Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation - 1 Billion Dollars To Solve Big Problems

The quickest way to change the world is to change yourself and care for those around you. Another way is to see the big picture and use your influence and money to tackle problems, that to the average American, seem incomprehensible.

Peter G. Peterson, self-made billionaire, son of a Greek immigrant, wants to provide a means to solve challenges in the U.S. economy - not by throwing money at them, that's too easy and also futile. In February, he announced the launch of his foundation and asked David M. Walker, former Comptroller General for the United States, to buy into his concept.

The concept - to target undeniable, unsustainable, and politically untouchable long term threats to our nation's future. He sees the main threats to be a gluttonous Social Security System, unprecedented trade deficits, ballooning Healthcare costs, selfish energy consumption, dangerous gaps in our educational system, and the threat of nuclear/biological warfare.

He believes that these monumental challenges require sacrifice on the part of all Americans from the fat cats all the way down the ladder. We can all do our part. The rich will have to pay more taxes, the government will have to spend less, everyone will have to save more. "I'm not sure if we remember how to give up something for the long-term general good. Nor do we hear calls for sacrifice from our leaders. Our lawmakers are enablers, either joining us in the state of denial or trying to anesthetize us. But if we can learn to face the future realistically, everyone will benefit from a more robust, sustainable economy," he says.

Peterson thinks that real change will start with young people. By reaching out to places like new media forms, bloggers, YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace, the foundation will support the production of films to educate people about the perils America faces. He envisions youth summits and maybe an AAYP (American Association of Young People) who will counter the lobby of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) to ensure that decisions made are balanced and good for future generations.

He wants to re energize the business community that seems to be MIA when it comes to the larger challenges the world faces. They think in terms of immediate bottom line profit, instead of long term sustainability of business and life. The Peterson Foundation's first grants were awarded to The Concord Coalition for the Fiscal Wake-up Tour and Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative (in partnership with Warren Buffett).

Peterson believes the nation’s political leadership has fallen prey to short-term thinking and lacks the courage to clearly spell out the difficulties, contributing to a state of denial. “If Americans are told the truth, and if they feel the required sacrifices for our common future are fairly shared, I have enormous faith that they will respond with a commitment to identify and implement the right solutions,” Mr. Peterson said.

I'm hoping that more organizations like The Peterson Foundation will begin to appear across the landscape of political and social ideas. Then we will truly have a coalition for large scale change. The foundation claims that soon it will be expanding to include work for policy advocates, field educators, and digital media professionals in order to mobilize key constituencies and develop programs to support its cause.

A final quote from Mr. Peterson, " I know that the odds of success are daunting. Yet given what is at state and what I owe this remarkable country, I, and we, have no alternative but to try."


sctshep said...

I want to believe. I really!!!want to believe but it's getting harder. The connivers (who's making money off of Iraq? No bid contracts etc.), zealots (the world is only 6000 years old and the bible is the literal word of god) and who knows what (chambers of commerce,powerful unseen sources) seem to have control. I agree with the gentleman when he says he believes that the American people will make sacrifices if they see the need. They won't though if they think that the powerful elite are not making any sacrifices. And how can we not think that?
Why is social security in trouble? It has been looted for years by the Congress.They just pretended they would pay it back. We just keep pretending. We're the big version of Enron. They just made up shit as they went along and so do we.
If this program is going to have any chance at success it seems to me it has to be seen on a larger scale and ordinary people should have some say on the topics. That would mean that the media would be involved but I don't know if the "video" would be sensational enough. And ordinary people. I'm not even sure what that is. Oh well. Here's an idea. If McCain gets elected we should spend the billion on light bulbs because the dark ages are returning and all the meetings in the world won't stop that.
Love your stuff and your attitude. It's obviously better than mine right now.

Lisa McGlaun said...


I agree with everything you said, survive in this world I need to believe in the good intentions of others and their ability to bring them to fruition. I have to. I need that hope.


sctshep said...

I agree but I get very sad when it becomes harder and harder to see the evidence of good will. I see the picture of you with your child and I am going to be a grandfather for the first time. These kids deserve hope also. People like you keep my hope alive. Somebody said to study the darkness and look for the sliver of light and then follow it on the premise that it will lead to more light. Keep throwing those slivers out there.

Anonymous said...

It's not just America's political leadership that thinks short-term. Sure, they have election cycles, but how about the quarterly earnings reports that drive so many corporate decisions?

Lisa McGlaun said...

Thanks Scott,

I'll keep at it.


Lisa McGlaun said...


I defer to your knowledge on things like this. Companies drive our consumer culture and profit drives the that is definately a problem. I don't know how to make them think long term. Throw out those quarterly reports might be one idea.