Some Background on How the Roosevelt Institute Got Into Bed With Pete Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security (Updated)

Readers may be aware of the firestorm this blog kicked off by criticizing the decision of the Roosevelt Institute to accept a grant from the Peterson Foundation (later disclosed to be $200,000) to have its Campus Network, a group of college students affiliated with the Institute, its Campus Network, to prepare a budget for a Peterson-funded event, the “Fiscal Summit”. The purpose of the exercise was to discuss ways to reduce the fiscal deficit, when the Roosevelt Institute has heretofore taken the position that budget cuts at this juncture are bad policy (we cited two papers by Roosevelt Fellows as examples;many other Roosevelt Fellows, including Bill Black, Jamie Galbraith, Randy Wray, Rob Parenteau, and Marshall Auerback, have made similar arguments).

The Roosevelt Institute has issued rebuttals on its own site (“Speaking Truth to Power” by Andrew Rich, the president of the Roosevelt Institute. Some people associated with the Institute have also spoken out in favor of the participation in the Peterson event, such as Mike Konczal, and Zachary Kolodin.

After writing a second post on this disgraceful episode, and cross posting one from Jon Walker, which analyzed the health care recommendations in the students’ budget and found them to be sorely wanting, I had wanted to step back from this fray a bit. However, readers continue to ask for an explanation as to how the Roosevelt Institute came to make the decision to cast its lot with Peterson.

I’m not privy to the Institute’s inner workings, and to the extent that particular Fellows of the Institute are, I doubt that it is appropriate for them to comment on a controversy. However, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, who posted the piece from Zach Kolodin, the student who heads the Roosevelt “Future Preparedness Initiative,” sent me an e-mail from Hilary Doe, who is the National Director of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and Young Professionals Network. Jane took this missive to be an official statement and advised me that it was “fair game for publication”.

I’m interested to get reader interpretations. The adminisphere at Roosevelt clearly saw the participation in the Peterson program as within their purview; note they “informed” the board rather than needed to obtain approval. It is not clear how extensive the disclosures to the board were (but anyone who knew anything about the Peterson Foundation should have seen this was going to be trouble). Nevertheless, it appears that the onus was on the board to intervene in a program management was keen to undertake.

From HIlary Doe:

As the National Director, I had been promoting our Blueprint for the Millennial America–a vision for the future established through in person and online visioning conversations with thousands of young people nationwide during 2010. When Peterson heard about the Blueprint for the Millennial America, they approached us to see if we wanted to include that vision in their summit alongside the budget plans of other organizations.

Because the only real push back we’d received on our Blueprint was to the effect of, “of course this is a great vision, but it’s made by young people, and it’s idealistic.” We wanted to prove that it was possible to actually achieve this vision for the future that our network had so passionately articulated, so we asked our network of thousands if they wanted to form working groups and design a Budget for the Millennial America that reflected their vision. The idea was received with tons of enthusiasm, and a group of entrepreneurial students in the network immediately got started work designing a comprehensive plan for the US that reflected their values and prorities between now and 2035.

As an initiative of the Roosevelt Institute, my board is always informed of the programming that we decide to engage in and that student self-initiate. They were supportive of our decision to take the grant that allowed us to do this work, and represent the important perspective of the millennials that will bear the consequences of the decisions our leaders in power make today. Beyond that, they did not have oversight over the process of engagement or the content that was ultimately produced–in fact, only the students did. We designed a forum for them, informed by their preferences, convened the working groups, providing research support for their ideas, and aggregated their preferences, but I can assure you that everything in the budget–each innovative idea, forward-looking vision for america, and hard fought compromise–was the result of the Millennials in our network. They coalesced around a vision together, designed the policy options to get them there, and ultimately produced, through a democratic process, a Millennial-generated vision for the future of America.

The Roosevelt Institute appears to have an unusual structure, with a Board of Directors and a Board of Governors, with it not obvious with it not obvious what the relationship between the two is (one would hope the Board of Directors is the one that plays an oversight role).

These are the names listed at the Roosevelt Institute site as members of the Board of Directors:

Since the firestorm over the grant has taken place in the blogosphere, it is quite possible that the board remains unaware of the damage done to the Roosevelt name.

Update: I neglected to clip the section from the Roosevelt site with the officers of the board, lordie. As discussed in comments, it is possible that the Peterson initiative was presented only to a board subcommittee rather than the full board, and we also have no way of knowing when that conversation took place relative to the negotiations with the Peterson Foundation:

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  1. attempter

    Because the only real push back we’d received on our Blueprint was to the effect of, “of course this is a great vision, but it’s made by young people, and it’s idealistic.” We wanted to prove that it was possible to actually achieve this vision for the future that our network had so passionately articulated

    Yup, there’s the same old lie: The people can never accomplish anything with their own hard work and good will (and by taking back what’s rightfully theirs). You have to appease criminals, get their OK, have wonk elites accept the filthy money and provide the “leadership”.

    Never mind, of course, that probably nothing in the history of politics has been more proven not to work than this kind of appeasement. But we’ll never stop seeing the call for it from this kind of person.

    Of course we know by now that the kind of corporate liberals who write letters like this are criminals themselves who are always looking for their chance to sell out. The Roosevelt Institute and the flunkeys mentioned in the post know exactly what they’re doing: Trying to help Peterson destroy Social Security and hand over all the trillions we the people paid into it to the parasite rich.

    This swine are happy to do it, because they expect to get some crumbs from the table themselves, like this filthy little grant.

    (“Millennials”? what’s the matter with their smug little previous term, “Creative Class”? Or were people catching on to the fact that not one of them has ever created or will create anything in their worthless lives?)

    We’ll just see how much longer this kind of “Campus Network” corporate liberal filth get to keep pulling off this scam. It seems to me that they’re running out of future, to both their Left and their Right.

  2. Foppe

    This really reads like a CYA letter.
    1. she seems to be distancing herself and the board from the substantive contents of this “idealistic” (seriously? that’s how she would describe the proposal?) proposal, “written up by thousands of entrepreneurial millennials”.
    2. she claims she or the board could exercise little to no influence over the substance of their report; maybe RI employees felt insecure in the presence of these ‘millennial’ intellectual giants?
    It might be that someone was actually embarrassed about the fact that they furthered the agenda of the deficit terrorists, but there’s too little there to really tell, and what’s been written reads as though it’s been written by a lawyer.

  3. Phil Perspective

    You know who to ask for answers? Katrina vanden Heuvel. I am surprised Jane didn’t contact her for an explanation. If anyone is on Twitter, ask her. Be nice, and keep at it, and she’ll eventually respond.

  4. Archie

    Hillary Doe? Really? That has to be a nom de plume, no?

    Anyway, Hillary sounds like she’s damn proud of those young neo-liberal students the Roosevelt Institute is supporting.

    She also sounds like she doesn’t like all the nasty innuendos and criticism her cherished “think tank” is getting for demonstrating such high minded bi-partisanship with their fellow think tankers at Peterson Foundation. Hell, it is, after all, the “Blueprint for the Millennial America”, so us old farts should stifle that negativism.

    I wonder what Hillary would say, or do, if a anarcho-socialist group would invite her students participation in their forum?

  5. Cedric Regula

    I guess the litmus test for this particular instance of funding, and the work done by the students, is if they were censored or influenced in any way by Peterson, or his minions.

    I did read the rebuttal by Konczal and he did make a convincing enough case that much of the work done was recommending actions not of the kind we would expect from a Peterson endorsed think tank.

    Then I did hear other places the health care ideas were a bit weak, but that may be setting the bar a bit high for college students anyway, since the old and experienced have given up on it after 50 years of arguing and will probably just move to a developed country that has a system that works better at half the price.

    Then Konczal concluded basically saying… if Peterson gives us money to do what we want, cool!

    It’s just that we know Peterson is a multi-billionaire with a 30 year track record of influence peddling, and we know something of his positions and beliefs. So it would be quite naive to believe that the camel did not stick his nose in the tent. There probably is a long range plan that either Peterson or one of his stem cell clone organ donor, Little Me harem is working on.

