Antonio Villaraigosa, Having Joined Fix The Debt Campaign, Blames Criticism On Broken Politics


Kathleen Miles is the executive editor and cofounder of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa responded defensively to the backlash he’s received for signing onto the Republican-leaning Campaign to Fix the Debt on HuffPost Live Thursday.

“You know, I have people upset all the time,” said Villaraigosa. “I’m in a job where I’m not looking to do what’s popular. I’m looking to do what’s right.”

The mayor’s decision to join Fix the Debt was met by an online petition with nearly 13,000 signatures asking him to immediately resign from the organization.

“This is a group of corporate CEO’s [sic] who are pushing to balance the budget on the backs of middle and working class Americans,” the petition reads.

As HuffPost previously reported, 79 percent of campaign donations from CEOs on Fix the Debt’s leadership council went to Republicans during the 2012 election cycle. The group advocates lower taxes and cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to reduce the deficit.

Villaraigosa responded on HuffPost Live to the criticism. “Look, isn’t what’s broken in Washington right now is that Republicans won’t talk to Democrats, and Democrats won’t talk to Republicans?” he asked.

“There’s this blind allegiance to orthodoxy and ideology. The reason we’re calling it the fiscal cliff is because both sides look like right now they may be willing to go over the cliff like a bunch of lemmings,” he warned.

The mayor defended the Campaign to Fix the Debt, saying that it seeks a balanced approach, including protecting safety net programs, raising revenue and investing in education, transportation and infrastructure.

Regarding the group’s controversial proposed cuts to entitlements, Villaraigosa said, “I certainly would not support privatizing social security or turning Medicare into voucher care. But there are things in between that we can do to trim those entitlements.”

When asked about being the only sitting elected official to join the campaign, Villaraigosa said he is not sure if others will join him, and he is not concerned about it.

Facing accusations that he has sold out to corporate interests, the mayor sought to defend his liberalism by boasting that he gave the keynote address at the progressive think tank Center for Progressive Politics event about cutting poverty in half in the next ten years. “I don’t know of another politician who’s been talking about poverty lately, and that includes Democrats,” he said.

Villaraigosa also warned that going over the fiscal cliff could mean going into another recession. In LA specifically, going over the fiscal cliff would mean, “seeing cuts all across the board — homeland security, homelessness, CDGB [Community Development Block Grant], workforce training,” he said. “That’s the problem with the fiscal cliff. It uses a hatchet to cut programs.”

Finally, he blamed the criticism he’s received for joining the conservative-leaning Campaign to Fix the Debt on a shift in political values. “I think politics is broken. It used to be that civility, statesmanship, compromise and working things out were what we thought were good things in politics,” Villaraigosa said.

“Now it’s who can scream the loudest, who’s the most orthodox in their thinking, the most militant in promoting their viewpoints,” he said. “And very few things are getting done.”