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."