    Then again it bothers me that we have so many MMT people around these poor college kids who are still in their formative years. I worry they will graduate babbling MMT stuff and not be able to get a job anywhere.

    1. beowulf

      They were supportive of our decision to take the grant that allowed us to do this work, and represent the important perspective of the millennials that will bear the consequences of the decisions our leaders in power make today.
      She just vividly reminded me of the great New Yorker cartoon showing a giant squid working at a sushi bar.

      The saddest comedown is watching the once great Committee for Economic Development sell itself like a $3 whore to you-know-who. In the 1960s, Ken Galbraith wrote, “Nobody could say that he preferred massive unemployment to Keynes. And even men of conservative mood, when they understood what was involved, opted for the policy– some asking only that it be called by some other name. The Committee for Economic Development, coached by [Beardsley] Ruml on semantics, never advocated deficits. Rather it spoke well of a budget that was balanced only under conditions of high employment”.
      Jump-cut to this press release at CED website, “CED has strongly supported fiscal responsibility throughout 66 years of work on federal budget issues, and supported by the generosity of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, CED will continue to advocate for fiscal responsibility”.

      Hmm, maybe Peterson should spend his money to build a time machine to get the CED of Christmas past on message with the CED of Christmas present.

      1. Cedric Regula

        I’d settle for a so called “budget hawk” that didn’t preface each discussion of the budget with “defense spending cuts are off the table, lets move on to the bad stuff.”

        Next, one that would acknowledge we have a deficit because corporations pay almost no tax, and if rich people paid more tax causing them to buy less McMansions and furnishings from Tiffany’s every year, our economy could probably survive it.

        Then there is plenty of infrastructure and energy projects we could use, but these take planning. Building the Hoover Dam took more than just the Federal government releasing some money to the states to fill potholes.

        Then the college students did recommend that the USG negotiate prices down on prescription drugs, the same way every other country in the world does it. That would cut the runaway costs in Medicare Part D in half, not to mention costs borne by private health insurance.

        So we just did a bunch of things to cut the deficit, and I doubt the economy would mind at all.

  6. Gillary Rodham Klanton

    Huey Long was an ardent critic of the Federal Reserve – blaming it for the Great Depression.

  7. Dan Kervick

    It looks like a group of well-meaning, college educated young people who have some ideas that they would like to put forward, and were willing to work with whomever was willing to give them a prominent forum in the mainstream political world to put those ideas out there.

    The interesting thing is that the intervention of Peterson spurred a further initiative to turn a “blueprint” into a “budget”. One question: did the Peterson Institute make any recommendations or impose any conditions on the Campus Network’s participation? Were there any requirements about what the budget had to look like? About what the budgetary desiderata were? Or did that come from the Campus Network alone.

    I don’t think there is anything monstrous here. But these young progressives might need to think a bit more about the agendas of powerful folks in the political world, and about what will be required to build a new and vibrantly activist progressive coalition that returns us to the ideals of Roosevelt and the New Deal, and away from the neoliberal, Third Way approach of the more recently ascendant Democratic Party power structure. But that intra-Democratic dispute aside, Pete Peterson is no kind of progressive at all, and works to legitimize his essentially conservative budget hawk agenda by co-opting the widest sphere of folks he can get into his ambit. The Roosevelt legacy, as I understand it, embraces vigorous government activism on behalf of democracy and equality, and significant social and economic change and reform. Peterson is no part of that, and falling into his orbit will damage the integrity and bona fides of Ms. Doe’s organization.

    The statement of principles at the group’s website seems firmly liberal, but is quite vague. It doesn’t seem to contain a lot of concrete ideas pertaining to what might be called “meat and potatoes” economic thinking – the sort of broadly egalitarian push we would associate with the whole spectrum of the 20th century left, grounded in the everyday lives of struggling, working people. There are certainly some gestures in that direction, but they are stated at a very abstract level.

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      I suggest you read my posts on this matter, or the Jon Walker dissection of the budget.

      This was $200,000 to get both the Roosevelt name associated with an effort that is the antithesis of what he stood for AND get “Millennials” on it too! There is NO evidence that the way they got input from other students was at all valid from an analytical standpoint (I’ve done tons of survey and focus group work, trust me, none of the proper protocols at any step in the process were observed). They got many of the benefits of their failed $23 million “America Speaks” program (another effort to create the impression of consensus around gutting Social Security and Medicare when polls consistently show the public is opposed).

      And as to this merely being Peterson approaching Roosevelt about something they had underway, look at this post to see how Peterson hijacked an initiative of the prestigious Columbia Teachers College:

      Roosevelt was used for an initiative that is the polar opposite of the explicit mission of the organization, “Carrying forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.” If that doesn’t epitomize selling out, I don’t know what does. This is like PETA taking money from Armour to do a study on improving slaughterhouses. I hate to sound harsh but the fact that you’d try to defend it reveals rather remarkable intellectual and moral blindness.

      1. Dan Kervick

        I didn’t defend it Yves. I pretty clearly indicated – both in this comment and my previous ones on the previous posts here, at ND 2.0 and on Mike Konczal’s site – that the Campus Network and the Roosevelt Institute made a big mistake in playing ball with the Peterson Institute and allowing themselves to be co-opted by Peterson’s conservative, anti-Rooseveltian, budget hawk agenda. A big tent is one thing. But Pete Peterson is pretty clearly way outside the progressive tent, on any reasonable view, and self-described Rooseveltians shouldn’t be lending him legitimacy or support, or participating in forums run by his “facilitators.”

        I don’t know whether they sold out for the cash, or just because they thought this would be a way to get their “blueprint” some publicity. I’m mainly inclined to think this is the case of a young organization, run by some very young eager beavers with an uninformed, rose-colored view of Pete Peterson, making a naive and politically inept move, and a parent organization failing to exercise adequate direction despite some internal debate and serious internal reservations. But I still don’t think we know much about the chain of decision-making here. Ms. Doe’s email is vague on that score.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          OK, got it, and sorry for coming out guns-a-blazing, but I think you are being too charitable here. There is little reason to buy the convenient-to-the-Roosevelt line that this was the students’ doing and the supervising adults didn’t want to stand in the way. Frankly, that story does not pass the smell test. Anything done by the students within hailing distance of the budget debate that involved the Roosevelt name (which the Institute by charter is required to protect and promote) should have been to point out clearly that cutting deficits now is bonkers. Did the starting point of the “Blueprint for the Future” have anything to do with deficit cutting? I doubt it.

          And if you read the Peterson Foundation material, it was clear that you had to accept their parameters. No disputing the basic premise (which served to promote the Peterson aim) allowed.

          Any approach to Roosevelt came to Roosevelt, not the kids. The Peterson Foundation would know this would have to be approved by Roosevelt. And the Roosevelt staffers should have known better. It’s not hard to imagine the staffers wanted to do it (I don’t see how that paper cost $200K to produce even if you allow for a fair bit of travel, so some of the funds likely went to RI overheads), presented it with some enthusiasm to the CN, which the students probably picked up on, plus the CN members saw what was in it for them (better resume material).

          This incident reminds me all too strongly of the infamous James Carville quote about Paula Jones…’nuff said.

          1. Skippy

            Personally me prefers:

            “I was against gay marriage until I realized I didn’t have to get one.”

            Skippy…doused in flame retardant as a precaution, trembling as I hit the submit button.

          2. pebird

            Maybe they should have just come out and said:

            “Just like our namesake, who cut instituted government austerity in 1937, thereby halting the recovery from the Great Depression, we want to follow in his footsteps with the hope we will make things so bad, government will increase spending to the level they should have done originally.

            Either that or World War III.”

    2. Glenn Condell

      Good to see you here Dan, I remember several sensible contributions from you at Jon Schwartz’s blog as we chased down a certain Michael Cohen from something called Democracy Arsenal, a Democrat imperial figleaf factory for war crimes and profiteering. Sad to see the Roosevelt turned into something similar on the domestic front.

      The Soviets shot their enemies, the US elites just buy them.

