Erskine B. Bowles
Learn more about Pete Peterson-funded astroturf projects at the Fix the Debt Portal.
Erskine B. Bowles is best known for his co-chairmanship of the Simpson-Bowles Commission (or National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) and for being Bill Clinton's chief of staff. He receives $40,000 per speaking engagement.
Ties to Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt"
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem."
Bowles is the co-founder, along with Alan Simpson, of the Fix the Debt campaign of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB). He is also on CRFB's board. Yet he has deep ties to the financial industry, which has lobbied heavily on tax issues and created 10,000 units worldwide to avoid taxes and regulation (with Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase in the lead).
This article is part of the Center for Media and Democracy's investigation of Pete Peterson's Campaign to "Fix the Debt." Please visit our main SourceWatch page on Fix the Debt.
|About Fix the Debt|
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem." Through a special report and new interactive wiki resource, the Center for Media and Democracy -- in partnership with the Nation magazine -- exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and the phony state "chapters" of this astroturf supergroup. Learn more at PetersonPyramid.org and in the Nation magazine.
Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest
Bowles is currently on the board of Morgan Stanley, and has been since 2005. Morgan Stanley participated in many of the activities that led to the financial crisis and was given a back door bailout by the Federal Reserve that was worth billions of dollars. Bowles receives $345,000 a year from Morgan Stanley, though this is not noted on his Fix the Debt biography and is almost never mentioned in the media interviews he gives for Fix the Debt. He is also an adviser to BDT Capital partners, a Chicago-based investment banking services firm. Bowles was also on the board of directors of Merck — Merck's CEO, Kenneth Frazier, is on Fix the Debt's "CEO Council." — and of General Motors in the years preceding its federal government rescue, and is currently on Norfolk Southern's board — Norfolk Southern's CEO, Charles Moorman, is on Fix the Debt's "CEO Council," and Norfolk Southern lobbies on corporate tax issues and "supports reduction in the corporate tax rate" — and on Facebook's board. His wife, Crandall C. Bowles, is on the executive committee of the board of directors of JP Morgan Chase, whose chief executive, Jamie Dimon, has said he is a "major backer" of Fix the Debt and would "do whatever it takes" to help the campaign. JPMorgan Chase lobbies on corporate tax "reform" and bank tax legislation. It is also a member of the MFA and American Bankers Association (ABA), which are lobbying against the financial speculation tax. Erskine Bowles' Morgan Stanley biography notes that "he has been a Senior Advisor to Carousel Capital, a private investment firm, since September 2001, and served as a Managing Director from March 1999 to September 2001. Mr. Bowles was a General Partner of Forstmann Little & Co., a private investment firm, from March 1999 to September 2001." Bowles is also a former member of Wachovia's board of directors, as was his wife Crandall Bowles. He is also on the board of Fix the Debt's parent organization, the Pete Peterson-funded Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB).
Morgan Stanley and Other Wall Street Ties
While Erskine Bowles was Chief of Staff for a time for President Bill Clinton and attempted to run for office himself a few times in his native state of North Carolina, he has spent most of his career as a financial advisor on Wall Street.
In 2012, Bowles was a senior financial advisor to the private equity firm, BDT Capital. Previously he worked for a series of private investment firms, Carousel Capital LLC , Forstmann Little & Co , although he began his career in corporate finance at Morgan Stanley according to Forbes.
Bowles started his career at Morgan Stanley. He later served as a board member of Morgan Stanley, a firm that was implicated in all the activities that lead to the 2008 financial crisis, throughout the entire financial crisis.
In 2006 the bank bought Saxon Capital, dubbed the "King of Subprime" loans so that Morgan Stanley could gain access to subprime mortgages and repackage them into complex investment vehicles. When the crash came Morgan teetered on the brink. It borrowed $10 billion from the TARP bailout programs and paid the money back with great fanfare in January 2009. However it was revealed later that the bank was secretly bailed out by the Federal Reserve to the tune of $100 billion, an amount only discovered by a Bloomberg News lawsuit against the Federal Reserve.
Subsequently, the firm doled out millions since to settle claims of electricity price fixing and for engaging in illegal off-exchange trading. The trouble never ends at Morgan Stanley,in 2012 they were sued by the ACLU for violating civil rights laws by encouraging a lender to push more expensive and risky mortgages on black neighborhoods in Detroit.
