Obama’s friend Pete Peterson believes in death panels:
"Obama’s so-called health-care reform ignores the real issue," Peterson says in his calm, persuasive paterfamilias voice. "They don’t address the underlying problem, which is the cost of the last few months of life. We’re often not prolonging the quality of life, we’re just prolonging life. You’re accused of demagogy if you even approach the subject; but if it’s unlikely that you’ll enjoy a decent quality of life, doctors should send patients home and allow them to die what used to be called the "old man’s death,’ usually from pneumonia, the way most people used to die in this country." In other words, the longtime Republican is in favor of the kind of end-of-life decision-making that some other Republicans have parodied as "death panels."
And, he wants to dismantle Medicare and Social Security and has put up a billion dollars to do so. According to David Dayen (yesterday), Peterson’s organizations are promoting the idea of a specially empowered "deficit commission":
The commission would consist of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans and would have its recommendations automatically acted upon by Congress with an up-or-down vote, without the ability to amend them. The Conrad-Gregg Commission, devised by the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, would make that up-or-down vote a super-majority in both the House and the Senate, which would actually make it harder to pass the recommendations than regular legislation. However, it would clearly outsource the functions of the legislative branch to an unelected committee, and critics fear that the Peterson noise machine would lead to major entitlement cutbacks rather than a balanced way of dealing with long-term deficits.
"I have heard, but have no idea if it is accurate, that the Peterson forces plan to spend $50 million to influence the vote on the Conrad-Gregg commission proposal, scheduled, I understand, for a vote on January 20," said [Nancy] Altman [author of the book The Battle for Social Security], echoing a point made in the Fiscal Times article about an upcoming amendment for the commission that would be tacked on to the next vote raising the nation’s debt limit.
And, it appears that Peterson has Obama’s support. Per Jane Hamsher last February:
After a report in the Wall Street Journal appeared indicating that Obama "met with 44 fiscally conservative ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats this week and gave a nod to legislation that would set up commissions to deal with long-term deficit strains," noting that "the commissions would then present plans to Congress for an up-or-down vote," it appears things moved rather swiftly.
House and Senate leadership sent word back to the White House, something subtle along the lines of "tha F*!K, are you CRAZY?"
The "fiscal responsibility" summit will still happen on February 23, but plans to empower a commission to make recommendations that are not subject to amendment by Congress have been scrapped. This will no doubt come as a blow to Wall Street robber baron Pete Peterson, who has pledged a billion dollars to loot "save" Social Security and Medicare.
The head of Peterson’s foundation is former Comptroller General David Walker. He recently responded to William Greider’s Social Security article in the Nation, saying:
We have sadly concluded that the "regular order" in Congress is broken and that achieving progress on multiple fronts within a short timeframe is not possible on a piecemeal basis.
These Blue Dog dreams of circumventing Congressional procedure were evidently crushed when "Reid and Pelosi sent back word that Congress doesn’t get bypassed just because Peter Orszag says it does," said a source familiar with the communications. But Peterson can’t be too disappointed — after Obama and Biden speak at the Monday conference, it will be Peterson himself presenting to the group, and then Laura Tyson of the Obama economic advisory team. Then the guests, which include members of Congress and others, will split up into six groups. But for now, the plan for a specially empowered "panel" coming out of the summit has been scrapped.
That was then (February). But now is now, and unfortunately that specially empowered panel is back on the table, possibly to be voted on three weeks from now.