      1. Skippy

        Glen it is another sign post too me. The rolling over, amalgamation, selling out or the gauze lifted with regards to institutions *old and new* too_get out_stay out_of the cannibals pot.

        Skippy…Think tank recipes for their cook book ie how do you like your poor spiced…SIR! Mundane cookery leads to am affliction of spirit…an iron chef comp[?] to remedy gastronomic malaise?

      2. ambrit

        Mr Condell;
        President Obama just proved that “our elites” do indeed shoot “our” enemies. Maybe we should start calling our elites ‘niemen klatura,’ or however the Russian term is spelled.

    3. JasonRines

      I agree with your analysis Dan. There doesn’t appear to be malevolence coming from Peterson. In my own foray into building a social blogging platform I began the research phase focused on politics.

      Playing as a technologist or funder in this field will mean judgement of intent by polarized camps of left or right. Since my contact list was skewed more conservative liberals complained the content on my network biased and nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Republican party. This criticism was fair based on content but not my intent at my vision’s inception which was simply to provide under reported news in a neutral fashion. This was about two years ago.
      So I went about contacting liberal organizations both think tanks and media oulets alike. Does my story sound familiar? I have had light conversations with Peterson and he was aware of
      my vision and began implementing one similar.

      The conclusion of my research indicated that attempting to connect with polarized political groups is the wrong approach if the intent is a Centrist digital communications and debate platform.

      Such a service must be built using private market principles for ‘consumers’ rather than ‘citizens of political persuasion’. This changed my plan to a commercial endeavor in creation of a digital Random House.

      This way the technology built keeps politics out of the board room and gives my American countrymen the utility to form there own groups, share news and information and can represent all citizens be them individuals or groups.

  8. Tom Hickey

    This piece of work from HIlary Doe predictably dumps the whole thing on the students. What about the $200,000 to an affiliate of the RI? What was that supposed to cover or was it a gratuity. The study cost $200,000 when students cobbled it together from their aspirations?

    $200,000 is not chump change. This did not go through some administrative process? The board did not know the details of 200K coming in?

    Who is supposed to take this seriously. It’s a fiasco for RI and they should admit it.

  9. scraping_by

    As pointed out by authors including our gracious hostess, academic economists (college professors) are bought and paid for by the same financial interests who keep the fog thick for the public debate. Thousands of undergraduates being fed tickle down by authority figures are expected to push back and see something new?

    Even assuming the Big Lie squad won’t cut and paste their own ideas under the RI name (shameless, but they are) they’ve bought intellectual legitimacy for their terror campaign. You don’t debate with criminals, you get rid of them.

    Who chose these youngsters? What’s the democratic process? Who wrote the final report? Smells like teen spirit, or at least, the PR version o it.

  10. Andy E

    “[The board] they did not have oversight over the process of engagement or the content that was ultimately produced — in fact, only the students did. We designed a forum for them, informed by their preferences, convened the working groups, providing research support for their ideas, and aggregated their preferences, but I can assure you that everything in the budget–each innovative idea, forward-looking vision for america, and hard fought compromise–was the result of the Millennials in our network.”

    I believe RI when the say their staff and board members did not editorialize the end results of the Blueprint initiative because I know that other people my age (“millennials”) would not have knowingly participated in a process where the-people-in-charge had control over content attributed to them.

    Unfortunately, it is impossible to attribute any of this content to them if process was actually designed and carried out by paid staff. As we know, the questions included and excluded from a survey, and how they are asked, inherently shape what results.

    This was my concern when I participated in one of their Think 2040 surveys last year, before this controversy erupted. I did not feel that it covered a comprehensive range of issues — e.g. “climate change,” as a long-term economic issue, was not treated specially or given much attention — while it did go into great depth on issues surrounding entitlement programs. There was also educational content provided to assist with the completion of this survey, and I found that it greatly influenced my choices on the questions related to social security and labor. As someone trained to properly conduct social science research, I was know that these results were not what one should consider “scientific.”

    But rather than speculating as to whether it was determined that the process would give more attention to particular policy issues, and that particular opinions would be reflected in its results, I think it would be more helpful for us to see the materials actually used. Making this information freely available would also cast the Institute in a better light, as they should have no problem doing so if the project was on the up and up.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Andy, I personally really appreciate your comment, particularly:

      I did not feel that it covered a comprehensive range of issues — e.g. “climate change,” as a long-term economic issue, was not treated specially or given much attention — while it did go into great depth on issues surrounding entitlement programs.

      I think you are really hitting on a point that gets zero attention from most conventional economists — and none at all from neoclassical economists. (FWIW, this topic also links to the next post today, about the depression we are entering — no amount of Ponzi scheming can address the economic implications of climate change.)

      I hope that you have been able to watch the presentation by William Rees at the website.
      If you haven’t, then here’s a link to his page there:

      William Rees is a human ecologist, ecological economist, Professor and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning in Vancouver, Canada. His research and teaching focus on the biophysical prerequisites for sustainability in an era of accelerating ecological change. Within this ‘envelope’, has a special interest in ecologically-relevant metrics of sustainability and their interpretation in terms of behavioural ecology and complexity theory. He is perhaps best known in ecological economics as the originator and co-developer of ‘ecological footprint analysis’.

      On those rare and enjoyable occasions when I actually get to converse at length with ‘millenials’, the themes that I hear over and over tend to begin with anxiety and outrage regarding climate issues.

      Because I happen to know several young entreprenurial environmental engineers, but to change the world they need investment capital. Pete Peterson and his neoclassical buddies are the last people on the planet who seem to be able to connect the kinds of dots that I hear when I am able to talk to millenials.

      Which means that the stakes for millenials (and all of us) are really very, very high.

      That just makes it all the more maddening and dangerous when a formerly legitimate outfit like the RI hands their tush on a platter to the predatory, economically belligerent likes of the Pete Peterson’s of the world.

      Loved your comment.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Andy, apologies for a somewhat confusing comment.

        What I was trying to say was: when I have the luxury of a good conversation with ‘millenials’, what I tend to hear begins with frustrations about climate change, and includes worries about high levels of pollution. The people that I have the luxury of hearing are dedicated to working on those issues, but as I understand them trying to get the kinds of capital they need is tough, and with the credit diminishing, it’s getting tough at the very historical moment when we have unprecedented, grave problems that are the direct result of the kinds of economic models and ‘issues’ that Pete Peterson and his billions have left in their wake.

        The disconnect between what I hear millenials talk about as opposed to the kind of lunacy we see in the US Congress and out of DC is so huge that it blows my mind. It’s almost as if they are operating in completely different universes.

        The RI got pwned by Peterson, and putting that much energy and time into pseudo issues is time and focus taken away from climate issues.
        That’s incredibly self-defeating.

        The INET conference, in its ‘sustainability’ sessions came far closer to addressing the concerns that I have heard from millenials than anything that Pete Peterson or his network of lobbying interests will ever get their heads around.

  11. Johnny Vicious

    “TARP Oversight” was a vicious lie. Most ‘Muricans opposed the horrendous give away – yet, there they were, the prancing liberal-esque stage actors hired and makin’ sure the graft went down “ok”. Yes, that was Liz Warren overseeing handouts to Banks that had f#$ked the economy, and are f&#king people on a daily basis.

    Remember, Liz Warren set out to attack debtors for getting in “over their heads”. This is by her own admission. Her role in TARP simply means she’s participated in a huge transfer of wealth to the most powerful in our society. A majority of Americans were furiously against these relentless bailouts. Illegitimate think-tanks and big money told us “we had to do it” and other lies, and there Liz has been, pathetically scolding Timmy Geithner for foreclosures.

    Liz Warren is no hero to anyone who has been negatively affected by what’s happened in the last decade. Worthless, cowardly and ineffective is a better description, yet here we are, implored to cage rattle to get an insider more on the inside so “she can fix things.” Fix things when you’re f$%king friends are in jail Liz!

    1. MichaelC

      Well Yves, if nothing else, these earnest students are getting a life lesson they weren’t expecting.