The Simpson-Bowles Commission
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (often called Bowles-Simpson/Simpson-Bowles from the names of co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles; or NCFRR) is a Presidential Commission created in 2010 by President Barack Obama to identify "…policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run." The commission first met on April 27, 2010.
A report was released on December 1, 2010, and although the Commission's recommendations were supported by over 60 percent of the members (11 out of 18), the report did not reach the 14-vote threshold required to formally endorse the blueprint and have it sent to Congress for approval.
On March 28, 2012, Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH) put a bill modeled on the plan, with, according to analyst Ezra Klein, "somewhat less in tax increases," to a vote in the House where it was rejected 382 to 38. 22 Democrats and 16 Republicans supported the bill.
The plan contained painful austerity measures that critics contended would further weaken the economic recovery. The plan called for cuts in benefits for the elderly, veterans, and many government employees. Most importantly, it would have cut the Social Security "cost of living" or COLA increase. Reduced COLA would amount to a benefit cut of close to 3 percent for a typical retired worker. Since the median income for households of people over age 65 is just $31,000, this would be a big hit to a segment of the population that is already struggling. 
President Obama implicitly called for cutting Social Security by 3 percent and phasing in an increase in the normal retirement age to 69 when he again endorsed the deficit reduction plan put forward by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of his deficit commission. According to economist Dean Baker "The reduction in benefits is the result of their proposal to reduce the size of the annual cost of living adjustment by 0.3 percentage points by using a different price index. After 10 years this would imply a reduction in benefits of 3 percent, after 20 years the reduction would be 6 percent, and after 30 years the reduction would be 9 percent. If the average beneficiary lives long enough to collect benefits for 20 years, the average reduction in benefits would be approximately 3 percent." 
The Commission on Fiscal Responsibility
In 2010, Bowles co-chaired, along with Alan Simpson, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which put forward a deficit reduction plan that generated a great deal of controversy. The plan included 70 recommendations on raising taxes and cutting programs, but it failed to garner majority support of the Commission. A report was released on December 1, 2010, but failed a vote on December 3 with 11 of 18 votes in favor, with a supermajority of 14 votes needed to formally endorse the blueprint. FN WIKI In January 2010, that bill failed in the Senate by a vote of 53–46, when six Republicans who had co-sponsored it--joined with 23 Democratic Senators in the Senate at large--nevertheless voted against it.
The plan contained painful austerity measures that critics contended would further weaken the economic recovery. The plan called for cuts in benefits for the elderly, veterans, and many government employees. Most importantly it would have cut the Social Security "cost of living" or COLA increase. Reduced COLA would amount to a benefit cut of close to 3 percent for a typical retired worker. Since the median income for households of people over age 65 is just $31,000, this would be a big hit to a segment of the population that is already struggling. 
Under Consideration as U.S. Treasury Secretary
Bowles has made many short lists for replacing U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geither in President Obama's second term in office.
Economist Dean Baker comments: "Erskine Bowles gives us a real trifecta. He used his position as co-chair of President Obama's deficit commission to protect Wall Street. He pockets millions as part of a flawed system of corporate governance that allows CEOs to rip off the companies they run. And he wants to reduce social security benefits for seniors who are already living on the edge."
JP Morgan Chase
Bowles' wife, Crandall C. Bowles, sits on the board of directors of JP Morgan Chase. From her bio there: Ms. Bowles has been Chairman of Springs Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of window products for the home, since 1998 and a member of its board since 1978. From 1998 until 2006, she was also Chief Executive Officer of Springs Industries, Inc. Subsequent to a spinoff and merger in 2006, she was Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of Springs Global Participacoes S.A., a textile home furnishings company based in Brazil, until July 2007. Ms. Bowles is a director of Deere & Company (since 1999 and previously from 1990 to 1994) and of Sara Lee Corporation (since 2008). She previously served as a director of Wachovia Corporation (1991-1996).
