An introduction and emails to David M. Walker, Founder and CEO of Comeback America Initiative

Introduction

My last essay, At the Heart of Climate Change, caused quite a stir.  I lost some twenty professors from top schools (double the norm), but I also got my share of accolades and one odd request.  My favorite response was simply… 

“Hi Ted, 

Thank you!”
[Name withheld], Associate Professor

Columbia University
New York, NY 

Her reply evoked a “wow!” from within me.  I liked it.  On the other hand, a professor at USC’s Marshall Business School who will also remain anonymous asked me the following, “Would you share a picture of your house and stuff?”  My response to him was, “No, but I will describe it for you.  Of course, you can always “Google Map” it.”  In the spirit of transparency, I offered him a room by room description of my nice one bedroom apartment quick to point out that my 21” analog television, with digital rabbit ears, still works. 

I went on to say that I live only two miles from the water’s edge, on Mobile Bay.  We enjoy spectacular sunrises and it’s a great spot for catching colorful sunsets.  Many of us consider the area to be “a slice of heaven.”  All of these benefits are included in the rent.  It turns out this professor was concerned that I might be living the life of Al Gore while preaching to this audience to live more like a monk.  Fair enough.  He seemed pleased with my answer and the relationship was saved. 

This 400-word essay was originally just a post that I wrote in response to reading Arianna Huffington’s piece on climate change and Hurricane Sandy, which was featured on the website – Linkedin.  After posting my comments on the site’s page, I took an additional step by emailing these remarks to Arianna.  My goal was to simply to improve my standing with her, I didn’t expect for her to write back so quickly and say that she wanted to post my remarks as an essay on her website, The Huffington Post, as well.

That’s what you call making your own luck.  This all occurred one Sunday morning and by Monday morning my essay was live on her site.  The piece lacked my laborious editing and two friends were quick to let me know it.  As I saw it, if it was good enough for Arianna then it was good enough to share with this group.  I scrambled to get it formatted and to blast it out. 

On another matter, on the early morning of Black Friday (November 23, 2012) a series of spam emails were sent out, from my Yahoo! account, to members of this audience due to some malware that I unknowingly picked up along the way.  I would like to apologize if anyone was affected in anyway.  Know that corrective action has been taken to prevent a repeat of this incident. 

Enjoy!

Ted

Note: The following email is addressed to David M. Walker (the former Comptroller General of the United States and head of the General Accounting Office (GAO from 1998 to 2008)).  He was appointed by President Bill Clinton and served in this capacity under, both, the Clinton and Bush Administrations.  In 2008, Walker was personally recruited by Peter G. Peterson, who co-founded the Blackstone Group, to lead Peterson’s new foundation and to carry out the work he first started as the Comptroller General, in 2002, bringing to the attention of lawmakers in Washington and to the public’s the impending financial crisis facing America. 

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation distributed the critically-acclaimed documentary: I.O.U.S.A..  In 2010, Walker stepped down from running the Peterson foundation and founded his Comeback America Initiative (CAI) where he currently serves as its CEO.  This email was written as a precursor to a phone call held, on December 12, 2012, between David and myself.  I’ve been following his work for several years, now.

Last summer, I connected with him through Linkedin.  At the time, I asked David a few questions about our out of control national debt and the silence by our two presidential candidates on the issue.  He responded by saying that his non-profit (CAI) was going to do a national bus tour during the fall 2012 presidential campaign to raise awareness on the issue. 

On December 6, and from out of the blue, David wrote back to me with answers to some of my initial questions.  He stated that the current figure for the U.S. financial burden stood at “over $71 trillion, over $225,000/person and $500,000/household and going up by $10 Million a Minute.”  In response to seeing these big numbers, I made several more comments including asking him “if our ship is already sunk” (A copy of my email to him appears on page 6, see – Re: america’s debt.).  To that question and more, David suggested that we talk by phone. 
In our phone call, Walker stated that our ship isn’t sunk.  However, he said that the tipping point for turning our country around is no later than 2015.  David stated that new laws on government spending (for programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) need to be put on the books spelling out how these programs work going forward (what’s covered) for controlling the government’s costs, debt as a percentage of gross domestic products (GDP, which is about 75%) needs to be used as an instrument for controlling federal spending during the fiscal year.  
He went on to say that the national debt, as a percentage of GDP, needs to be brought back down to 60%.  In a follow-up email to our phone call, David said, “Finally, I think that the bonds that are held by the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds should be on the balance sheet, but not the entire unfunded obligations. We should, however, focus on total liabilities and unfunded promises versus just public debt.”  After 10 years, he remains dedicated to this issue and he believes that an acceptable outcome will be found.  For his work on warning Congress and the public about the nation’s looming financial crisis, David has received numerous awards, honorary degrees and was featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes (2007).

