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   from the issue of April 6, 2006

Forum finale to provide fiscal focus


Peter G. Peterson, chairman of the Blackstone Group, a private investment banking firm, and secretary of commerce in the Nixon administration, will give the talk "America and the World Economy," at 3:30 p.m. April 12 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St.

Peterson's talk is the last in the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues for 2005-2006. It is also the Lewis E. Harris Lecture on Public Policy and part of the Lied Center's season performance series. The lecture is free and open to the public and will be broadcast live on the UNL Web site (, UNL radio station KRNU (90.3 FM) and Channel 21 on Time Warner Cable television in Lincoln. A pre-forum talk will be held at 3 in the Lied's Steinhart Room.

An influential corporate and financial leader, Peterson is a vocal critic of the deficits accrued in the U.S. budget process as well as the impact large debts will have on future generations. He warns that the mix of growing debt, an aging population, and deficits in Social Security and Medicare portend disaster.

"I believe the Social Security Trust Fund belongs in the first tier of classic oxymorons. In the first place, the Social Security Trust Fund should not be trusted, and it is not funded," Peterson said in a 2004 speech. "We do not tell the public that whether you have a trust fund or not, you still face the same three hard choices: increased taxes, cut benefits or try to borrow unprecedented amounts."

Peterson is founding president of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to informing the public about the need for responsible fiscal policy across generations.

In addition to his chairmanship of the Blackstone Group, Peterson has been CEO of both Bell & Howell Corp. and Lehman Brothers. He is former director of Sony Corporation, 3M, Federated Department Stores, Black & Decker, General Foods, RCA, The Continental Group and Cities Services.

His books include "Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It," which recounts evidence that the United States is technically bankrupt - that is, the present value of its liabilities (upward of $74 trillion when discounted and summed over an infinite horizon) substantially exceeds the present net worth of the entire U.S. economy (approximately $42 trillion when similarly discounted and summed).

In "Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America - and the World," Peterson warns that steps must be taken now to avert the financial and political crises that demographic changes could bring. The near future will see each elderly person supported by fewer workers. Peterson writes that, "We must make aging both more secure for older generations and less burdensome for younger generations."

The Thompson Forum is a cooperative project of the Cooper Foundation, the Lied Center and UNL. It has a mission of promoting better understanding of world events and issues to all Nebraskans. In 1990, the series was named in honor of E.N. "Jack" Thompson (1913-2002), a 1933 graduate of the University of Nebraska, who served as president of the Cooper Foundation from 1964 to 1990 and as its chairman from 1990 until his death in 2002.



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