The old saying goes “There’s a first time for everything,” and this post marks two “firsts” for me. On June 2 at 2:00pm I called into my first “blogger call” and this is my first time ever “blogging.” I’d been flirting with the idea of blogging for a while and this call seemed like a good way to get the first time out of the way. As seems to be standard practice I received an email from a representative of former Governor of New York George Pataki with the offer to participate, and some general information. Pataki is currently promoting his No American Debt organization. The organization’s goal, according to their website (www.noamericandebt.com), is “to advance the national dialogue about America’s debt crisis. No American Debt will educate the general public about the severity of America’s $14 trillion debt and how this debt impacts everyday Americans.”
The email included several links to current stories about Pataki’s promotion of the organization and I reviewed them before the call. It felt a little like homework but I didn’t want to ask an uninformed question. Upon agreeing to participate I received an enthusiastic email thanking me and providing the phone number to call and an access code. This was all very exciting for my family as I received the notice about the call in the morning and was on the phone at 2pm. Several minutes prior to the call time I donned my headset (so much easier than holding a full-size landline portable phone). After calling and giving the access code to the operator I was greeted by the woman who had sent the email. She thanked everyone for being on the call and briefly gave some background on the former Governor and introduced him. I wondered who else was listening (a big-time blogger, maybe?) and why they hadn’t announced everyone who was participating. Perhaps I will find that this is a standard practice as I participate in more calls. In addition to being my first, this call was special as I am a resident of New York State and I’d met the Governor previously at a campaign event. I was excited to speak with him, even though it’s not the same as getting to interview someone in person. Also, at a traditional press event, you know who the other media are.
Pataki spoke for several minutes about the organization and its goals. “We simply cannot have entitlement programs, federal government growing by leaps and bounds without tax increases which are going to continue our private sector’s inability to create jobs…[f]rom the President to the Leader of the Senate we see no action, no serious effort to deal with this issue.” He referred to No American Debt as “an educational, informational organization,” and called for all to be held accountable. “[A]ny Republican Presidential candidate who is serious about becoming president has to understand that they need to have a program including dealing with entitlements like Medicaid, like Medicare, like Social Security.”
The first question Pataki was asked was, predictably, “Are you contemplating running for President?” Pataki responded easily, as I assume he expected the question. “At this point the focus is simply to hold President Obama accountable for his wild out of control spending and failure to embrace meaningful deficit reduction measures this year.” He did not rule out a run but went on to say, “I don’t think we can wait to 2013 to deal with this issue, there are solutions out there now.”
Pataki fielded questions on the Ryan plan and whether or not his group would be producing a plan of their own. Another blogger asked again about whether or not he was thinking about running for President. In his response he reiterated that it was not his focus but that he is not ruling it out. He expressed his disappointment that Mitch Daniels has decided not to run, calling Daniels a “deficit hawk.”
Callers on these sorts of conferences are told they can press *1 to ask a question. When I felt comfortable, I did, and waited. It was very gratifying, when it was my turn, to hear the moderator announce me as representing the New York State Young Republicans.
I asked, “Do you have any suggestions about how we reach the next generation? Food stamps are at an all-time high, at least from my perspective. How do we reach a generation that is growing up dependent on government? They don’t even know what the debt is.”
Pataki answered by giving an example from a meeting he recently had in New Hampshire with some college students. He had asked them about their student loans and reminded them that their individual share of the debt is currently $46,000. “If we don’t change things,” he told them, “each one of you is going to owe $150,000 to the federal government.” After talking about the failed stimulus, how the current generation is stealing from the next, and the need to reach young people who voted for Obama, he wrapped up the call.
I’m glad former Governor Pataki is trying to get Americans to focus on our terrible debt. Whether or not he decides to run for president is another story for another day. Or perhaps my next blog post should be “Pataki: The Person to Challenge Gillibrand for US Senate?”