Beware of ‘public spirited’ corporate shills

The so-called ‘debt crisis’ has spawned a lot of groups ostensibly for the purpose of suggesting ways to reduce it. But as this news report suggests, the members of one such group known as ‘Fix the Debt’ may not be as disinterested as they claim to be, because they simultaneously serve other businesses that are directly affected by the measures they propose.

Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia who is a member of Fix the Debt’s steering committee, received more than $300,000 in compensation in 2011 as a board member of General Electric. The company is among the most aggressive in the country at minimizing its tax obligations.

Erskine B. Bowles, a co-founder of Fix the Debt, was paid $345,000 in stock and cash in 2011 as a board member at Morgan Stanley, while Judd Gregg, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire and a co-chairman of Fix the Debt, is a paid adviser to Goldman Sachs. Both companies have engaged in lobbying on international tax rules.

In all, close to half of the members of Fix the Debt’s board and steering committee have ties to companies that have engaged in lobbying on taxes and spending, often to preserve tax breaks and other special treatment.

Remember that Bowles is half of the Simpson-Bowles team that sees Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, programs that benefit those at the lower end of the income scale, as major drivers of the debt and worthy of being cut.

One should be very wary of groups of wealthy people who claim to be advancing the cause of the general good.