      Hillary’s throwing those earnest kids under the bus must be unsettling, and hopefullly sobering and outrageous to the kids.

      It’s bad enough when consenting adults debase each other, but its another thing entirely, betraying impressionable, inexperienced young folk. They do resent it, I recall, and for a very very long time.

      Echos of 1968 to me. Neutron bombs (finacial collapse) rather than atomic for this generation of college students. Its a different kind of awful, betraying the ones astute enough to respond to the existential threat of non violent finacial warfare.

      Maybe their (RI) error can be remedied now that they’ve strayed (wittingly or un) too close to the slippery slope.

      Your shout out that the Institute is compromised doesn’t directly address the insidious effect on the Milleninals. What world order will they inherit (and how pissed will they be at their putative ally RI)? They (like their parents) likely didn’t realize yet that their futures begin today, and that they need to challenge their parents, rather than follow them. I suspect most of the participant felt safe in the RI embrace.

      As a parent of college kids its especially repugnant to me that the Roosevelt Inst kids would qualify for Cato grants if they were inclined. They’re not, so shame on the RI for using them.

      Roosevelt has a duty to them .The sooner they distance themselve from this the better.

      My impression has been that progressives were the only one’s who felt shame and made amends, while liberals felt shame but crawled away and nurtured their guilt, while the conservatives who have no shame bullied them into accomdation.

      Roosevelts betrayal of his class is the glue that binds true progressives. That an influential institute bearing his name isn’t willing to betray its class, is an epic vitory for Peterson.

      1. MichaelC

        Sorry, I meant to pont out that the class the RI represents is apparently the Peterson, ogilarcic class, which is the surprise your pain in the ass (to them, bless you) shout out has alerted us to.

      2. Hugh

        There is no such thing as non-violent financial warfare. Lack of access to healthcare kills 40,000 people every year and damages the health of the 50 million without any insurance, and the untold millions who ration themselves because of poor coverage. It is violence when millions lose their homes to foreclosure and millions more fear losing them. It is an aggravating factor that virtually all foreclosures are fraudulent in nature. Unemployment is violence because employment is the chief way our society validates people. Poor education is violence. Pricing ordinary Americans out of a chance at a university education is violence. Endebting many of those who do go to college is violence. It is hard for me to see any aspect of our kleptocratic system that is not based on violence.

        I agree with most of what you say but talking about financial terrorism is not a metaphor but a description. Banksterism and kleptocracy are violent to their core.

  12. A Good Bankster

    I once met Hilary Doe when she was dating Mike Konczal. She reminded me of a small, very high-strung gerbil, with braces.

    Anyway, while those Roosevelt idiots were busy selling out to Pete Peterson for pocket change, I had to go down to Rio for a few days on business. Stayed at the Copacabana Palace. The Goldman dinner party was kind of subdued since a small percentage of Goldman execs had been blown up yesterday at the JW Marriott.

    Sunday there was nothing to do: no clients to rip off, no hotel cleaning women for me to rape or even verbally abuse, so I headed over to the Jardim Zoológico do Rio de Janeiro, the oldest zoo in Brazil, founded in 1888.

    A small crowd was gathered around the apes cage and there was a sign in front of the cage that said (in Portuguese and English): “This gibbon (primate or lesser ape) is diabetic. It is on a very specific diet. Please do not feed the gibbon. Your food can make it very sick.”

    So being the good bankster that I am, what do I do? When the zookeeper isn’t looking, I toss the gibbon an eight-pack of butterfinger candy bars. (Bought specially for the occasion.)

    I have nothing against the gibbon, it’s the people watching it that bother me. Once when Ivan Boesky was taking the down elevator, he noticed a group of secretaries who were joking around with each other and obviously having a good time. He couldn’t get over the fact that people who were not even millionaires, let alone billionaires, were capable of enjoying life, and once told me there should be some kind of law against it.

    I agree. Despite all the money I’ve stolen, it appears that some people are deliberately provoking me by displaying signs of joy in public, and I can’t take it anymore. When it comes to putting an end to all happiness on earth, me and Pete Peterson still have a lot of work left to do. If all else fails, we might have to make happiness against the law.

  13. Hugh

    This episode simply helps us understand more clearly the Roosevelt Institute and its units like New Deal 2.0 and the Campus Network. As I have written previously, essentially all of the potential foci of protest against our kleptocratic system have been co-opted. This is as true of the progressive left as it is of the libertarians and Tea Party.

    So I can’t say I am surprised that the Roosevelt Institute was involved in something like this. I have been more concerned that, though some of the people at New Deal 2.0 have some good economic ideas, their fundamental economic and political analysis is wrong. We do not live in a dysfunctional system but a kleptocratically criminal one. It’s like the police are robbing banks and their solution is to go to the police and advise them on how to stop the rash of bank heists. I mean they may have good ideas, but they completely miss the reality of the situation.
    For the rest, this current affair reminds me a lot of the commission process in government. There commissions and panels are basically vehicles to validate and convey a particular pre-determined message. The way you analyze a commission is, I think, applicable here.

    Funding is, of course, important. There are many questions you can ask about it. $200,000 is not a lot of money in the scheme of these things. The Campus Network has some 85 chapters. If the money was distributed evenly that would be a little less than $2500 per chapter. But it isn’t clear how much funding they get from the Roosevelt Institute so relatively speaking it could be a lot. And of course we don’t know how it was spent. The student work was probably volunteer. Computers and network connections they either had on their own or through the universities. So you have to wonder what their actual costs were. Money to send representatives to the Peterson conference? Pizza? It isn’t clear. And who exactly decided how the money was going to be split among the chapters or overall?

    What does it mean that the Peterson Foundation heard of the Campus Network and their Blueprint? So what? Why would they be interested in extending funding, unless they thought that the Campus Network was compatible or could be made compatible with their goals. I mean if the Peterson people wanted a range of views on the budget, he could have gone to the people at New Deal 2.0, who, whatever problems I may have with them, are a lot heavier hitters than anything the Campus Network has or was ever likely to come up with. Peterson went after Campus Network because it was a softer sell and more malleable. The other side of this is the question that was posed at the start of all this. Why did the adults at the Roosevelt Institute sign off on this? The obvious answer is that they are not a progressive institution, but rather a Democratic-oriented one. Nowadays you can be a progressive or you can be a Democrat, but you can’t be both. Peterson may be something of a controversial figure, but the institutions he bankrolls are not, or at least are not within the Democratic Establishment. So from this perspective the actions of the Roosevelt Institute are perfectly comprehensible, if in no way more acceptable to anyone who actually remembers FDR’s New Deal.

    Parenthetically but because it was mentioned upthread, Katrina vanden Heuvel is one of these Democrats who parade as progressives. So I would not expect much from her. She’s on the board because her father was a co-founder of the Roosevelt Institute.

    This is going a lot longer than its importance warrants, but I would just say that yes, college students have much less life experience and general knowledge, and I think both are crucial in economics and politics. But still I wonder who are these college students? Calling them college students does not convey much information. Are they Democratically oriented or support Obama? Are they freshmen and sophmores or juniors and seniors? Are most of them majoring in economics or political science? Have they been exposed to anything other than neoliberal viewpoints?

    Finally, as for process, saying their budget was a cooperative project involving thousands makes me want to again ask what this means? I mean think of the logistical nightmare if this were true. There were working groups. Who decided what these were? Who was going to be on them? How members or groups on different campuses interacted with each other? I mean it is possible to organize something like this an informal, cooperative grassroots kind of way, but I tend to doubt that is what happened here. We have been told that there were disagreements but that these ended in compromises. My first reaction is to be skeptical. Most of the time disagreements end not in compromise but in the various sides agreeing that they disagree. So when I am told that this was a compromise process I have to wonder who decided that? If for instance you are a single payer advocate, Obamacare can be presented to you in 60 different ways, and you still won’t buy into any of them.

    The far shorter form of this is that from the start this was far more a Democratic exercise in manufacturing consent than a progressive project. Peterson’s views may encounter resistance among the Democratic rank and file, but they are far more in line with those of the Democratic Establishment, and the credulous.

