PAWTUCKET — Every day, a modest house at 315 Sayles Avenue is advertising a very important message: that the U.S. national debt is spiraling out of control.
Attached to the side of the house is a handmade wooden “debt clock” that Reform Party members Bill and Dave Greenwood use to keep a running tab on the county's deficit spending. To the Greenwoods' dismay, the figure has now reached a whopping $14 trillion, one-hundred billion, and they and other Reform Party members wish more citizens would take notice---and more importantly, take action.
“Attention Washington: What path do our elected representatives and senators plan to take as this national debt continues to spiral out of control? Keep raising the debt limit? Or really work to bring this debt down?” asked Bill Greenwood, chairman of the Rhode Island Reform Party. “In my opinion, this debt is a national disgrace that needs to be brought under control.”
Greenwood points out that numerous economists see a looming financial danger and a currency crisis in the near future if the debt is not addressed. He maintained that the U.S. is not prepared structurally to deal with a severe financial crisis, noting that more than 40 million Americans are now depending on food stamps and the national unemployment average remains above 9 percent.
“If a dollar crisis occurs, will the government protect you as an individual?” asked Greenwood. He said that Americans need only to look at what happened in Louisiana when the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina and the slow pace of the recovery. People need to start taking care of themselves, rather than expecting the government to do it, he said.
Bill Greenwood, chairman of the Rhode Island Reform Party, states that the U.S. National debt, from the days of the Founding Fathers up until the Reagan presidency, had only totaled about $1 trillion. “Now, from that point to this, we've got over $14 trillion. “Why, in almost 200 years was it only $1 trillion? Because people today are demanding too much from the government,” he stated.
Greenwood also noted that in years past, government leaders paid more attention to the national debt and did what they could to pay it down. He bemoans the fact that today's leaders, from local and state senators and representatives to President Obama, have gotten into the habit of thinking they have to “do good” and provide people with financial aid from the government.
Additionally, Greenwood said he thinks the nation is heading down a path of moral decay that stems from people turning from their various churches and religions. “Goodness comes from greatness and greatness comes from moral and religious beliefs,” Greenwood said. “When we fail to be good, we fail to be great.”
In actuality, Greenwood said, those collecting unemployment, for example, who are able-bodied, should be given jobs to do, such as was done in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's WPA program. “Just look around. There's so much to do,” said Greenwood. And, I think people would feel a lot better about it.”
As to solutions, Greenwood said that people all across America must recognize the danger of government overspending and call for a stop to it. “Across the board concessions are needed. Not only by the unions but right on down the line,” he said.
Additionally, Greenwood said that government leaders must take action to pay down the existing debt. One solution that he has (and that he plans to introduce to the national Reform Party) is to add a $1 surcharge to all of the tickets sold to major league sports events. He noted that this surcharge would likely bring in enough revenue to wipe out the $14 trillion national debt in five or six years. “It can be done,” he stated. “But, it would take everyone being on board with this.”
Another idea of Greenwood's is for the Congressional legislators to donate one half of one percent of their salaries toward reducing the national debt. With the salaries they earn, this would be “pocket change,” he said. “But, you'd have to get the public behind you to do it.”
At the local level, Greenwood said he likes what he see so far from newly installed Mayor Donald Grebien. He said he thinks the new mayor understands what needs to be done to address the city's budget crisis, even if it leads to painful decisions such as lay-offs and salary and benefit cuts for municipal employees, and a reduction in some services. “You can't be everyone's friend. He gets it,” said Greenwood.
Greenwood pointed to a communication from Ken Jones, chairman of the Connecticut Reform Party, who noted that, if you owned all of the gold ever mined in the world up to 2008, it would be worth only $7 trillion—not even half of what it would take to pay off the current national debt. Jones is also sounding the warning about the rising debt, saying that it amounts to $60,100 per working individual in the U.S. in addition to their mortgage, credit card and other debts.
Greenwood added that he and his son Dave, who is chairman of Issues and Party Building for the Reform Party, are hopeful that more people get involved going forward. To be a voting member of the Reform Party, the only requirement is to be an unaffiliated voter and to attend two meetings. “We want to see the party come together again by 2012,” he said.
Greenwood said the Reform Party, formed in 1995 by presidential candidate Ross Perot, once had an active Rhode Island chapter with members “from Burrillville to Westerly.” Since then, apathy has set in and the numbers have dropped off, but the Greenwoods and other Reform Party members believe that the country should have a third political party. “We need a strong, third political party that is honest and transparent,” said Greenwood. “And let's stop running our great-grandchildren into debt.”
Greenwood said there will be an upcoming meeting of the Rhode Island Reform Party in February or March. For more information, visit www.rireformparty.org .