|Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images|
The last time Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made national headlines he looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi as the Democratic National Convention he chaired descended into chaos.
This time he's making national headlines for joining the steering committee of "Fix the Debt", a high-profile lobbying group whose "core principles" include keeping tax rates low for the wealthy while slashing Social Security and Medicare. 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, and is trying to influence ongoing fiscal cliff budget negotiations taking place in Washington D.C. right now.
"If we're serious about long-term economic growth, we need a balanced approach for reducing the federal debt," said Villaraigosa in a press release. "That approach should include spending cuts, raising revenue and reforms that put our entitlement programs on a sustainable footing. The Campaign to Fix the Debt is dedicated to reminding all Americans that we can't reduce the debt and create the conditions for long-term job creation without working across party lines to find practical solutions."
If you want to know what some of those "practical solutions" Villaraigosa will be lobbying for might look like, follow the money. Fix The Debt's $42 million war-chest is funded almost exclusively by Big Business CEO's notorious for underfunding their employee's pension plans, Wall Street executives who support privatizing Social Security, and virulent anti-tax lobbyists.
"These CEOs paint a stark picture of hypocrisy," said Scott Klinger of the Institute for Policy Studies, who co-authored a report which called Fix the Debt a 'Trojan Horse for massive corporate tax breaks'.
"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."
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.
The politically ambitious Villaraigosa is termed out of office in 2013, and is no doubt fishing around for his next gig. With limited options in California, perhaps he thinks The Campaign to Fix the Debt will burnish his national profile and launch him into a cabinet position with the Obama administration.
Perhaps. But by signing on as a progressive "beard" for corporate interests, he'll be on the wrong side of this fight in the eyes of the coalition of working Angelenos, public sector unions, and progressive organizations fighting for economic justice who've traditionally backed Villaraigosa.
"Fix the Debt is a creature of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and the Wall Street Engineers of the the economic crisis we elected Barack Obama to get us out of, " said Rick Jacobs, founder of the California Courage Campaign. "I hope the President will pay attention to the voters and not those who put us into this mess."