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A WHORE JUST LIKE ALL THE REST*: Rendell Lobbying For Wall Street Fat Cats In ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Negotiations

Illustration (sans WHORE) by KERRY WAGHORN

HUFFINGTON POST: The corporate CEOs who have made a high-profile foray into deficit negotiations have themselves been substantially responsible for the size of the deficit they now want closed. The companies represented by executives working with the Campaign To Fix The Debt have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies’ tax bills. The CEOs are part of a campaign run by the Peter Peterson-backed Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, which plans to spend at least $30 million pushing for a deficit reduction deal in the lame-duck session and beyond. During the past few days, CEOs belonging to what the campaign calls its CEO Fiscal Leadership Council — most visibly, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell’s David Cote — have barnstormed the media, making the case that the only way to cut the deficit is to severely scale back social safety-net programs — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — which would disproportionately impact the poor and the elderly.

As part of their push, they are advocating a “territorial tax system” that would exempt their companies’ foreign profits from taxation, netting them about $134 billion in tax savings, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies titled “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks” — money that could help pay off the federal budget deficit. Yet the CEOs are not offering to forgo federal money or pay a higher tax rate, on their personal income or corporate profits. Instead, council recommendations include cutting “entitlement” programs, as well as what they call “low-priority spending.” Many of the companies recommending austerity would be out of business without the heavy federal support they get, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which both received billions in direct bailout cash, plus billions more indirectly through AIG and other companies taxpayers rescued.Just three of the companies — GE, Boeing and Honeywell — were handed nearly $28 billion last year in federal contracts alone.

In an interview aired Monday, Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein said Social Security “wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30 year retirement after a 25-year career.” The key to cutting Social Security, he said, was simply a matter of teaching people to expect less. “You’re going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people’s expectations of what they’re going to get,” Blankfein told CBS, “the entitlements, and what people think they’re going to get, because you’re not going to get it.” Blankfein and Goldman Sachs don’t have to worry about lowering expectations. After receiving a $10 billion federal bailout in 2008, and paying it back a few years later, Goldman Sachs recently exceeded Wall Street analysts’ expectations by announcing $8.4 billion in third quarter revenues for 2012. On the heels of a great year, Blankfein is expected to take home an even larger salary than he did in 2011, when he made $16.1 million. To understand the importance of banking profits to the members of the deficit council, one need look no further than the two top-ranking members of the Campaign To Fix The Debt’s steering committee, former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg (R) and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Gregg is currently employed as an international adviser to Goldman Sachs, while Rendell collects his paycheck from the boutique investment bank Greenhill & Co. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: This Sunday, on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” an event will occur that will shock the heck out of everyone in America. Except those who live around here. Ed Rendell’s going to blow up at a reporter. The outburst is recorded and ready to roll. The subject is casinos. Lesley Stahl, longtime CBS reporter, one of the smarter people in the business, is pressing Mr. Rendell about casinos and their effect on addictive gamblers. He takes it less than well.

“People are losing money for the state to get its revenue,” Ms. Stahl says. “They’re losing money.”

The governor replies, beginning to sputter: “Let me answer this. You … you’ve … I’ve always … I’ve known, uh, for two or three decades, you’re a very smart person.”

“But not now,” Ms. Stahl says.

“But you’re not getting it,” Mr. Rendell says.

“I’m dumb now,” Ms. Stahl says.

“You’re not getting it,” Mr. Rendell says, clearly flustered. “Those people would lose that money anyway. Don’t you understand? You guys don’t get that. You’re simpletons. You’re idiots if you don’t get that.” By the end, he is grimacing and waving his hands. MORE

*Title of Richard Meltzer’s indispensible memoir-cum-sociocultural critique

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