar class continues to outrace and outgrow the middle class.

    The Debt matters in the short term only inasmuch as a propaganda tool to dismantle the great policy advances of the 20th century, the ones that built stability and general prosperity for the lower and middle classes.

    The Debt is a boogeyman that is far too convenient for major corporate CEOs to get what they want: low taxes on the rich for as long as possible, and to heck with everyone who ever worked for them or bought one of their products.

    So, the Debt matters to me, ohhh, in about 20 years. Sure, we need to address the debt - by growing working and middle class employment and wages, not fat-cat bottom-lines.

    I'm totally over this Fix the Debt nonsense. Now, will you have the cojones to publish this? I hope so.

  • Yastreblyansky on March 23, 2013 11:43 PM:

    Everybody's looking great! Here's from me:

    How does the debt affect me?

    Not all that much, to tell you the truth. If the debt was driving up inflation rates the way it's supposed to do that would be nice, as like most Americans I owe plenty of money and nobody owes me. But then it would be driving up interest rates and that wouldn't be so great; on the other hand maybe the bank would be less dawdly about our refinance, which is seemingly taking forever and driving us crazy. The Bush debt, being created out of deficits for lowering rich people's taxes and paying for illegal and pointless wars, just made me really angry; I can't say it affected me except by being so large that when it became really important to run deficits our congress was afraid to run them big enough: that debt, the Obama debt, was at least pointed in a useful investment direction and I guess its existence helps keep my urban hellhole clean and safe and my kid's schools staffed and so on. Things ar getting better for me personally as the economy recovers; health insurance premiums are a way bigger problem than taxes, and I wouldn't mind paying higher taxes, but not just on deficit and debt reduction. Government spending is clearly not large enough, as you can see by the absence of inflation.

    I imagine most people who believe they are affected by the size of the national debt are victims of propaganda from the Peterson Institute and such. Goodhearted but poorly informed, older, feeling that the country is in some vague way going the "wrong direction", that young people are disrespectful and certain products are too expensive. They know that credit card debt is a problem, so why shouldn't government debt be a problem too?

    The only time the debt is a problem, to my mind, is when interest rates rise to a point where the government's payments interfere with its ability to pay for important things, which is very far from being the case right now. (Government is totally neglecting important things, but not to make interest payments; it's for stupid military aircraft and stupid deficit reduction and buying off drug companies.) This is going to happen some day, and at that point we will need to reduce the deficit, but it will be a lot easier if we are in a real recovery, with full employment and rising wages. The focus on the debt now is one of the main things stopping us from getting there.

    When I look at the Fix the Debt "Who we are" page, I see faces--virtually all of middle-aged and elderly white men--that have never known financial worry or insecurity, that have progressed without a hitch through college and career, that will never be dependent on Social Security or Medicaid. Professional politicians, heirs of industrialists, a few very successful academics. I see people who have never missed a meal, let alone a credit card payment, and who don't quite understand how somebody can get into a predicament where that's a problem, people with cash savings and portfolios and jewelry and comfortable relatives. And I kind of wonder where that horror of national debt comes from. What I figure is, it's fake--an act meant to attract a lot of sensible older voters, along with the famous "just like you balance your budget at the family dinner table" analogy. What these people really want is to keep bond yields at rock bottom until they're dead.

  • idahogie on March 24, 2013 2:39 AM:

    The debt matters to me because ... because ... geeze, I don't know. It doesn't really matter at all.

    However, there is a huge astroturf movement that is attempting to convince very gullible people that debt is so dangerous (starting in 2009, naturally) that we need to gut programs that actually help people and improve the economy.

    That, of course, is ignorant nonsense that only works on teabaggers and libertarians.

    So the debt matters because dishonest hucksters are using it to gut America and enrich their wealthy backers. That's why it's important.

  • Jack Gibson on March 24, 2013 8:55 AM:

    I sent this:

    Fixation on the Debt

    The debate over the debt is important because it serves to distract from real issues. Income inequality, global warming, lack of gun control, and expensive health care are issues which affect most Americans, including me and my family. But these real issues are ignored because of your "Fixation on the Debt".

  • LaFollette Progressive on March 24, 2013 10:26 AM:

    --According to The Public Accountability Initiative, the group Fix The Debt - which advocates for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cuts while pushing corporate tax reform - has 38 leaders with "ties to 43 companies with defense contracts totaling $42.3 billion in 2012."--

    While the national debt is a growing long-term problem, it does not yet directly affect me or my family in any meaningful way. Inflation is below the historical average, bond yields are near record lows, and I am aware of no evidence at all that the national debt is harming the economy or the overall well-being of the nation at present.

    Except in one very important way: it has become a marketing gimmick for the people who are robbing this country blind -- namely, you -- to advocate for policies that hurt everyone else at your expense.

    There's no secret as to why our budget is out of balance. Tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, prior to this January, were at the lowest level since World War 2. We spend more on defense than the next ten largest countries combined, most of which are our allies anyway. And health care prices have been skyrocketing because we spend twice as much per person as any other developed country -- all of which except us have a meaningful universal health care system and negotiate with providers for lower prices.

    That's where groups like "Fix the Debt" come in -- the heads of large corporations who pay virtually no taxes, rip off the government on wasteful defense contracts that are perpetually late and over-budget, and rip off Americans with the highest drug prices in the world. Instead of voluntarily paying more in taxes to do your patriotic share to fix the problem you yourselves created, you spend millions and millions of dollars creating a phony "grassroots" campaign to make sure that the budget is balanced by cutting programs that benefit the poor and middle class, while preserving your own gravy train.

