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This morning I got an email from announcing that they'd received support from the Peterson Foundation and for a social media project they intend to do.  This was announced at the event "Exploring the Millennial Generation’s Return on Investment" a conference announced earlier this year when Mobilize announced their $1million grant from the Peterson Foundation.

William Greider wrote in The Nation earlier this year about the Looting of Social Security, describing very specifically the plan among Wall Street and Banking elites who are pushing the idea of fiscal responsibility as part of policy.  Fiscal responsibility is a well tested phrase that everyone can get behind - because everyone agrees that our country should be responsible with its money. . . but Greider says that this is a backdoor swindle on anyone who has paid into Social Security

"These players are promoting a tricky way to whack Social Security benefits, but to do it behind closed doors so the public cannot see what's happening or figure out which politicians to blame. The essential transaction would amount to misappropriating the trillions in Social Security taxes that workers have paid to finance their retirement benefits. This swindle is portrayed as "fiscal reform." In fact, it's the political equivalent of bait-and-switch fraud."

His piece is extensive, and outlines the ways in which the rich want to use funding for Social Security to cut taxes to corporations and upper-income wage earners and a huge tax increase imposed on working people that he says is similar to the 1983 tax

"the payroll tax rate supporting Social Security--the weekly FICA deduction--was raised substantially, supposedly to create a nest egg for when the baby boom generation reached retirement age."

There is a kindred spirit in young people with this message, because since the 1980's the Millennial Generation has heard a consistent message about Social Security being too small to support the Baby Boomer Generation.  Most young people don't think it will be there for them (Disclaimer:  It will be), so this is a great group of people to begin organizing around "entitlement reform" to unmake Social Security and bait the young against the old to screw us all.

The article received a response from the Peterson Foundation itself directly targeting the idea of "entitlements" and "fiscal responsibility."  But, Greider responded to the letter saying  

"if you read his letter closely, he more or less confirms what I wrote about the establishment's assault on Social Security and other entitlement programs.

"I said they want to loot Social Security. He says it's already been looted. I said they are trying to evade the regular processes of representative democracy. He says Congress is "broken" and so cannot be trusted to make sound decisions in a timely manner."

Mobilize prides itself in being an "all partisan" organization, rather than a non-partisan organization which is what many youth groups are.  When they promote progressive values I personally celebrate it, when they promote right-wing ideas, I will not.  I had no idea that was also aligned with this kind of ideology, and I was so disappointed to receive the email from them this morning celebrating the Peterson Foundation's involvement, and accepting donations from them.

But this is the second problem, there's no funding for the youth movement.  If you've read Mike Connery's book Youth to Power then you've read about the major donors that invested 5-10 years ago, respectively, in progressive youth outreach, young voters, and organizations that promote the civic participation and dedication of the Millennial Generation.  

I'm sad to say that those donors have almost entirely dried up.  Many are funding different projects, some have gone more partisan, some have gone less partisan only funding organizations that do voter registration and civic engagement but not issues, and others have simply stopped giving either because of the economic recession or a lack of interest.  

The result is a ton of youth organizations doing groundbreaking work in states and across the country that can't get funded or whose budgets have been slashed so considerably that the outreach has suffered.  The funders that are still active in the youth movement, those rare loyal leaders, are so few that we as a community are wrestling over any dime we can get.  

So when there is a major foundation like Peterson willing to bankroll the entire organization with a $1million check, an organization must choose whether or not to sell their soul to keep the doors open.  

This will continue to be the standard until we as a progressive movement decide to invest in our future.  Right wing groups specifically invest in their youth with leadership training, job placement, think takes, and candidate recruitment.  Connery wrote on Talking Points Memo last year about the trend beginning in the 1970's when the

"Young America’s Foundation, the most well-funded conservative youth group, with an average annual budget of around $9 million, was revitalized, and new organizations like Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute, which has trained upwards of 50,000 conservative activists on an average annual budget of $7 million, were getting their start.

Within the Republican Party itself, the College Republicans also experienced a revitalization at this time. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the number of College Republican chapters climbed from a nadir of 250 during the Johnson administration to over 1,100 by the time Reagan was in office.

