$18 Trillion & Counting: The Story of the National Debt
$18 Trillion & Counting: The Story of the National Debt
Politicians don't know how to fix the national debt, so voters will have to show them. Help me teach voters what they need to know.
Politicians don't know how to fix the national debt, so voters will have to show them. Help me teach voters what they need to know. Read more
Americans like you and me, and all across the political spectrum, are deeply, fearfully, and rightly concerned about our swelling national debt and the catastrophic harm it will cause as it continues to grow. We demand action from our leaders, but most of us, with jobs to do and families to feed, don’t have time to truly understand the problem - click here to see what I mean - so we don’t know what reforms to demand.
$18 Trillion and Counting proposes a revolutionary approach to solving this problem; let’s explain to voters, in language plain and simple enough for even politicians understand, what exactly the federal government spends our money on, and what policy changes over the years led more and more of it being spent.
My name is John Waters Wright; I’m a onetime professional musician and copywriter. I’ve been devouring economic and political literature since college, and I worked for a PAC some years ago. I’ve worked in several industries, for huge corporations and very small businesses – some of which I helped build and run - and I’ve seen how our economy works (when it works) from any number of vantage points.
And what I’ve learned is that, as far as understanding the federal budget and the national debt is concerned, impressive resumes and leatherbound credentials are unnecessary. The data is complicated, but only because there’s so darn much of it. The story it tells, however, is surprisingly simple; any layman can understand it. Someone just needs to do the admittedly tedious detective work.
In other words, you and I can give the troops on the ground – habitual voters, occasional voters, persuadable voters, citizens anxious about the future but unsure how voting can help – the knowledge and insight they need to build and become an informed, energized electorate. And that’s the most powerful force in politics.
Down below, you’ll see the “$18 Trillion and Counting” business plan, including a budget and an outline of the topics to be discussed. You’ll also see that this is doable, that we can get this project up and running, and put the first volume in voters’ hands early next year – early in the primary season, and in time to help shape this election cycle’s debate.
But the time to act is now; the needed reforms become more painful with every passing day.
Please make a generous contribution today, and please share this campaign on social media, and by whatever other means you deem appropriate.
We can do this, and we can’t afford not to. Thank you for your help.
Risks and challenges
Challenge #1: Promotion
The whole point of this endeavor is to build a stronger understanding of budgetary realities among both politically active people, and those who are receptive to becoming active should they become convinced that their efforts will matter. It is absolutely essential that $18 Trillion and Counting find its way into as many hands as possible, and quickly enough to have maximum impact in this crucial election cycle.
My plan for meeting this challenge has three components.
The first component is Tim Vasquez at Jaw Dropping Media. He has worked on a number of successful eBook projects, and knows how to promote them; he got a book of his in the Top Three of the Hot New Releases list on Amazon. He’s also extremely good at social media and SEO (the fine art of making websites show up at the top of search engine results, where everybody can see them).
He and I are going to build a web presence, and leave no stone unturned in making sure that the books are visible – and look compelling - as far and wide as possible, and to every potential reader.
The second component is social networks, both yours and mine. I’ve been politically active since the ’84 election. I am well known at any number of political clubs and organizations here in the Dallas area, and if I ask for the opportunity to make a presentation and talk about the project, I’ll get it. And many of the people I’ll be speaking to think highly enough of me to spread the word.
Similarly, I have alumni connections across the country. We University of Dallas graduates are a tight-knit bunch; many of my alumni friends will share the project simply because our shared educational experiences make us well-disposed to one another. And some will do so with extra enthusiasm because they share my passion for the enterprise; their efforts to promote the books within their networks will be a natural extension of what they perceive to be their own obligations of citizenship.
And if you have read this far, and are considering a contribution, it’s because this project has fired your imagination much as it does mine. Your contribution of money will be but a first step; I’m confident that you will also promote our effort on your social media, and among your family and friends, and among the various social circles and organizations within which you act upon your own perceived obligations of citizenship.
Finally, there’s the shoe leather factor; once the first volume of $18 Trillion and Counting is released, I will travel far and wide to make personal appearances, and to share the story we all hope to tell face-to-face. If you’ve watched the video atop this page, you may have become convinced – I certainly hope so – that I can speak upon this topic with passion and conviction, the sort of qualities which change minds and move bodies towards action.
