Peter G. Peterson is an American entrepreneur, investment banker and politician. He served as United States Secretary of Commerce during the Nixon administration and was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations Council on Foreign Relations until his retirement in 2007. Peter co-founded the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, in 1985 and retired in 2008 as its Senior Chairman. He is the author of the book Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It. Peterson was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2000 to 2004 and is founding Chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Well you could say I have a profound conflict of interest here, because I’m in the . . . I’m the fat cat by every conceivable standard – physical and financial, and literally. It’s clear, I think, that the incomes are less equal than they’ve been in some period of time. And I’m not one that gets terribly exercised at discussions of raising revenues. While I think the big, big, big action that’s required is reduce the spending and reduce some of these benefits, particularly for people like me that don’t need them, it’s quite possible that there’s gonna be some increases in taxes – quite possibly. And then the discussion would be what’s the fair way to increase taxes. It certainly isn’t on the poor. And you know, let’s figure out whether the best way is to tax the Pete Petersons more on their marginal rates, or to try to affect private equity firms, which is the big debate going on now, or what. But I would be very surprised, because politically what’s going on is the Democrats quite understandably are looking at these huge incomes that some of us at the top make, and the fact that the middle-income classes have enjoyed relatively small increases in real income. And their healthcare costs are very high, and college education costs a lot of money. And it would be hard for me not to be sympathetic and empathetic to their condition. However, longer term, the way to fix that . . . the best way to fix it is for this country to save and invest more, and not to depend on the rest of the world and borrow our money from it. So I think there is a high correlation long term between what we can do to increase the incomes of the average person, and how we attack some of these public issues like Social Security; like Medicare; like healthcare costs out of control; like our energy gluttony at the present time; like the fact that half of our kids in the major cities only graduate from high school and we’re trying to compete with China and India that not only have much lower labor costs, but have much higher graduation of mathematical and physical scientists and so forth. We’re living in a very much more competitive world economy whether we like it or not. And the best way, in my view, of increasing the welfare of the average worker is to make this economy stronger.
Recorded On: 7/26/07