This morning I got an email from myImpact.org announcing that they'd received support from the Peterson Foundation and Mobilize.org for a social media project they intend to do. This was announced at the Mobilize.org 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.
"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 myImpact.org 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.