Tales from the Trail

Peterson Foundation launches OweNo campaign on U.S. debt

November 9, 2010

While the ads are humorous, the subject is serious.

Fictional presidential candidate Hugh Jidette (pronounced huge debt) will soon be making a pitch for more U.S. debt held by foreign countries in television ads that willCALIFORNIA-PROTESTS/ be appearing across the country.

The tongue-in-cheek spots are actually trying to drive home to the American public the consequences of failing to tackle huge debt increases facing the United States if lawmakers fail to balance the annual budget and continue to run deficits.

The nation’s debt now stands at $13.7 trillion and will hit the statutory credit limit of $14.3 trillion in the spring. At that point Congress must vote to raise the credit limit to keep the country from going into default.

The $6 million “OweNo”  ad campaign is sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, an organization devoted to getting lawmakers to act on the long-term fiscal imbalances facing the United States. The foundation was established by Peter Peterson,  an investment banker who served in the Nixon administration. 

Lawmakers will have to make politically unpopular decisions to cut spending and raise revenues to put the country’s long-term accounts into better balance, Peterson said at a news conference.

The ads are aimed at building public acceptance of those tough decisions. Peterson said the situation is at a point where lawmakers need to act sooner, rather than later.

“If we wait too long to reform and we confront a crisis, the politics may become brutal and even violent. In such a situation there would be no assurance that the safety net, even for the most vulnerable, might not be seriously frayed,” Peterson warned.

Photo credit:  REUTERS/Kevin Bartram (Protestors at University of California oppose fee increases and budget cuts earlier this year)

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