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      True, but one caveat: you are treating the Roosevelt Institute as a monolith. The Fellows, even though quite a few are established names, are best thought of as, say, writers at a publication, while the people who are in the full time employ are more like the business side (and the editorial staff). The Fellows were not part of this decision process; I don’t even know if any knew about it prior to the public announcements. This was the professional staff’s doing and the board’s. There were some irate comments by Fellows on the Roosevelt website; you’d never see that much open dissent in an MSM environment (and seldom in a university).

      1. Dan Kervick

        I think this is a good debate to be having out in the open. My impression is that there are a large number of mainstream Democrats, steeped in the Clinton – Third Way view of the world, who are sincerely shocked to discover that many progressives regard Peterson and his foundation as among the Bad Guys.

        Bill Clinton – the DLC, anti-New Deal President who told us the era of big government is over – was also a speaker at the Peterson forum. Clinton appears to regard his surplus as one of his greatest legacies, and sees the Peterson war on the debt as his war too. I think Obama is in that camp too, but may be having second thoughts now that he sees the mess his foray into premature budget-hawking has caused.

        Obama created some of this strife when he made his ill-advised pivot toward deficit-reduction and Tea Party appeasement. His Deficit Reduction Commission, headed by an extremely conservative Democrat and a wingnut Republican was a disaster. This pivot put progressive organizations across the country into the bad position of having to hammer their progressive initiatives into the budget hawk framework in order to remain viable with the Obama administration. As Andrew Rich put it in his not-very-convincing apology for playing ball with Peterson:

        When deficit hawks seized control of the budget debate in 2009, students from our Campus Network expressed serious interest in proving that their progressive vision for America’s future — originally captured in the Blueprint for the Millennial America — was not only innovative, but also achievable from a fiscal perspective.

        The neo-Republican Obama and the Republican budget hawks took control of the national debate and pushed it in a very bad direction. Now progressives are fighting among themselves. But the problem stems from bad anti-progressive management at the top.

  14. ambrit

    Let us take a look at just one of the statements from Ms Does missive: “my board is always informed of the programming that we decide to engage in and that students self-initiate.”
    First: It is the duty of any board to stay informed. I believe ‘Due Diligence’ covers that.
    Second: “the programming we decide to engage in” can be explained as having multiple meanings. Straight forward, it implies a certain control of the process by the board. Psychologically it can suggest conscious manipulation of the psyches of the Millenials; “Programming.”
    Third: “that students self-initiate,” suggests an anarchic structure underlying the whole program. Are there two programs running in parallel tracks here? Has the board abandoned its responsibility to mentor? Is the value of experience being denigrated?
    Fourth: Shouldn’t the boards responsibility be to set the parameters of the students research? I thought that any aware individual who participated in a Rosevelt Institute Initiative would be aware of the Institutes mission and biases from the beginning. If they didn’t agree, surely the Right has Institutes of their own to supply that cadre with convivial accomodation.
    I, and any aware person, am in complete agreement with Mz Smith on this one. Petersons people pulled off a masterfull job of co-option. Whoever they are, they richly deserve a bonus from their “Infernal Majesties.” The RI folks should go off and lick their wounds and consider how to salvage their reputation. It can be done, and doesn’t require a subsidy to do.

    1. JasonRines

      I don’t think the co-option angle of this story is a purposeful cause but that may be the effect nonetheless. Frankly, it seems Roosevelt Foundation is struggling with its identity for myriads of reasons.

      Ambrit, it is said demography drives destiny. Lack of mentoring, and succession plans are disturbing elements of the older generations remaining self-absorbed. Peterson put up his own funds for digital network education which was admireable. But funds must have management follow up on how they are directed, research and conclusions drawn and plans remodified. I can attest to Peterson’s true motives as I spoke with him about his vision and he referred me to his organization which
      promptly excluded me “because I was not known.”

      Back to Demographics. As people age they stockpile for increasing frailty. They also if in organizations hedge against the younger bucks. Pete Peterson may not be like this himself but unless he can follow through personally and manage, his organization will continue stone walling all neutral creative innovation in favor or “those they know” (meaning those that agree with their flavor of agenda). Ageing people tire but remain healthy enough to work longer in this era. The demographic imbalance means the younger generations are orphans, being crowded out. Natural circumstances of death correct this imbalance. But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t be mentoring (this can be done using video chat these days) and as executives/boards implementing succesor plans.

      1. Yves Smith Post author


        With all due respect, you have the co-option 100% wrong. Please look at my posts on America Speaks and the Peterson initiative with the Columbia Teachers College. They are willing to go to extreme lengths to create the perception for public and institutional support for their position. With Columbia, they got Columbia to abandon its initial idea and take up a much larger scale Peterson program. If that isn’t co-option, tell me what is. Frankly, the work “hijacking” works even better:

        1. Matt

          Why is anyone surprised by this? FDR’s policies and his raison d’etre was to save capitalism. In order to do that, he had to throw some crumbs to the rabble who had proven themselves quite willing to confront cops and troops during strikes that were endemic to the country when FDR came into office. If things hadn’t changed there would have been more unrest and the system would have been seriously threatened.

          And if you want a clue about how far liberals can be trusted to do the right thing for the downtrodden take a look at how quickly they deserted the Bolshevik party when it became evident that the latter was really intent on overthrowing, not only the tsar, but the provisional government under Kerensky.

        2. JasonRines

          Thank you for the polite response Yves. NC is becoming a place to share illuminating debate and I am grateful for your consistent standard for truth.

          As mentioned in my commentary above, I am complimenting Pete Peterson for the willingness to fund non-biased digital education utilities. This public discussion will likely be a learning lesson for Mr. Peterson as it was for me. The lesson being if one really wants a neutral educational platform (my conversations with him were convincing he does) then the board has to purposefully ignore using stale and protectionist institutions as a means for syndication. Instead, as an investor he should be investing in a utility that has tools that create their own groups of all flavors.

          I provided constructive criticism as to why Mr. Peterson did not manage his investments toward his own vision. This article and public attention would have me down into the trenches and setting operational procedure of the Peterson Institute if I were him.

          Roosevelt is a pretzel that has shifted its core values (which were Centrist) towards corporate power insiduously over decades. So it is almost like a ‘Quelle Surprise’ type debate of liberals noticing this theme. Spread it out over a macro theme, liberals awakening. True liberals tend to be Centrist.

          As mentioned as well, whether Pete Peterson’s more recents (2008 come to Jesus) Centrists views (restructure, NOT eliminate the currently unsustainable entitlements) are enforced on his once neocon influenced institutions is a management failure. This assumes much based on email conversations on details I had with Mr. Peterson the group here is not privvy too.

          In general, Fascist momentum is hard to stop even when some wake up. I was a die hard Republican for many years and now don’t identify with ANY political party but clamoring for the center like so many others. This is probably the reason why Roosevelt syndicating for Peterson Foundation struck such a nerve.

          Take care fellow commentators. Thank you for intelligent and stimulating food for thought.


  15. attempter

    I guess this whole thread is going to whitwash people who know exactly what they’re doing, committing monstrous crimes. “Well meaning”, “didn’t know what they were doing”, “incompetent”, “weak”, the whole litany Obama supporters are always trotting out.

    Seriously, how many Everests of evidence have to pile up before those whose paychecks don’t depend on lying will all agree that it’s impossible to make mistakes about, e.g., who Peterson is and what he wants to do?

    I’m getting a much better understanding of how all those “decent people” back in the 30s could support Hitler (or Stalin), and/or seek to appease him.

    (Actually, they had a better excuse. They could try to claim they didn’t understand totalitarianism and the nature of modern organized crime. What educated person today could possibly have that excuse?)

    Just for the record, as a far as taking money goes: It’s impossible to take money from a wealthy source, work with that source, and not be corrupted by it. To the best of my (pretty extensive) knowledge, history provides not a single counterexample.

