Pete Peterson is a billionaire, a former commerce secretary, and successful entrepreneur, so one would think an interview with him would be a chance to push for specific observations and prescriptions for the U.S. economy. But if one were watching ABC’s “Good Morning America” on June 9, one would be wrong. Petersen was promoting his new book, “The Education of an American Dreamer,” in an interview with Diane Sawyer. But during the segment, Sawyer tossed him softball questions and allowed him to offer only vague, liberal policy prescriptions.
Sawyer, who raved about Peterson’s “national commitment to the old American values,” asked him, “But everyone keeps saying that we had to plunge all this bailout money into the economy in order to stave out an absolute cataclysm?”
Peterson stated, “So I’m not criticizing the stimulus program, but I will criticize something else. This administration is very accurate and very expert and very persistent in telling us that healthcare costs are the problem. But because we’ve become a country where shared sacrifice is not just politically incorrect, it’s politically terminal, we aren’t being asked to cut healthcare costs in any tangible way. I would have much preferred that the president say, ‘Yes, we need universal healthcare. But we also need to cut healthcare costs and here’s the sacrifice we’re gonna have to make.’ But we’re not a country that’s gotten very used to making sacrifice. Do you understand that we now spend over twice as much per capita as the rest of the world and there’s no difference in health outcomes?”
Petersen didn’t cite his source for that fact. Nor did he explain what “shared sacrifice” meant in terms of healthcare. Presumably, it wasn’t allowing everyone getting a little bit sick, or some people forgoing treatment altogether. But Sawyer’s only follow-up was: “Once we know that, what do we do?” Peterson, who Cuomo touted as a being, “considered a genius by many in the worlds of finance and government,” only replied with, “First know the problem, settle on a few reforms.”
That was good enough for Cuomo, who pronounced after the segment, “Pete Peterson’s wisdom may be timeless, but he’s right on the news with healthcare reforms.”
Sawyer moved on to entitlement reform. “You have said that the rich should renounce social security.”
Peterson replied, “We have a progressive income tax. Why don’t we have a progressive benefit reduction? Social security can be fixed, Diane, with a series of, I think, of reasonable changes.”
Again, rather than pressing Petersen on the issue, Sawyer retreated to asking about his immigrant father: “What’s your favorite phrase or sentence in the language of your father?”
But it’s hardly surprising from the same show that also recommended giving up lattes and donating to the government in order to fix the deficit during a segment last year with the Peter G. Peterson Foundation CEO David Walker.