Friday, October 25, 2013

Nothing Says "Progress" like Having Walmart Fund Your Conference...And Other Think Tank Hypocrisy

The Center for American Progress is now ten years old and had its 10th anniversary celebration yesterday, bringing in a number of Democratic Party heavy-hitters. The Huffington Post caught something seemingly incongruous at the event:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought down the curtain on the celebration of the Center for American Progress' 10-year anniversary on Thursday, but not before CAP President Neera Tanden thanked a few of the event's sponsors: Walmart, AT&T, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Because nothing says progressive policy like Walmart and AT&T, right? 
Now, I could talk about how Walmart's policies kill American jobs, cost taxpayers money, destroy small businesses, violate labor laws, and excaerbate economic inequality. I could also talk about the Walton family's activism in the school privatization movement.

Instead, let's just turn to CAP's own blog, ThinkProgress. Here are some headlines from just the past few months.

"Walmart CEO: Most Salespeople Make Less Than $25,000 A Year" (Bryce Covert; 10/23/2013)

"Dozens Of Walmart Workers Walk Out On Strike In Miami" (Bryce Covert; 10/21/2013)

"Walmart Workers Arrested While Protesting Unjust Firings, Low Wages" (Aviva Shen; 8/22/2013)

"The Company With Lower Prices And Better Benefits Than Walmart" (Bryce Covert; 8/9/2013)

"Will Walmart Create Any Extra Jobs If It Opens In DC?" (Bryce Covert; 7/12/2013) [The answer, as Bryce Covert explains, is NO.]

"Walmart Threatens To Shut Down Stores If DC Passes Living Wage Bill" (Aviva Shen; 7/10/2013)
Here's how CAP describes its mission:
The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action. Building on the achievements of progressive pioneers such as Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, our work addresses 21st-century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care.
I think you have to jump through a lot of rhetorical and logical hoops to say that Walmart fits into an MLK-inspired vision of economic progress. Just saying. 
And how about AT&T? Well, AT&T has been violating customers' privacy rights evading wiretap laws with the help, of course, of the DOJ, which wants access to AT&T's data for surveillance purposes. Progressive!

When writing about CAP's questionable funding (more extensively chronicled in The Nation), I was reminded of another bit of hypocrisy I saw today from one of DC's "center-left" think tanks.

That other bit of think tank hypocrisy was courtesy of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Today, CBPP's Kathy Ruffing had a good blog post about how Social Security keeps 22 million people out of poverty.
Social Security lifted 22 million people out of poverty in 2012, according to our updated analysis (with state-by-state data) of Census data.  This includes not just 15 million elderly Americans but also many younger people, including 1 million children who either received their own benefits as dependents of retired, disabled, or deceased workers or lived with relatives who received Social Security.  (See table below.)

Without Social Security benefits, 44.4 percent of elderly Americans would have incomes below the official poverty line, all else being equal.  With Social Security, only 9.1 percent do.  (See graph.)

Given the program’s powerful anti-poverty impact, cuts in Social Security benefits could significantly raise poverty — particularly among the elderly and the disabled — depending on their design.

Social Security benefits are already modest, both in dollar terms (the average retired worker receives less than $1,300 a month) and by international standards.

Social Security accounts for two-thirds of income for its elderly beneficiaries, on average.  And more than a third of beneficiaries — generally the oldest and poorest — rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.

While policymakers should work to close Social Security’s long-term funding gap, they should remember this program’s vital importance for Americans of all ages.
I have no qualms with that post. I though it was quite good. However, it does not align with Ruffing and CBPP's own past positions. 

In February 2012, Kathy Ruffing, Paul N. Van de Water, and Robert Greenstein produced a report entitled "Chained CPI Can Be Part of a Balanced Deficit-Reduction Package, Under Certain Conditions," in which they argued for cutting Social Security benefits. They, of course, used the same (rather empty) qualifying comments that the Democratic Party leadership has always used--that any changes would have to protect the very poor and very vulnerable, etc. But nonetheless, they are arguing for a cut to the benefits of retirees. You can see a takedown of that report by the Economic Policy Institute's Larry Mishel here.

CBPP was still pushing benefit cuts back in April:
Pelosi told reporters she thought Democrats ought to hear both sides, arranging a debate conducted by outside experts for Democrat members.

Pelosi joined the rest of her membership at the weekly House Democratic Caucus meeting where lawmakers heard from Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO labor federation, representing opposition to Obama's proposal, and Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which favors including entitlement reform in budgets.

Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota told Reuters after the meeting that while there were a few Democrats in favor of maintaining an open mind to Obama's proposal, the caucus as a whole "overwhelmingly" delivered the message that the so-called chained-CPI was a non-starter.

"There was a lot of concern," Ellison said.

No comments:

Post a Comment