    But like I said, I don’t think this is corruption, if that means a previously well-meaning person or group comes to betray their ideals. The record of these kinds of people indicates these are all con-men on the make from day one, with Obama himself being exhibit one. (The Clintons are good exhibits too.)

    1. Foppe

      I guess this whole thread is going to whitwash people who know exactly what they’re doing, committing monstrous crimes. “Well meaning”, “didn’t know what they were doing”, “incompetent”, “weak”, the whole litany Obama supporters are always trotting out.

      Tell me, what is it you are hoping to do by penning down these sweeping generalizations about how “everyone on this thread” is whitewashing the RI’s behavior? I’m sure it gave you a great deal of satisfaction to pen this down, and yes, there are a fair number of comments to be found that aren’t hope-giving, but it seems to me that in your haste to attack everyone, you also deny the value of a number of other posts that do provide nuggets of insight — which is exactly what Yves was asking for.
      As such, it seems to me a shame that, while Yves is trying (by kicking off this entire discussion) to show in detail how many shades of grey there are, you are immediately looking for the certainty that you think having a nice Manichean world-view will give you.
      This is, of course, your prerogative, but it seems to me that, in order to shoe-horn the facts into your model, you have to do rather a lot of injustice to the people who did try to contribute usefully, by applying a reductionist filter to their contribution that erases pretty much all of the detail that makes the “Roosevelt” problem as difficult as it is to come to grips with.

      PS. Lastly, please try to stay away from blanket accusations of appeasement politics, and comparisons to ‘Germans who, knowing what Hitler would do, refuse to stand up to him.’ I do not believe Yves wants her site to devolve into a place where everyone is just hurling accusations of evilness at everyone else, and half of your post consists of ad hominem attacks on a vague “everyone posting in this thread”, making it extremely unpleasant to read, especially for people who do try to contribute.

      1. attempter

        Whether or not any of my rhetoric is excessive or unpleasant, the fact is that my comparison of most of today’s behavior (among those who aren’t themselves the rich and powerful) to Nazi collaboration and appeasement is objectively correct.

        For all your criticism of my comments beings rants rather than arguments, I notice you didn’t try to argue against that historical comparison, but simply dogmatized that it was doubleplusungood.

        It’s also factually false that there are “shades of gray” in this concerted assault to enslave and destroy humanity once and for all.

        But again, in the 1930s plenty talked about the shades of gray of the time. So you’re a clear-cut example. I rest my case. Try learning some history before you try to criticize me.

        1. Foppe

          Way to engage with what I said.

          With “shades of grey” I was hoping to point out to you specifically the fact that, in today’s public discourse, it is very difficult to distinguish between right and wrong, as it takes a fairly critical mind to note the systemic drift going on when the RI is confirming the “deficit is a problem” narrative by presenting its own “sound” budget. Now, my problem with your lovely little story about how all the world except you (and Yves) is basically appeasing Hitler is that you seem to be under the illusion that it was somehow your dogmatic assertion that “the RI is utterly evil”, which you so triumphantly posted on Yves’s first post, that got the ball rolling. Because I hate to have to explain this to you, but it wasn’t. But even though Yves immediately pointed out to you that the world isn’t quite as black and white as you want it to be, and that the problem is precisely that it isn’t, you continue to push your own, reductionist reading of it.
          This holier-than-thou stance of annoys me, and I tried to explain to you why. Though seeing your response — in which you immediately conclude that because I did not praising you for your brilliant insight that everyone else in this thread is purely evil, I must also be pure evil — it would seem that I wasted my time, because your response suggests that you apparently simply don’t have it in you to take your conversation partners seriously, and to consider whether I might have a point.
          One last time: If the RI were only evil, or purely evil, people would not confuse it for an institute with a progressive bent. And because they aren’t, it is necessary to explain how they are still working against any kind of true progressivism. Which is precisely what Yves did. And while Yves explained this, by showing why the arguments they put forward are problematic, and why their going along with the “the deficit is a problem” narrative is problematic, all you keep doing is yammering on about their character being pure evil, and how this is totally obvious.

          1. anon2

            Foppe said:…. “very difficult to distinguish between right and wrong”….Yves… utterly evil”….Yves’s…. Yves ….purely evil…I must also be pure evil…. only evil, or purely evil…. progressive bent…. true progressivism…… Yves did….. Yves explained…… pure evil…

            Let’s me see if I can help sort this thing out:

            You mention Yves 5 times. (Always nice to have a little back up just in case.)

            You mention evil 6 times (utterly evil, purely evil, pure evil, only evil, purely evil….pure evil, etc)

            You mention progressive twice. Yeah, we get how progressive Roosevelt is.

            Just try to calm down and get a grip. With all the hysteria, you’d think a Wall Street bankster was being threatened with 30 days at Riker’s Island.

            Relax. I promise you nothing bad is going to happen to anyone at the Roosevelt Institute.

          2. Foppe

            Huh? How on earth did you come to the conclusion that I was defending the Roosevelt Institute, or the part of it that allowed this to happen?

          3. attempter

            It’s you who are refusing to engage with my argument, by now confusing (I won’t claim your confusion is deliberate, since you hate that so much) evil with the corruption and/or appeasement of evil.

            My comments clearly deal with appeasement, which is so despicable precisely becasue it’s not out of evil itself, but out of cowardice, opportunism, laziness, or stupidity in the face of it. (I think it goes in that descending order of factors, with the first two being just about co-equal.)

            Believe me, I wouldn’t insult the likes of Goldman Sachs or even Peterson by putting the likes of the Campus Kewl Kids or whatever they’re calling themselves on the same level. The former are evil and hateful; the latter are merely contemptible.

            Also, I’ll repeat: Why are we still debating who is and isn’t a legitimate “progressive”, when the facts are in: Progressivism has definitively failed.

            That was my main objection to the tone of this thread. Have we made no progress (using that as an English language term) at all since 2008? Not to mention the performance of progressives since their hero came in? Have we learned nothing?

            Is the problem here that you and others are die hard progressives who refuse to give up such a failed ideology, which was always conceptually and morally indefensible even in principle?

            Yes, I could see how we’d then have nothing in common.

      2. Angelika Müller


        One book that might shed some light on this matter is “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust” (1996) by American writer Daniel Goldhagen.

        from Wikipedia:

        “Although Hitler’s Willing Executioners was sharply criticized in Germany at its debut, the intense public interest in the book secured the author much celebrity among Germans, so much so that Harold Marcuse characterizes him as “the darling of the German public”….

        “Daniel Goldhagen argues that the vast majority of ordinary Germans were as the title indicates “willing executioners” in the Holocaust because of a unique and virulent “eliminationist antisemitism” in the German identity, which had developed in the preceding centuries. Goldhagen argued that this “eliminationist antisemitism” was the cornerstone of German national identitiy, that this type of antisemitism was unique to Germany and because of “eliminationist antisemitism”, ordinary Germans killed Jews willingly and happily. Goldhagen asserted that this special mentality grew out of medieval attitudes from a religious basis, but was eventually secularized.”

        1. Foppe

          To quote from the wikipedia page:

          [T]hese perceived professional failings proved almost irrelevant. Instead, Goldhagen became a bellwether of German readiness to confront the past. The accuracy of his work was, in this context, of secondary importance. Millions of Germans who wished to acknowledge the (undeniable and well-documented) fact that ordinary Germans participated in the Holocaust welcomed his work; his suggestion that Germans were predestined killers was accepted as part of the uncomfortable package. Goldhagen’s book was treated as a way of ensuring that Germany came to terms with its past.

          I.e., the reason this book was liked was not because it was accurate, but because of its cathartic effects.

          I have no problem with Hitlerian comparisons; however, only if they provide some insight. And if the link isn’t obvious, it seems to me that the burden is on the person offering the suggestion to do the work of explaining its relevance, lest the comparison remain a facile one. And that did not happen.
          Note, this is not to say that there aren’t similarities that may be instructive, but simply that attempter never bothered to do the work to make them clear to the reader.

