Hi there! Were you looking for The Can Kicks Back?
The Can Kicks Back was an organization that advocated for austerity and reducing the national debt and deficit — by cutting government spending and programs that are especially vital to seniors and the poor. During a time when many Americans were struggling to make ends meet in the aftermath of the Great Recession, The Can Kicks Back used myth and bad economics to undermine their economic security by, for example, trying to gut Social Security.
It’s not hard to figure out why The Can Kicks Back was focused on hurting the most vulnerable. Just look at its partners and donors. The Can Kicks Back functioned as the millennial arm of Fix the Debt, the latest iteration of billionaire Pete Peterson’s corporate-fueled crusade to cut the national debt by dismantling popular and efficient programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Beside Fix the Debt, The Can Kicks Back was also in large part financed by billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, who thinks that the greatest crisis facing the country is that seniors receive Social Security benefits. (It’s impossible to know the rest of The Can Kicks Back’s donors; as a 501(c)4 “dark money” organization, it had no obligation to release a complete list of donors or the amounts donated.)
Although The Can Kicks Back billed itself as having grassroots support, its agenda and activities are anything but. As a corporate-supported astroturf organization, it:
- Placed identical, ghostwritten op-eds in various newspapers with different bylines
- Misrepresented itself to college students across the country via various campaigns to make it seem “cool” to cut Social Security
- Paid outside organizations to collect signatures for its petitions, for people to participate in flash mobs, and for college students to attend its lobbying days
- Created embarrassing and supposedly “viral” videos depicting deficit hawks Alan Simpson and Alice Rivlin and held a “Rock the Debt” concert to try to make austerity appeal to young people
- Pit old versus young in a disingenuous argument for “generational equity” (Social Security is not just a vital lifeline for seniors and the disabled, but for children as well)
- Propagated myths that Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt, and promoted the ill-conceived Inform Act (which was interrupted by a corporate pirate), and
- Supported unpopular and nonsensical proposals to lower corporate taxes, lower taxes on the rich, and raise taxes on the poor, in the name of deficit reduction (which doesn’t make sense in the first place)
In 2014, it became clear that The Can Kicks Back was running out of its billionaire money, and on the heels of a number of failed and costly campaigns, that its staff were inept and lacked basic self-awareness. As The Can Kicks Back faded away, it was also clear that Pete Peterson and his network of pro-austerity organizations had fallen out of favor in Washington, D.C. policy circles — for now.
If you’d like to learn more about Social Security and the growing movement to expand benefits, check out Social Security Works’ FAQ page and the principles of the Strength Social Security Coalition, which is fighting to expand the program.