Back in 2006, An Inconvenient Truth was released, and everyone went nuts over it. “Going green” became the cause of the week, and the documentary’s “star,” Al Gore, stopped being former Vice President Al Gore, and became mainstream hero Al Gore. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, the documentary won an Academy Award, and generally, everyone thought Gore was the greatest thing ever for warning us about being at a tipping point on the path to (environmental) disaster.
Fast forward to 2008. I.O.U.S.A., a documentary about dangers of the massive debt of the United States government, was released without much fanfare. It’s “star,” former Comptroller David Walker, didn’t win an Oscar or a Nobel Peace, and didn’t become a mainstream hero even though he, too, was warning us about being at a critical tipping on the path to (fiscal) disaster.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Al Gore shouldn’t be widely hailed for helping to change environmentalism from a “hippie topic” to something that we are all well aware of and care about (well, most of us anyway). What he did was important.
What I am saying, however, is that David Walker deserves the same sort of recognition and acclaim.
When Walker first started shouting from the mountain top about how bad things could get if we didn’t reign in spending and do something about our tax code and entitlement programs, our national debt was “just” $9 trillion. Only three short years later, our debt as ballooned to over $14 trillion dollars, we are running annual trillion dollar budget deficits, and, on August 5, 2011, the United States’ debt was downgraded for the first time in history.
It’s clear that if we – and by we, I mean the people we elect to run amok in Congress and the White House – are running out of time to restore fiscal responsibility before we face terrible consequences like slashed governmental services, a devalued dollar, high interest rates, higher taxes and massive inflation. But, anyone who had been listening to Walker was already aware of this.
Maybe it’s because the environment is something a little more tangible. We can see dirty rivers and pillaged forests, and that seems to have a rather dramatic affect on us. Plus, with the environment, we can feel like we’re doing our part by recycling, and reducing use and waste. With the nation’s debt problem, we can’t touch it or feel like we are active participants in the act of fixing the problem.
Or, maybe it has something to do with the fact Gore was more of a household name, with being the Vice President for eight years and nearly becoming President in 2000. I guess being U.S. Comptroller General for ten years isn’t quite as sexy.
That being said, our national something we should have taken just as seriously as environmental issues. But, unfortunately, as evidenced by Gore’s celebrity and Walker’s general anonymity, we didn’t.