          Specifically, the problem here is that this isn’t a classical case of focused (military) aggression. Rather, the problem is that people accept that their lives are ruled by a type of political economy that they tacitly accept because they do not understand how it could influence them, and moreover, that they accept that their leaders ascribe to the same belief set for the same reason. And the problem with any ideology (which one might call naked capitalism, neoliberalism or whatever) is that its effects are largely diffuse, and generally defended by appealing to existing stereotypes, so that, when your own countrymen are affected by it, most people do not even notice that such an attack isn’t justifiable.

          Take, for example, the case of the post-Katrina land-grab in NOLA. The reason why this didn’t parse as an “pure evil” assault on rights (and so why reductionist accounts aren’t helpful) is because the perpetrators and their pet media could immediately defend the land grabs, the refusals to rebuild the homes of the original inhabitants, and the legislative overhaul that occurred in the aftermath by showing images of, and reminding the public of the “backward urban development of New Orleans”, their “lazy attitude to life,” most likely their “immorality,” etc. Thanks to all of this “anthropological knowledge”, it became possible for urban developers to appeal to res nullius, while nobody outside NOLA cared that these people are, just like the American Indians were, being kicked off their land because they weren’t utilizing it maximally.

          1. attempter

            So you agree with me after all and don’t even realize it.

            For example, Hitler garnered so much sympathy and outright support because he posed as a bulwark against communism and because in every dispute he had the knack of obfuscating the issues. On account of the Versailles Treaty Germany could play the martyr, and in every case Hitler could make a plausible case for being morally in the right. His opponents usually had plenty of objectionable features of their own.

            All this was enough to cause lots of otherwise intelligent and “decent” people to ignore the clarity of Hitler’s tyrannical and exterminationist intent.

            Like I said, learn some history.

            Is your problem here, Foppe? When I say appeasement you think of WWII? That shows you’re not even getting the chronology right; appeasement proper was a phenomenon of the 30s and fizzled out in 1939. It was followed by outright collaboration once the Nazi tyranny was clamped down in its full fury.

            But yes, I have no doubt that if and when that level of outright repression and violence comes, today’s appeasers will, if they’re allowed, become tomorrow’s Quislings. We already see signs of it with things like the lack of concern for the open torture of Bradley Manning, the TSA scanner nightmare, and continued support for the increasing atrocities of the Drug War and police militarization in general.

            I’d say 99.9% of people who are OK with these things (including merely remaining silent) would be OK with death camps, or with anything in between.

          2. Foppe

            I’m sorry, but you are simply too intellectually dishonest for me to want to keep responding to you.

  16. PaulArt

    Maybe it is better to let Pete Peterson destroy Social Security and Medicare so that Seniors know what the game is really about. Right now they are the ones who vote consistently in elections and particularly in low turnout contests they seem to be the majority who exercise their franchise. Maybe its time to teach these people a lesson by taking away their meal tickets. Why should we all work so hard to protect THEIR programs to see them vote GOP in every election? The Progressive community must think very seriously about this dynamic. I for one would like to pitch these programs out in lieu of Single Payer Care for all and individual savings accounts instead of Social Security. I really don’t understand why our money must go religiously towards supporting pensioned middle level White Male Managers who sit in Church Pews thinking that Baby killing is the most pressing and urgent issue in the Country today. Cut off their meal tickets – it will wake them up and understand what 18-20% of the Country is going through in terms of unemployment, Globalization and deregulation.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks, but that list looks to be very out of date. On the officers list, it does not have the CEO, Andy Rich, who has been there over two years and it has William J. vanden Heuvel as co-chairman, when he is listed on the site as founder and chairman emeritus.

  17. JaneE

    Several months ago some of the Roosevelt Campus Network Student leaders to discuss an initiative relating facilitating corporate investment in clean technology research. I had my apprehensions about approaching the Campus Network on this issue, as I felt that as a progressive organization they would voice legitimate concerns about the possible negative impact of corporate professors on both the opinions of professors and direction of their research. Certainly, there are plenty clear examples of this in the pharma sector that one need not be a progressive to be concerned about. But the organizers expressed no concerns at all about how the project might be in conflict with their progressive ideals.

    Further, they went on to describe how their organizations clean energy initiative is called ‘the Moral Equivalent of War’ and that the students describe themselves as ‘Energy Hawks’ and were mainly focused on working with the military on energy issues with the idea that things that the military was doing would be easier to roll out in the rest of the economy. I understand that the Moral Equivalent of War is from Carter’s malaise speech, but I couldn’t help feeling that in using this language the students were not trying to co-brand themselves with a famously failed democrat leader’s energy call-to-arms as much as they were using language (along with War Hawks) that they thought that that right would be comfortable with. Also, while I do not think that there is anything wrong with working with the military on clean energy, it still puzzled me that this was the main thrust of a progressive organization’s clean energy movement. I asked the organizers if there was any reason why a progressive organization was using the language of war and in energy campaign, and focusing solely on the military. They assured me that they were a bottom-up organization, and that all of those ideas came from the students. They said that the students believed that this was the hard-nosed approach to getting things done, and wanted to take a more ‘realpolitikal apprach to the world, blah, blah, blah.’

    This gave me the impression that even young progressives on college campuses in America have already absorbed the idea and timid that that they have already bought into the idea that their own language are illegitimate and they need to sound more like the right in order to be a ‘part of the dialog’. I am sure that the funding from the Peterson institute builds on this phenomenon, and as a part of a overall trend that contributed to young students growing up thinking like this. But can also think that before the funding, the Campus Network was already on well on the road to being progressive in name only.

    1. JTFaraday

      “Students” are primarily careerists. They have surprisingly few “skills,” outside a basic literacy, and little beyond a smattering of general knowledge that they picked up off their school’s cafeteria-menu style curriculum.

      With a limited background and being careerists, they are readily schooled in the “art of the possible” by the (ostensibly) successful adults–success meaning they hold a position in some institution, not any particular tangible political or intellectual success–and like monkeys, readily mimic them. If the issue comes down to standing by your principles, they are one of the most manipulable demographics you can pick.

      Half of these kids probably already have “industry lobbyist” on their menu of career options. If your primary focus is a successful individual career, and if you’ve heard your whole life that that’s your primary social responsibility, you’ll draw no real distinction between worthy public service and corrupted political activity.

      In general, I think we have this distorted view of college educated young people as being inherently progressive due to the cultural movements of the 1960s. Prior to the 1960s no one would have been insane enough to think that most college educated students were naturally left leaning.

      But the “Me Generation” of identity based liberation and pseudo-politicized “everything goes” social attitudes seems quite different from the particular political challenges of today, which are technically complicated, require some depth of historical understanding, and require some real spine in order to counter the forces arrayed against the public interest.

      There is simply no room for the compromising habituation of careerists in the situation that we face today. I honestly don’t think that college educated students are the real audience for political and economic reform, but it is also clear to me that it is absolutely unthinkable for think tanks like the Roosevelt Institute to stop pretending that they are and make a move toward connecting with real grassroots political organizations.

      If a group of, say, long term unemployed people organized themselves tomorrow, the Roosevelt Institute wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole–and neither would the Campus Network.

      1. JTFaraday

        Also, that’s not the case on the right. The right takes all populist comers, so long as they’re mouthing what the right wants to hear. In turn, they get to call liberals elitists and get away with it.

        1. Kevin Egan

          I teach these students also, and I think JTF’s analysis is spot on–it certainly accords with my experience. The economic crisis has made their careerism *much* worse, as one would expect. I like to ask a class how many of them are considering a teaching career: none! Ever! They see no irony in confessing this to me. (It’s because of the money, of course.)

          I have a scholarly interest in proverbs, so I can also report that today’s students are rapidly losing the common store of proverbs I assume most readers of this blog–and most readers, but our students mostly aren’t readers in the old sense–know well. Proverbs are compact aids to moral reflection, and our “millennials” would have done better if they had known two of the most important ones for situations like these:

          1) If you sup with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

          and even more apt here,

          2) If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

          Kind of cuts through the rationalizations, no?