I will work tirelessly to identify receptive audiences, and drive my car from coast to coast to put myself in front of them. I will scrimp and save to devote as much of this project’s $15,000 budget to promotional travel as possible (the rest will go to building and maintaining our web presence, certain carefully targeted web-based advertising, various costs of researching and writing, and, of course, Kickstarter’s well-deserved share). If I don’t find every last person willing to hear what I have to say – what we have to say – it won’t be for lack of trying.
There’s plenty of work on the horizon. But you and I can do it, because we believe we must.
Challenge #2: Narrative Structure
The broad historical narrative underlying this project is simple and straightforward: Prior to the early 20th century, the national debt was, in a meaningful sense, stable; we incurred significant debt only in times of national crisis – wars, mostly – and paid down that debt in the calms between such storms.
Since then, however, certain types of spending have steadily grown as a share both of the budget and of GDP, and simultaneously, debt has steadily grown both in raw dollars, and as a percentage of GDP. The mathematically inevitable conclusion is that, if we wish to avoid continued growth in debt, and the economically debilitating consequences which will ensue, then these programs cannot continue to grow faster than revenues, or as a share of GDP.
But the waters are muddied by the reality that our spending patterns are shaped by other dynamics as well – we’re a dynamic nation, after all – and these other factors must be addressed, as well, if for no other reason than to protect the truth of the larger narrative from critics who wish to deny it.
Hence, the following questions must be discussed:
• Fluctuations in spending and revenues caused by fluctuations in the business cycle (for readers not familiar with the phrase, business cycle means “recessions”);
• Fluctuations in spending and revenues driven by foreign policy concerns (ie., the wars mentioned above);
• Spending driven by short-term domestic crises, such as the savings and loan crisis of the early 90’s, and the near-collapse of the auto industry in 2008;
• The impact of changes in tax policy; and
• The impact of various attempts to control spending via legislative mechanisms such as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act of the late 80’s, the budget sequestration of 2013, and any number of backroom “compromises.”
Additionally, we must tackle the rather thorny issue of projected future spending, especially the certain growth, under current law, of Medicare and Social Security.
So the question is, how to fairly and truthfully discuss the various policy questions which are not part of the big picture narrative without weakening it? And how to make it all read well, and briskly?
The goal is three volumes, each of approximately 100 pages, with all completed and released by the end of May 2016. I believe that an effective structure will look something like this:
• Volume 1 will lay out the fundamental historical narrative, and the historical data will be analyzed in sufficient detail as to document the underlying historical spending patterns. The other fiscal dynamics identified in the bullet points above will be acknowledged, but only addressed indirectly (which can be accomplished by pointing to the overall consistency in the aforementioned historical spending patterns.
• Volume 2 will examine projected future spending in detail, and discuss the inevitability of profoundly harmful consequences should necessary reforms not be undertaken.
• Volume 3 will drill down into the other fiscal dynamics bullet pointed above. The goal will be to demonstrate, through careful, thorough analysis of the consequences of these phenomena, that their impact on long term revenue and spending patterns has significantly altered the long-term patterns identified in Volume 1, especially the various policy changes which are widely believed to have done so.
I believe that this proposed structure will lay the foundation of a fluid, readable narrative which conveys a profound understanding of our dire situation, and what’s more, one which can readily be shared in everyday, conversational language.
But I also know that such a goal will ultimately be best accomplished by letting the narrative emerge organically from the data; when it tells me that the outline above must be modified, I must listen.
Challenge #3: The tone
My instincts are to write in a formal style when writing on matters of grave consequence, just as one wears formal attire at events of great seriousness. But to succeed, $18 Trillion and Counting must be briskly readable, and speak in an accessible way.
I must find an effective balance between a style respectful of the subject matter and a style respectful of the day-to-day English which Americans speak. I must also find a way to lighten the reader’s burden through wordplay and wit, but not at the expense of descending into churlishness.
Phrases such as “fiscal dynamics” may not be good choices, and I will no doubt have to end the occasional sentence with a preposition. Many drafts will be required. But it will be a labor of love.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)