by John Grooms
Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers wrote an opinion piece in today's Charlotte Observer, in which he promotes the Campaign to Fix the Debt, the group founded by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson - and $60 million in corporate money.
Urging everyone to join the campaign, Rogers, who serves on its "CEO Council," circulates the same worn-out arguments spread by the group's founders: The national debt is our super-mega-ultra No. 1 Problem, and if it isn't fixed soon we're all going to die horrible deaths and probably go to hell in the bargain. At least that's what it sounds like any time the CEOs running the campaign really get going. If nothing else, they're enthusiastic about their campaign. You probably would be, too, if the solution would benefit you personally, as they would Rogers, Bowles and Simpson.
There are a couple of problems with the campaign's arguments. First, as I pointed out a month ago, today's corporation-friendly mainstream press may tout the campaign's roster of CEOs as Wise Men You Should Heed, but the campaign's prescriptions for the economy are little more than longtime, standard conservative/corporate opinions. It says the best way to cure America's ills is to shred what little safety net this nation provides its citizens, do away with tax deductions that are part of the foundation of the American middle class, and "fix" the tax code so it benefits - you guessed it - the super-rich. These guys are absolutely relentless in their struggle to get their hands on their "inferiors'" money.
It doesn't help, either, that the campaign has become a moneymaker for Bowles and Simpson, who rake in $40,000 each per speaking appearance for the campaign.
Second, a growing number of serious economists, seeing the damage caused in Europe by so-called "austerity" measures, believe the debt problem can, and should, wait until the economy is expanding again. See the previous piece, linked above, for more details on both of these points.
What I wonder is this: What shard of his former reputation as a straight-shooting, ecologically savvy leader is Rogers relying on to convince Observer readers to believe him, never mind follow his advice? After a year of secrecy and duplicity in the Duke merger with Progress Energy, the abandonment of wind power projects in North Carolina, and revelations that Duke's shareholders will foot the $6 million bill for a line of credit the public utility gave the Democratic National Convention, you have to wonder if anyone besides other puffed-up uptown suits and the daily paper's editorial department cares what Rogers thinks anymore.