December 7, 2012

David,
I am not sure what I said in my email, on Thursday, that triggered your interest in talking with me today (originally set for December 7), but I am excited at the opportunity.  I wanted to share with you some information before our meeting that continues to shape my worldview and offers some insight into the depths of our (spiritual) crisis based on a set of small numbers of web traffic coming to my blog: www.toxicnation.blogspot.com.   I don’t believe government officials or the media are even aware of this undercurrent or want to know what I’ve stumbled across due to simply writing one particular essay.  Growing the U.S. and global economy will no longer solve this inner core issue for Americans nor will more government programs. 
Attached is an essay that I wrote back, in 2009, Why is your life so empty?, along with a spreadsheet [Note to audience: neither are attached] showing this past month’s web traffic to my blog site and to the specific “landing page” getting the hits and a second set of data based on “keywords” using search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing…).  While the volume of traffic is light and the bounce rate is high (few read it), I believe this information points to a deeper problem that I’ve been writing about for several years, now.  I think the nation’s financials along with a lack of political leadership in Washington, that you’ve addressed, are merely symptoms to a deeper spiritual crisis [a soul sickness] affecting Americans and people around the world.
Since posting this essay, on my blog, it’s quickly become my most popular one, out of more than seventy.  Over forty percent of my web traffic comes to this one page because of its title and the nature of the subject matter.  It’s only 1-1/2 pages long.  Whether you choose to read it, agree with it or not is immaterial.  The fact that folks go to their computers seeking information to address their depressed state of being is what’s important.  I wanted you to be aware of it and to show you the data (the traffic — cities, countries, keywords, landing page and the # of hits) that I see daily on Google Analytics.  Keep in mind this is just those individuals finding one my essay on the web and it doesn’t necessary account for everyone that’s suffering and/or surfing the web searching for answers.
I also took time to refresh my knowledge-base of you.  I read your Wikipedia page.  On the subject of health care, I wanted to bring to your attention the concept of the medical industrial complex, which is a symptom of a sick herd (due to disease, illness and/or injury).  Again, this is a by-product of severing our personal relationship with God, Our Creator, our Higher Power and substituting Him or Her with fame, money, power, our addictions to our “drugs” of  choice — alcohol, codependency, drugs, food, entertainment (including TV and sports), gambling, Internet porn, materialism and consumption, politics, religion, sex, work… 
The power of science and medicine has done all sorts of wonderful things to cure this disease and that epidemic over the past century.  One might expect that our society would be getting healthier with the pasting decades and our dependence on medicine to diminish.  Yes, we’re living longer, but our quality of life has plummeted on an individual, family, institutional and organizational, government and on a societal level. 
Capitalism with the help of Madison Ave. (advertising and marketing) and at the encouragement of our government, for the purposes of growing the economy, has turned the idea of a free market of goods and services into something completely different by making slaves out of its consumers and by exploiting this spiritual void, with our constant need for everything “new” to boost our fragile egos.  This is where we primarily derive our self-worth from what we do and own rather than from our strong moral character and talents.   The television including its programming and its commercials has gotten our society, the herd sick.  Everyone who can remember will tell you that the advent of the television changed the way of life in their neighborhood. 
Our relationship with God and our umbilical cord to Him or Her was severed when we were powerless children, we had faith, and we were at the mercy of everyone.  It was cut by the usual suspects of family, church, school and by a controlled violent society.  Without a belief, a faith in something greater than us, it means all acts of courage and humility are reduced to our comfort zone and what our ego will do.  A connection to God keeps us sane and no connection leads to a spiritual void, to insanity that must be filled somehow. 
This begins with the introduction of the drug known as Christmas morning.  With time and age, we only pick up more addictions while inventing a reality based on storytelling, phoniness, buying power (debt mechanisms) and not rooted in true personal power.  Americans view power based on their occupation, on their job title, on the office they hold…  We turn it on in the morning and off at night.  True power flows through one’s veins.
These spiritual and emotional diseases manifest themselves in mental, physical, sexual and financial sickness.  That’s where America is today.  We’re sick and we’re taxing the hell out of the health care system with a thousand different ailments.  Capitalism, government and medicine have responded to this need with the medical industrial complex which includes hospitals, doctors, insurance, government, universities including medical and public health schools, big pharma, medical device makers… 
The Obama Administration wants to add more complexity to this situation when simplicity is what’s needed (Einstein’s words).  The cost of our health care system and trying to stay healthy is breaking everyone’s bank.  The solution is building our society on a solid foundation of truth — the source of which is God.  America is an onion with too many layers; we’ve got to get back to the core.
No one at the top of our society, either, in government, our foundations or in our non-profits is filling this void that I speak of because they don’t see it, because their leadership doesn’t get it.  It requires having wisdom and that’s in short supply.  There’s no counter message by the president using his bully pulpit or by anyone else to what’s happening before our eyes.   No one is saying, “get your house in order”, save your money and stop buying because of their fears over the economy going into the tank. 
That fear may become a reality, anyway.  It’s best to have a nation that can ride out the storm and America isn’t in that position, not even close.  We’re on the heels of our feet instead of being on our toes ready to pounce on any opportunity that comes our way (to save our ship) and any threat that comes right at us.   We’re asleep and fearful.  Our government and capitalism are using the American people and that’s getting all of us sick. 
Is that what the founding fathers envisioned for us (…Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…) as they came to realize that the King was using the American colonies for his purposes?  Was the fight of their lives simply so their children could one day build their own empire?  America has become a high-priced castle that it can no longer afford.  It’s time to downsize.  We have no choice, but to.  
Ted Burnett

My email to David Walker:

Thursday, December 6, 2012 10:17 AM
 
RE: america’s debt                           
Dave,

Thank you for the follow up information.  Here on the Alabama Gulf Coast, a small group of us have a running conversation, over coffee, about picking up our tent and flying further south to the “safety” of Costa Rica, Panama or somewhere in South America.  Given the information and your insights that you have, how do you wrap your own mind around this crisis and the fallout facing Americans?  Is our ship already sunk and would this truth explain all the fighting, and no action, occurring between the two political parties in Washington?  What do our politicians know that we don’t?  What’s the big secret, in Washington, is it sitting in plain sight?

Ted Burnett
Copyright © 2012. All Rights Reserved. “An introduction and emails to David M. Walker, Founder and CEO of Comeback America Initiative” by Ted Burnett.
My other essays can be viewed at my blog – http://www.toxicnation.blogspot.com. I can be contacted via email at – tebjr1@yahoo.com. My biography can be viewed at http://www.tedburnett.com.

 Ted Burnett: I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: www.tedburnett.com