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Front Group for Military-Industrial Complex Pushes Hard to Slash Social Programs and Avoid Pentagon Cuts

Corporate-backed lobbying group Fix the Debt shows little interest in protecting the neediest in society.

As the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations drag on in Washington with the media covering Repubican House Speaker John Boehner’s latest temper tantrums, a bipartisan coalition of former government officials with deep ties to the defense industry and Wall Street are ratcheting up the pressure to cut retirement programs while sparing military contractors.

“Fix the Debt – a corporate-backed lobbying group advocating debt reduction with a $60 million budget – has failed to embrace defense spending cuts as a viable deficit reduction option, despite the fact that defense spending makes up over half of discretionary spending,” begins a new report by the Public Accountablity Initiative, a non-profit watchdog group, which focuses on the financial interests of who is behind cutting retirement security programs and other needed safety nets.

“The group’s 'core principles' focus on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid reforms and 'pro-growth' tax reform, and fail to even mention defense spending,” PAI’s report continues. “Fix the Debt’s eagerness to point the finger at social safety net spending while virtually ignoring defense spending makes more sense in light of its corporate backing. A review of the group’s corporate ties shows that many Fix the Debt leaders have lucrative connections to companies with billions of dollars in defense contracts.”

It’s often said that Washington insiders love ideas more than people—which is why some ideological obsessions, such as dismantling social safety nets, take precedence over more everyday concerns on Americans’ minds, such as jobs. But lurking below the superficial pronouncements in Washington’s policy wars there's often a profit-making agenda—and that is the case in the fiscal cliff crisis and negotiations, PAI reports, as it follows the money.

Take a look at this “Who We Are” page on the FixTheDebt Web site. What you will not see touted among this mix of former and currrent Democratic and Republican officials are their ties to the defense industry, nor how their advocacy of safety net cuts does not extend to curtailing unneeded military programs.

Here’s an excerpt from PAI’s conflict-of-interest trail:

  • 38 Fix the Debt leaders have ties to 43 companies with defense contracts totaling $43.4 billion in 2012. Fix the Debt leaders profiting from defense spending include the group’s co-chairs, steering committee members, and CEO council members; they have ties to these companies as board members, executives and CEOs, and lobbyists.
  • Boeing (with $25.1 billion in defense contracts) and Northrop Grumman (with $8.5 billion) lead the pack. Boeing CEO W. James McNerney, Jr. is on Fix the Debt’s CEO Council, and Northrop Grumman board member Vic Fazio is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee.
  • Four other Fix the Debt-linked companies have more than $1 billion in 2012 defense contracts: GE ($2.1 billion), Textron ($2 billion), Honeywell ($1.5 billion), and World Fuel Services ($1.2 billion).
  • The 38 Fix the Debt leaders with ties to defense contractors drew at least $401 million in compensation from the 43 companies in 2011 – an average of $10.6 million each.
  • Outside of Fix the Debt’s CEO Council, four individuals in Fix the Debt’s core leadership group have strong ties to defense contractors: co-chair Judd Gregg (director, Honeywell), and steering committee members Sam Nunn (director, GE, Hess, Coca-Cola), Vic Fazio (director, Northrop Grumman), and Jim McCrery (lobbyist, GE and Chevron). None of these ties are disclosed on the campaign’s website; all four are characterized as former members of Congress.

Why Isn’t Defense on the Negotiating Table?

The "fiscal cliff" debate is framed around cutting “discretionary” federal spending. But what is omitted from this calculus is that defense spending accounts for more than half of federal discretionary, PAI reports. “According to the CBO, in fiscal year 2011 defense spending totaled $699 billion, or 52% of total discretionary spending of $1.35 trillion,” it said. “By comparison, Medicare spending was $480 billion, Medicaid spending was $275 billion, and Social Security spending was $725 billion.”