By 2003, there were over a dozen leadership and training nonprofits in the conservative youth movement, and they receive upwards of $48 million a year in funding from 75 different conservative foundations. More importantly, their was not cyclical (ie election-based), but steady, providing a measure of stability on which to build and sustain their operations for years. Together, these organizations train hundreds if not thousands of conservatives a year, almost the entire cost of which is subsidized for the trainees."

I'll say it again, if we don't invest in our future today, there won't be a future to invest in, and more and more youth groups will be forced to accept compromising donations from conservative groups looking to creatively make inroads to the progressive movement.  Social Security will be just the beginning of the end.

Crossposted from

Originally posted to Sarahkatheryn on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 02:20 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  People here occasionally bring up the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sc kitty, dancewater, clandestinedem

    topic of building a deeper bench of political candidates. It does seem tough to get any funding on our side.

    -- We are just regular people informed on issues

    by mike101 on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 02:37:42 PM PST

    •  It doesn't take much... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dancewater, Sarahkatheryn

      ...funding for City Council, School Boards and County Commission races.  

      •  exactly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and the benefits are substantial - today's city council members are tomorrow's state house candidates and eventually congressional candidates.  with a bigger bench we'll have better qualified candidates who can run and win.

        Work together to save the world.

        by Sarahkatheryn on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 02:49:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, a motivated individual should be (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        able to do that.

        I was actually thinking more about those "leadership institutes" mentioned in the diary. We never really got big into that, and it would seem especially rough to start now that more wealth has been transferred into the big-business/corporate side of our country.

        We just tend to rely more upon individuals. Which, IMO, is a shame because an organized team is so much more effective.

        -- We are just regular people informed on issues

        by mike101 on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 02:58:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  There is consolation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dancewater, Sarahkatheryn

    in the fact that kids today are pretty much done with the Republican agenda. At least there are fewer and fewer of them. But you are right, that can change with youth programs and organizations that are basically propoganda mascerading as charity.

    I tend to think it is people that are going to change the situation even more than money. Every progressive should be volunteering somewhere to help their community. There are many youth programs that are not only under-funded, but under-staffed. There is a bonus. We also develop inroads into community groups where our views can be expressed, and we lose the reputation of just being a bunch of gripers who want to "bring down the system". Believe it or not, that is what some people say about progressives.

    As if we could make things better without making them worse.

    by A Voice on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 03:00:30 PM PST

  •  Good diary -- and a big, longterm problem. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Of course, many young people are drawn to liberal values even without progressive youth organizations being strong. Just look at the generational shifts in attitudes toward race, gender, and GLBT issues over the last 30-40 years, and the growing environmental awareness.

    But activist youth move into a lifetime of political/cultural involvement and activism a lot more easily if there are resources to help them learn and get experience. The Right knows that and have consistently nurtured the next generation of reactionaries, Wall Street worshipers, teabaggers, etc. Progressives haven't been so consistent.

    When I was involved in activism in the 60's, there was significant support from the liberal churches. It was low key, not top down, certainly not proselytizing. Young people could get money to organize a conference or publish resource materials, that kind of thing. The Methodist youth ministry's magazine, MOTIVE, put out an issue on feminism, and later an issue on gay liberation, that were each classics, passed around and used for years. Some other women and I organized a conference on feminism at our midwestern university, as a way to start the first consciousness-raising groups in that area. We got some money from one of the local campus ministries to help with that.  Et cetera.

    A number of the ministers at that time were themselves very committed to civil rights, the peace movement, and/or feminism and gay & lesbian liberation.  So there was a natural engagement between young actiists and some people with more experience and activist history.

    Are the liberal churches less involved in that way, now?  If so, that's too bad. I know they've been losng money over the years.

    •  good comments (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2, dancewater

      The biggest problem that I see is that liberal churches look at right wing churches who are explicitly involved in politics and they don't want to be that - thus you have this polar backlash where liberal churches could be actively involved, but they're playing by the rules almost to the extreme while right wing churches push the limits as much as they can.  (at least in the heartland that's the case)

      I really wish it wasn't this way, there is SO much potential there with acts of good works and social justice.

