Peter G. Peterson, Chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, attends a meeting of the Economic Club of New York
Editors' Note: Peter G. Peterson passed away on March 20. Sign up here to receive exclusive, daily writing from Bob Kuttner and Harold Meyerson straight to your inbox.
Peter G. Peterson.
And what makes you think you deserve admission to the Pearly Gates?
I’ve led a virtuous life, made billions, and gave most of it to charity.
What sort of charity?
Well, I gave over $1 billion to create the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, to warn Americans about the dangers of deficits and debts, and the excesses of Social Security and Medicare.
Yes? And where’s the charity part?
Too much spending will bankrupt America, especially the dreams of the young.
I’m just a saint, not an economist. But are you saying that it’s Social Security and Medicare that are destroying the life chances of the young, rather than—oh, I don’t know—college debt, insecure jobs, unaffordable housing, the very rich taking more than their share?
My one regret on Earth was that the young people just wouldn’t listen to what I was telling them.
And where did you say you made your money?
That would be private equity.
We have a saying around here: It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than—
I know … than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
You’ve heard that one.
Yes, and I thought that if I just warned people against the perils of Social Security and Medicare, the Almighty would appreciate my virtue.
It’s kind of a stretch, Pete.
Well, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Sure, fire away.
It looks pretty fine up here. Who pays for all of this?
The Almighty forgives us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Don’t you think that’s kind of profligate?
Well, we do have other, more austere quarters that might suit you a lot better.