Spending $1 Billion to Restore Fiscal Sanity





Gaffes have commanded presidential campaign headlines lately, including Carleton S. Fiorina’s remarks on Viagra and health insurance, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s vulgar criticism of Senator Barack Obama. Peter G. Peterson wants people to focus on what he considers real news: the nation is going broke.

Because he wasn’t born yesterday, Mr. Peterson, co-founder of the Blackstone Group and a secretary of commerce under President Richard M. Nixon, will spend $1 billion in an effort to get the public’s attention. The money, which comes from the windfall Mr. Peterson received when Blackstone went public last year, will finance a media blitz, starting with a documentary, “I.O.U.S.A.”

The film aims to startle voters and politicians alike, and summon them to the task of closing the long-term imbalance between what the government will take in and what it has promised to pay out, most notably through Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Peterson, 82, says he yearns for the can-do spirit that helped politicians forged by the Depression finance the G.I. Bill of Rights, the Interstate highway system and the Marshall Plan from the ashes of World War II. Yet he is uncertain of finding it through the torrent of trivia from the 21st-century politics of rapid response teams, microtargeting, cable television rants and angry bloggers.



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