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The Obscenely Rich Men Bent on Shredding the Safety Net

CEOs talk about shared sacrifice, but the only thing they want to share is your retirement money with their wealthy friends.

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The U.S. does need to reduce its spending on defense and it certainly needs to aggressively contain medical costs. But you do both of those the old fashioned way. In the case of defense, you stop plunging into wars and attend carefully to what actually is needed to defend America. In the case of medical spending, you end ‘fee for service’ schemes that reward endless tests and procedures and you vigorously pursue anti-trust and regulatory remedies. You don't simply cut Americans off from health care. It's ridiculous that we have ‘single payer’ for ailing banks, but not citizens. If you are worried about the deficit, just let tax rates rise back to the levels of the Clinton era, when growth ran far ahead of today's economy, and tax dividends, carried interest, and capital gains at the rates working Americans pay. And don't, absolutely don't, let American companies escape taxation by stashing their money abroad.”

6. "Strip-mining is not leadership." Fixers present themselves as magnanimous, responsible leaders doing what they believe is best for the country. But that’s a tough sell when you’re advocating policies that mainly benefit…yourself. 

Economist Rob Johnson, director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and also a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, shared his view of the Campaign to Fix the Debt in an email. As he memorably put it, "strip-mining is not leadership":

“I believe that a convincing argument depends upon the demonstrated self-sacrifice of the leader offering a vision. This group does not appear to be doing something for the nation. They are doing something for their own self-interest (tax liability). There is confusion between: 1) what is good for business and therefore jobs, something we all should be concerned about; and 2) the personal benefit of CEOs based on who bears the burden of the debt reduction plan. This group does not seem to gain the credibility that comes from generous contribution through self sacrifice. As a result they will arouse great suspicion rather than inspire us as 'leaders' who are guiding the design of a just, productive and coherent society.  

With all of the suspicion of leadership in America,  business, media, scholars and politicians have to lead in a credible way. This just looks like guys defending their self-interest in a dysfunctional period of our nation's history because elites take so much for themselves.”

It's no secret that the wealthy have done extremely well over the last several decades, even since the Wall Street-driven financial crash that devastated millions of Americans. In 2010, the top 1 percent of U.S. families raked in as much as 93 percent of the country’s income growth, according to Emmanuel Saez, a UC Berkeley economist who looked at IRS data.

Which raises several important questions for Bowles, Simpson, Blankfein, Rattner & Co.: How much is enough? How far are you willing to tip the balance of income in the country toward the wealthy? What concern do you really have about the deficit, or for that matter, the future of America? Inquiring minds want to know.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.