Wednesday, December 5, 2012

BREAKING: Villaraigosa Defends Membership In "Fix the Debt" As Online Petition Calling On Him To Resign Reaches Over 8K Signatures

Tonight LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa defended his decision to join The Campaign to Fix the Debt even as an online petition demanding he resign from its steering committee reached over 8,000 signatures.

"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," Villaraigosa said in a statement to the LA Times. "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"

The Institute for Policy Studies has called Fix the Debt a 'Trojan Horse for massive corporate tax breaks'.  Scott Klinger, who wrote the IPS report critical of the lobby group said, "They're simply taking advantage of the so-called 'fiscal cliff' to push the same old agenda of more corporate tax breaks while shifting costs onto the poor and elderly."

Founded by deficit hawks Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson (co-chairs of Erksine/Bowles 2010 deficit-reduction commission) the Campaign to Fix the Debt claims to be a "bipartisan" interest group, yet touts the very Republican "core principles" of keeping tax rates low for the wealthy while slashing Social Security and Medicare.

Klinger's report paints a stark picture of what Villaraigosa has signed up to defend:
  • Make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the top 2%.
  • Cut corporate tax rates and shifting to a “territorial tax system” that would permanently exempt from U.S. taxes all offshore income earned by U.S. corporations.
  • “Reforming” earned-benefit programs by raising the retirement age and means-testing Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security benefits.
In only 24 hours, over 8,000 people have signed on to a petition begun by a former Villaraigosa campaign volunteer demanding he resign.

"As somebody who volunteered and knocked on doors to help elect for Mayor Villaraigosa, I feel disappointed and betrayed, " states Angela Garcia Combs in the petition. "As former chair of the Democratic National Convention, it is inappropriate that Villaraigosa use his position to help this corporate backed group gut Social Security and Medicare, which many of us will need someday."

The politically ambitious Villaraigosa is termed out of office in 2013, and has made noises he wants to run for Governor of California in 2014.

But by signing on as a progressive "beard" for corporate interests, he'll be on the wrong side of the "core principles" of another interest group. Namely the coalition of working Californians, public sector unions, and progressive organizations fighting for economic justice who've traditionally backed Villaraigosa.

The LA Weekly immediately picked up on Villaraigosa's hypocrisy when they ran with the story yesterday afternoon.
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."

Wait wait wait, go back. Lowers rates? Is this a deficit-cutting plan or a tax-cutting plan? Let's turn it over to Paul Krugman
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.

Perhaps he will if we all shout a bit louder.  Click on this link to sign the petition

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