In Thamizhan, a Tamil movie released in 2002, the lead protagonist played by Vijay devises an ingenious plan to reduce the national debt. He hits upon this idea even before completing his college education. He appeals to the entire nation to dig deep into their pockets and contribute Rs 500. The amount is then handed over to the Government of India and our national debt is wiped out. Vijay is honored by the nation for devising and executing this brilliant yet simple plan. If you take this as the entire story of the movie, you are mistaken! This is just his introductory scene with all the unnecessary paraphernalia associated with a “mass” movie.
My kneejerk reaction to this was a guffaw. It is a simple but impractical solution. But is it really impractical? At least, Kay Fishburn doesn’t think so. In 1980s, Kay, a Wisconsin nurse, rallied to make gifts in to bring down the US national debt. She started “Citizens for a Debt-free America”. Her efforts produced a collective sum of nearly $3 million in one year. These efforts lost steam when the US economy boomed generating surplus. In the current fiscal year when there is a recession, the collection totaled to $1.6 million! Although this is a drop in the ocean comparing this with US national debt amounting to trillions, the amount signifies the good nature of the citizens and the power of collaboration.
Taking a cue from Kay, will the Thamizhan strategy work? With a national debt of 78% of GDP, we need it! Kay send her checks with a handwritten note to a specific department of the government. Where would we send the check to? Should we write a check to the Finance minister?
Kay’s efforts also have detractors because this urges the people to cut extravagances and save which acts against the economic stimulus. Doing good is not simple anymore!
Listen to the Kay Fishburn story over here.
Picture Courtesy: http://www.visualeconomics.com