Times Square was hit by a flash mob of "homeless" Uncle Sams today, who were there giving the Naked Cowboya run for his money, asking passerbys if they could spare some change —$12 trillion, to be exact.
No, that’s not a typo. It was a stunt by the Employment Policies Institute, part of their “Defeat the Debt” campaign to try to educate Americans about just how big the U.S. debt is a day before Congress is scheduled to begin debate on raising the debt ceiling.
EPI is a nonprofit research organization that studies public-policy issues related to employment growth and the economy.
“Hey, buddy, can you spare a trillion?” J. Justin Wilson, a senior research analyst at EPI and one of the Uncle Sams (that's him on the right), asks passersby.
Wilson, the only analyst in the group (the rest are EPI staffers), said some people genuinely believe he’s homeless and keep walking.
Others give the standard, “Maybe tomorrow,” which Wilson said he thinks is "hilariously and ironically telling."
He got that response a lot during a similar Uncle Sam stunt like this on Capitol Hill — including from at least one senator.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is exactly the problem!’” Wilson exclaimed. “This is what we’ve been doing on the debt for so long — ‘Maybe tomorrow.’”
“There's a point where our economy loses its ability to grow out of it," Wilson said. "We need to create a more sustainable growth pattern.”
And that, he says, starts with getting people to understand the scope of the deficit.
When you click on their Web site, you get a pop-up window that asks, “If it takes 12 days for 1 million seconds to pass, how long does it take for 1 trillion seconds to pass?”
Wilson said an “abysmally small” number of people get it right.
More than 31,000 years.
Now, multiply that by 12 …
Hmm, hmm, hmm. Carry the one …
Ow, my head hurts.