          1. JTFaraday

            Despite what I said, when I hear academics ie.,hypocrites who HAVE careers, pissing and moaning about this careerism–mostly because they are opposed to the university business management that would infringe on their perquisites and with which they automatically associate all careerism (as opposed to their own naturally innocent activities)– I always support the idea that students should be able to have careers.

            However, the current environment is so bad that I don’t see how it’s possible for people to combine legitimate individual career interest with a bid for real political change. They can play at it, and collect a check, but nothing is going to come of it. It is NOT the 1990s. It’s not even 2008.

            I don’t think we have to tolerate this pretension. Someone is going to have to go out on a limb and be willing to contradict the criminal class and its bought out careerist minions and — to use the words of Roosevelt– “welcome their anger.”

            Unless they’re dispossessed (and it’s possible many will find themselves thus) and become effectively an undifferentiated part of the broad screwed over population, I’m not convinced that young college grads are likely to do that, for a number of reasons.

            It’s not their “fault” but they’re very much a product of the moment, in everything from fragmented, incoherent college curricula to the perceived need to get over in any way possible–even if their parents are relatively comfortable.

            In fact, the more comfortable their parents are, the more likely they are to have been part of the absolutely ridiculous focus on elite higher ed and high achievement that seemed to ramp up even more as the tech bubble burst, and consequently, the more likely they are to be a pernicious factor going forward, all while playing at being politically correct.

            And, honestly, no one has EVER applied the “millennial” term to anything other than such elite educated late babyboom offspring. It is NOT a general term for “young people.”

            So, this is all more than a little politically tone-deaf, on top of everything else it is. Although, there’s no doubt it gives Pete Peterson warm fuzzies.

          2. PQS

            Loved your proverbs….and your input.

            I like how They Might Be Giants phrased it in their immortal song, “Your Racist Friend”:

            “Can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding.”

  18. ed sanders

    I’m with john emery, seriously, Cantwell F. Muckenfuss III? it sounds like Groucho’s name in a Marx brothers movie.

    1. jm

      This pretty much says it all:

      Cantwell F. Muckenfuss III is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP where he focuses on the representation of financial institutions in matters involving financial regulation and public policy. Before joining the firm in 1981, Mr. Muckenfuss was Senior Deputy Comptroller for policy at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

      1. ambrit

        If he was in the Administration prior to 1981, that would make him a Carter Democrat. Exactly when did the deregulation fad begin anyway?

  19. Kevin Egan

    I think it’s abundantly clear from Ms. Doe’s very first sentence that the RI, or at least this part of it, has badly lost its way:

    “As the National Director, I had been promoting our Blueprint for the Millennial America–a vision for the future established through in person and online visioning conversations with thousands of young people nationwide during 2010.”

    There is so much wrong with this sentence that it’s hard to know where to begin. What is an “online visioning conversation”? And how does one have an authentic conversation with thousands of people? Conversation is an oral form: it might lead to prophetic utterance, but vision is another mode from another sense–and much more suspect.

    I’d be wary of any “blueprint” for the future too: remember Blake’s drawing of Urizen with his compasses? Oh, yes, the future is totally under control! And conferences and “conversations” like this do so much to spread enlightenment: why, just ask your bus driver what he’s heard about the latest from the Roosevelt Institute’s Millennial America project!

    Technocratic hell is where she lives–or, rather, Nationally Directs–but the Roosevelts are spinning in their graves. Especially the author of some of the greatest democratic prose ever written, the Fireside Chats. For her penance, I assign Ms. Doe to reread them all immediately–and there will be a test.

  20. spark

    They’ve got some heterodox economists as Fellows and braintrusters, but the RI is not interested in working outside the system.

    Their general slant is, as commenters above have noted, neoliberal, establishment, elite and technocratic.

    They don’t have the slightest interest in labor, for instance.

  21. Cantwell F. Muckenfuss III

    (The following is from a speech that I delivered to Millenial America’s Campus Network and Young Professionals Network):

    A lot of young people come up and ask me: Mucky, how can we learn to think like a billionaire?

    So I tell them, first study the lives of the famous billionaires: such as Peter G. Peterson. In 1985, he co-founded with Stephen A Schwarzman, the private equity and investment management firm, Blackstone Group, and was for many years its chairman. Study this example and learn from it.

    Second, get it into your system: You keep on saying that you will become a billionaire one day, but you are just full of talk. Instead of just declaring so, you need to be able to convince not only yourself, but everyone else that you are definitely on your way.

    To be able to be amongst greatness, you have to welcome greatness. If you really want to get there, you should already feel like one. You should act like a billionaire, talk like a billionaire, and think like a billionaire. And so, for instance, to talk like a billionaire you should start saying things like: “the US has $17 trillion of unfunded liabilities, Social Security and Medicare have to be eliminated” or “Qualcomm’s strength was in selling chipsets into its own technology” etc

    Third, you should act on it. So you know what to do, after studying the lives of those who have come before you, such as Lloyd Blankfein, Larry Summers or Pete Peterson. Then you have to thoroughly convince yourself and others that you are getting there, no matter what. To be able to get there, you need more than just a plan and a dream. To be able to get there, you have to start acting on it.

    You will never get there with only your dreams, however great they are. You need to make your move to be able to see yourself through it. You will never be a billionaire thinking about money and lying on your back. Do all that you have to do, to be able to get there, and do not ever stop pursuing your dream.

    A lot of young Millenials dream of becoming a billionaire someday. There is nothing wrong with that. But if you want to be the billionaire that you always wanted to be, then what are you doing right now in order to get there by following in the footsteps of greatness such as Blankfein, Summers and Pete Peterson?

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      (dramatic sigh, waving hankie sorrowfully)
      Oh, Mucky… so gracious of you to stoop so low and advise all us poor dweebs. I would have read your comment but…
      …I… am… not… worthy…


      1. ambrit

        (Rolling of eyes. Gallic shrug. Hand clapped to forehead.)
        “Ye gods! O good reader, knowest not that it should be: I – am – not – a – Worthy!” [ Wails, gnashes teeth.]

  22. Paul Tioxon

    There is a desperate sense of urgency to get the most severe austerity measures in their full measure out into the public eye, no matter how shocking to long standing liberals who seek to do more than memorialize the legacy of FDR. The amount of PR to mold the opinions of the opinion making crowd, many who are too young to compare from their early life experiences just how different America is today than it was in 1968, is only partially revealed in the Peterson Initiative and the Roosevelt Institute flap.

    To normalize the opinion that the destruction of Social Security, Medicare is simply plain old American common sense, you need to stand next to the smiling, nodding in agreement faces of the namesake of the president whose legacy was literally a New Deal for working Americans. FDR was branded a class traitor, and there were people who refused to use a coin or stamp with his image on it. Those people have spawned a reactionary class war against all of the consolidated gains of the New Deal, The Great Society, The Civil Rights Movement and all of the landmark federal protection agencies for the environment, for women, children, consumers and any other aggrieved group facing corporate power.

    It is clear that there is an end to a man made cycle of history, and the result will be diminished power and wealth for America as a whole. The plan for the last 40 years is to take it out of the hide of the people of America. Today, we see only 20% of the elite cadre of corporate America capable of a safe, predictable lifestyle with a job and income, and health care and education and privileges to protect that lifestyle. The other 80% of America are now facing a coup de gras in the final act political dispossession in the serious and straight face proposal of Paul Ryan to destroy Social Security and Republican governors to destroy public worker unions.

    It is necessary although not sufficient to recruit the respectability of prominent national organizations, like the Roosevelt group, by simply including them in the discussion, thereby elevating it to the level of a sensible position, meriting the reasonable exchange of ideas and a frank and candid dialogue. As if the final liquidation of the American public as little more than a rag wearing labor pool merits reasonable, not a scorched earth political battle to the death. Because it is the death of actual people who will be forced back into poverty so profits and privileges of billionaires and their millionaires in waiting can be properly and fully maintained.

    The Peterson Initiatives of the world need to be exposed, debunked, denounced and destroyed. Let him spend his money on expensive artwork or classic cars or something. If he wants to play god with the lives of the people of America, he should expect outrage equal to what he proposes.

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