Bowles was elected President of The University of North Carolina effective January 1, 2006. He has been a Senior Advisor to Carousel Capital, a private investment firm, since September 2001, and served as a Managing Director from March 1999 to September 2001. Mr. Bowles was a General Partner of Forstmann Little & Co., a private investment firm, from March 1999 to September 2001. He served in the Administration of President Clinton as head of the Small Business Administration and White House Chief of Staff. He was the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery with the rank of Under Secretary General in 2005. Mr. Bowles worked at Morgan Stanley from July 1969 to January 1972. He is a director at General Motors Corporation, Cousins Properties Incorporated and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. A graduate of The University of North Carolina, he has an MBA from Columbia." 
Resources and Articles
Featured SourceWatch Articles on Fix the Debt
- Fix the Debt Portal Page
Other Related SourceWatch Articles
- David Dayen, Bowles and Simpson Rake In $40,000 Per Speaking Engagement, FireDogLake, November 28, 2012.
- Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Board, organizational site, accessed January 2013.
- Lynn Hume, "Industry Groups Spend Millions on Lobbying; States & Locals Not So Much", The Bond Buyer, October 15, 2012.
- Yalman Onaran, "U.S. Banks Spawn 10,000 Units Worldwide to Cut Taxes", Bloomberg, accessed July 22, 2012.
- Morgan Stanley, "Morgan Stanley Corporate Governance", organizational website, accessed January 1, 2013.
- Morgan Stanley, Schedule 14A Proxy Statement, Securities and Exchange Commission corporate filing, April 5, 2012.
- Center for Economic and Policy Research, "Why Is It Relevant That EPI Gets Money from Teacher Unions, But It's Not Relevant That Erskine Bowles Gets $350,000 a Year from Morgan Stanley?", June 28, 2011.
- Fix the Debt, CEO Fiscal Leadership Council, organizational document, accessed January 2013.
- Jeff Green, "GM Director Bowles Is Said to Offer His Resignation", Bloomberg, April 2, 2009.
- Norfolk Southern, "Norfolk Southern Corporate Profile", organizational website, accessed January 1, 2013.
- Fix the Debt, CEO Fiscal Leadership Council, organizational document, accessed January 2013.
- Norfolk Southern Corporation, Lobbying Report, corporate lobbying report with U.S. Congress, July 1 - September 30, 2012.
- Facebook, "Board of Directors", organizational website, accessed January 1, 2013.
- JP Morgan Chase, "Board of Directors", organizational website, accessed January 1, 2013.
- Zachary A. Goldfarb, "CEOs warn Obama, Congress to avoid 'fiscal cliff'", The Washington Post, October 18, 2012.
- J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Lobbying Report, corporate lobbying report with U.S. Congress, July 1 - September 30, 2012.
- K&L Gates LLP, Lobbying Report, lobbying firm lobbying report with U.S. Congress for work on behalf of JPMorgan Chase, January 1 - March 31, 2012.
- American Bankers Association, Lobbying Report, trade association lobbying report to U.S. Congress, July 1 - September 30, 2012.
- Managed Funds Association, Lobbying Report, trade association lobbying report to U.S. Congress, July 1 - September 30, 2012.
- Jay McIneryney, "Other People's Money", New York Magazine, May 21, 2005.
- Dean Baler and Eric Hoyt, "The Erskine Bowles Stock Index", Center for Economic and Policy Research, September 4, 2012.
- Executive Order -- National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Feb. 18, 2010. WhiteHouse.gov
- About the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
- In a 11-7 Tally, the Fiscal Commission Falls Short on Votes The New York Times, December 3, 2010, Accessed January 7, 2013
- Ezra Klein, Wonkbook: House reaches bipartisan deal to reject Simpson-Bowles The Washington Post - WonkBlog, March 29, 2012, Accessed January 7, 2013
- Andrew Taylor, Simpson-Bowles Plan Rejected By House, The Huffington Post, March 28, 2012, Accessed January 7, 2013
- Dean Baker, Erskine Bowles: An Object Lesson, The Guardian, September 10, 2012, Accessed January 7, 2013
- President Obama Calls for Cutting Social Security by 3 Percent, Raising Normal Retirement Age in Acceptance Speech, Center for Economic and Policy Research, September 7, 2012, Accessed January 7, 2013
- Baker, Dean. Erskine Bowles: An Object Lesson Accessed 10/15/2012
- Directors, Morgan Stanley, accessed September 4, 2008.