      Work together to save the world.

      by Sarahkatheryn on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 04:01:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You've Been Rescued (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them"

    by ItsJessMe on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:30:49 PM PST

  •  at a recent work 'retreat' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    we played a game where one word is picked - and then everyone picks a card from their hand to match it.  Then the person who is the "judge" picks a winning match.

    At one point, the word was "hopeless" and one of the cards to match it was "Social Security" ... and it won, and nearly everyone agreed.  It just blew my mind, and these were middle aged folks - live over 50.  The single best program to lift people out of poverty in our country is, in their eyes, hopeless.

    War cannot be waged to instill any virtue, including democracy or the liberation of women. - Chris Hedges

    by dancewater on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:36:34 PM PST

    •  heartbreaking (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't get it - if it weren't for social security then everyone's parents would just come back and live with their children.  I don't mind that, honestly its how I'll have to take care of my grandfather, but with programs like SS I won't be shouldering the responsibility on my own the money he put into it his whole life will come back to help.  it doesn't just help him, it will ultimately help me.

      also check this out - significant decrease in poverty among the elderly since the 60's to the 90's

      Work together to save the world.

      by Sarahkatheryn on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:53:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Two challenges (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        denise b, bloomin

        One. The Peterson Foundation has an endowment of $1 billion (with a 'b'). We are not going to out-compete him on a dollar basis.

        Two. This youth effort has a long pedigree. In 1983 in the wake of the 'loss' in the form of the Greenspan Comm Social Security compromise, Cato organized a conference with the idea of establishing a long range plan to prepare for the next opportunity. The Conference papers were duly published in the Fall 1983 issue of the Cato Journal under the title: Social Security: Continuing Crisis or Real Reform
        among those papers was one by Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis with the revealing title: Social Security Reform: Achieving a "Leninist" Strategy

        It is well worth the read because in it Butler and Germanis lay out an explicit strategy whose centerpiece was convincing young workers that Social Security would just not be there for them and that it was all the fault of Baby Boomers. That strategy succeeded magically, relatively few people under the age of 50 believe that Social Security will even exist.

        So Peterson is not just working from a big stack of money, he also has a deep well of mistrust among young people built up over 26 years using these Leninist tactics that he can draw on.

        I personally have been pushing back on this at my blog and in diaries here and at MyDD and others since Nov 2004 and Bush's claim that he was going to use his newfound political capital. But even though we beat back Bush in early 2005 the Leninist Strategy just keeps rolling along convincing each new generation of kids.

        Anyway Butler and Germanis is a fascinating read. Basically it tests out every talking point you have heard from opponents over the last couple decades, you could cut and paste from it and effectively recreate every wingnut press release over that period.

        Say what you like about the Right, they sure have good message discipline when it suits them.

  • Response to Blog Post (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you for your coverage of and our participation in the and Peter G. Peterson Foundation sponsored "Millennial Return on Investment" summit. As you mention, is an all-partisan organization that invests in innovative Millennial solutions that prescribe with its theory of change, Democracy 2.0. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation gives grants to solutions that "transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results." is an emerging online platform for young Americans in national and community service. We believe in the power of citizen service to change our country and work to use social media to advance this idea. Our participation in the grant summit was based on our belief that in looking at the fiscal and economic problems that our generation inherits, citizen service must be a part of the solution we develop. For example, over 8 million young people volunteered over 1 billion service hours in 2008, and for every one dollar invested in national service programs, there are 4 dollars of direct measurable economic returns, as calculated by the Corporation for National & Community Service.

    The Peterson Foundation and have a history of funding projects and organizations regardless of political identification or affiliation. In fact, the five grants were awarded based on the votes, in five issue areas, of the 150 Millennials attending the summit, not the staff of either the Peterson Foundation or

    In the interest of full disclosure, is currently the fiscal sponsor of myImpact. Additionally, in interest of transparency, we have posted the full video of our presentation on YouTube and on our website, as well as the actual presentation file we delivered. I personally invite you and your readers to watch, listen and/or read our presentation. Let me be clear: does not have a ideological position. We are proud of the support of the Millennial ROI Summit Participants, and the Peterson Foundation.

    Chris Golden

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