Defeat the Debt

Defeat The Debt is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, founded in 2009 as a project of the Employment Policies Institute (EPI). EPI started this project in response to news of the largest U.S. federal deficit in history, huge deficits projected over the coming decade, a national debt of $12 trillion, and an impending raise of the federal debt ceiling.

According to its website, Defeat The Debt’s goals include:

  • “educating Americans about the size, scope, and consequences of our rapidly escalating debt”;
  • “reducing our yearly budget deficit and paying down the national debt”; and
  • solving the problem of “too many Americans fail[ing] to comprehend the sheer size or consequences” Of an ever-increasing national debt.

Defeat The Debt’s parent organization, the Employment Policies Institute, is a nonprofit organization focused on studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth, entry level employment, and economic issues. EPI sponsors nonpartisan research by university economists, using the results for further research, media campaigns, and public education.

Reaching the Masses Online

The Defeat the Debt website provides information about the size and scope of the U.S. national debt. For example:

  • “Understanding the Debt” explains the difference between the national debt and the national deficit, the “big numbers” problem, and how much and who the United States owes.
  • “Understanding the Danger” includes information on the consequences of a growing debt, the danger of defaulting, and the case study of Zimbabwe’s runaway inflation.
  • “Take Action” asks readers to take action by writing their politicians, sharing the information, sign a petition, and participate in several contests.

The website also provides information about ad campaigns, relevant information from third parties, and a media center. In addition to web content, Defeat The Debt provides daily information about the national debt and the federal deficit through Facebook and Twitter.

Communicating the Message Broadly

In September and October of 2009, Defeat The Debt ran commercials on CNBC, the Fox News Channel, and CNN. The campaign has also run full page ads in USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, AM New York, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Op-eds by EPI Executive Director Rick Berman ran in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Tampa Tribune.

Uncle Sam: Buddy Can You Spare $12 Trillion?

Defeat The Debt developed and implemented a unique guerilla marketing campaign in the fall of 2009. The campaign created 17 panhandling “Uncle Sam” characters and placed them on the streets of Washington, DC, New York City, and Chicago. The tattered, destitute Uncle Sams brought attention to the size of the national debt and the government’s role in fiscal responsibility.

In October 2009, Defeat The Debt purchased every advertising space in Washington, DC’s “Capitol South” metro transit station. (Capitol South is near the offices of the U.S. House of Representatives.) The ad campaign also reached other locations throughout the metro system, featuring a panhandling Uncle Sam who asks taxpayers for $12 trillion.