    Scum. The only word to describe you is scum.

  • tobie on March 24, 2013 10:37 AM:

    Okay, inspired by all of you I sent in the following comment (Thanks, Samuel, for starting this action!):

    How does the debt matter to me, my family, my business or the US? Well, frankly, not one iota. What does matter are the efforts of groups like "Fix the Debt" to use the Debt as a pretext for gutting social programs. It doesn't take a genius to realize that the best way to "fix the debt" is to stimulate growth. Get people back to work, create the conditions necessary for enterprises to thrive (e.g., state-of-the-art infrastructure, a healthy and educated work force, a national pension fund that encourages workers to retire at 65, so young people can enter the work force, etc.) and the national debt will all but disappear OVER TIME. What doesn't work to fix the debt is cutting spending. One need only look at what's happened in the UK, Spain, Ireland or Japan to know that austerity doesn't work. It's a funny thing but the more you cut, the more the debt grows, because your economy shrinks and people lose their jobs, which means less revenue for the government.

    Let's stop it with this paranoid fixation on the Debt and turn our attention instead to how to get people back to work. Oh, and if you want some goodwill gestures for reducing the debt in the present, you could think about: (1) allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry to lower costs; (2) revising the tax code so companies have more of an incentive to reinvest profits in their companies (e.g., new equipment, new hires, pay raises, and yes pension plans) than to pay out qualified dividends to shareholders, taxed at a meager 15%; (3) ending all subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies (they're enjoying record profits in any event); and (4) reducing the budget of the Department of Defense by, say, 5%. (The procurement process in the DoD would be a good place to start, if you want to locate waste, fraud, and abuse.)

  • Derek Todd on March 24, 2013 4:08 PM:

    Dear fix the debt
    For my grandchildren
    In 2008 the world economy was thrown into a crisis from which it is has not really emerged. Of course this affected my family in many ways. What has this got to do with the debt? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What it does have to do with is the greed and sociopathic lies of organizations like yours. The jig is up gents. We see through your astro turf BS. There are any number of threats to the future of my grand children. There is the out of control power of the oligarchs who fund fix the debt. There is a climate crisis that these very same oligarchs are lying about everyday. There is always the threat that “Fix the Debt” will morph into a campaign to get into a new war. Amazing how soon the need to “fix the debt” disappears when there is another opportunity to go to war. Most fundamentally there is a profound threat to democracy posed by the class warfare being waged by the rich. "Fix the Debt" is part of that threat.

  • Susan Goldman on March 24, 2013 5:23 PM:

    1. 22% across the board pay raises per Elizabeth Warren's figures. Everyone will pay higher taxes.
    2. Tax fairness, everyone pay the same 30% business tax rates, no exception for hedge fund managers and interest payment. No loop holes for any one.
    3. scrap Medicare cap
    4. transaction tax 0.04/100 per transaction.
    5. eliminate student debt via Rolling Jubilee funding.

  • pete on March 24, 2013 9:28 PM:

    My "story" was titled "Fix the Unemployment" and went:

    It really is not important in the short term that we "fix the debt" — and it is very important that we (a) reduce unemployment; (b) raise wages for lowest paid, including but not limited to those on minimum wage; (c) increase Social Security payments; (d) improve the nation's Gini coefficient; (e) restore upper-bracket tax rates to at least 1990s levels, and preferably 1960s; (f) ensure that capital gains are taxed at income levels; and (g) — last but not least — restore effective, transparent limits on both campaign contributions and lobbying.

    That's my perspective. If you disagree, I believe you are in the minority.

  • RuthAlice on March 25, 2013 5:55 AM:

    This is what I told them:

    The effects of the debt has been catastrophic because the fixation on it by policymakers has prevented them from doing the necessary investment to turn the economy around. Anyone with common sense knows that when private investment contracts, public investment must expand to keep people working. Unfortunately, because of debt fearmongers, that did not happen in this recession and we have had far too many people out of work for 5 years now.

    What that has done is increased economic inequality and made the people who invest and pay for astroturf organizations like this even further disconnected from the majority of Americans. They don't experience the fear and anxiety of joblessness, food insecurity of living paycheck to paycheck. So they blithely fund organizations dedicated to enriching them even more at the expense of most Americans and think we are too stupid to notice.

  • bdop4 on March 25, 2013 2:23 PM:

    I'm late to the party, but I submitted the following under "Misallocation of Resources":

    The only way to truly "fix the debt" is to first "fix the economy" and put people back to work.

    To that end, the primary impact from the "fix the debt" crowd is to misallocate resources using bogus austerity measures such as sequestration, which is hurting the economy by firing/furloughing people working for the government.

    The debt will never be "fixed" through austerity. We must reallocate every wasteful dollar and yes, borrow (at record low rates) if need be, to INVEST in country by fixing our infrastructure, retrainijng our labor force, and developing new technologies/industries that will bring the U.S back into prominence.

  • TooManyJens on March 26, 2013 11:50 AM:

    Here's my story, called "Phony concern about debt is used as excuse to shirk our obligation to build a strong nation."

    The debt matters to me because I don't want to live in a country that has deteriorating infrastructure, substandard education for poor kids, high unemployment and underemployment, and a shredded safety net. The debt is the current excuse for not making the investments we need to have a country that works for people other than the richest 1%. Funny how debt didn't matter when the previous administration was starting expensive wars while cutting taxes.

    We need to raise more revenue from the people to whom wealth has been (upwardly) redistributed over the last 30 years, and invest in jobs, education, and infrastructure.