September 3, 2008 - (New York) -- The Peter G. Peterson Foundation (website) today announced several initiatives leveraging new media, popular media, and other innovative means to engage young people and the business sector in the growing challenges that threaten our financial future, and mobilize them to take corrective action. America is currently burdened with $53 trillion in obligations - $175,000 per American - due to its addiction to debt, near-zero national and personal savings rates, and rising costs for health care and programs like Social Security and Medicare.
These efforts include the purchase of the feature documentary "I.O.U.S.A.," an early version of which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and which will be released in select cities in August 2008. They also include $5.27 million in grants to support the creation of new tools to help young people learn about public and personal finance, and to enable citizens and business leaders to demand change from their elected officials.
"America is getting mired in more and more debt and unsustainable promises at both the national and personal levels," said Foundation Chairman Peter G. Peterson. "This is a vicious cycle that must be broken, before it breaks us. I am thrilled that the Foundation's inaugural investments in the country's future are going to support an array of efforts offering such creative methods to tackle these issues and such interesting reach, particularly to young people."
"This first round of initiatives is our opening salvo in our campaign to inspire Americans to demand change, both of themselves and of their government," said David M. Walker, Foundation President and CEO and former US Comptroller General. "We can stave off a financial crisis and climb out of our $53 trillion fiscal hole with committed leaders who are willing to take steps sooner rather than later."
To broaden the reach of these initiatives, the Foundation is developing an extensive online presence. Its new website, www.pgpf.org, has already signed up tens of thousands of supporters, features a blog on which comments by all are welcome, and eventually will offer unparalleled customization. "We will be a '2.5 foundation,'" said Walker. "We're building a full online community - one that takes advantage of social networking, the power of the blogosphere, and whatever new technologies come along to foster debate and build a movement that will force elected officials to act."
Reuters said "I.O.U.S.A." "may be to the U.S. economy what 'An Inconvenient Truth' was to the environment." The nonpartisan film tells the story of America's four key deficits - budget, savings, balance of payments/trade, and leadership - and their implications for the nation and its citizens. We are faced with an ever-expanding government and military, increased foreign competition, and financial obligations that will become ever more difficult to honor absent meaningful reforms. As 78 million baby boomers begin to retire and collect benefits from the government's over-extended entitlement programs, an economic crisis of epic proportions awaits.
Director Patrick Creadon ("Wordplay") uses candid interviews, archival footage, and economic data to present a vivid, alarming profile of America's current financial status. Interview subjects include Warren Buffett, Alan Greenspan, Paul O'Neill, Robert Rubin, and Paul Volcker, along with the Foundation's own David Walker and Bob Bixby of the Concord Coalition, a Foundation grantee. The film also examines why, historically, our government has grown accustomed to spending more than it raises through taxes. The conclusion offers several suggestions for how best to recreate a fiscally sound nation for future generations.
The film, which is being distributed by Roadside Attractions ("Super Size Me"), will open in 10 cities on August 22 and will be screened at both presidential conventions. Following the theatrical release, the Foundation and its partners will use the film for educational purposes. The trailer can be viewed at www.pgpf.org.
With Peter G. Peterson Foundation assistance:
The America's Promise Alliance will leverage its 200-strong partner network to expand the teaching of financial literacy and related civic activities for middle and high school students around the country. Efforts to improve students' financial literacy will include peer-to-peer activities and the development of an online training program for educators around the release of I.O.U.S.A. The Alliance is receiving a grant of $1 million.
Be the Change, Inc. will execute a groundbreaking campaign to inspire the next President and Congress to enact new legislation to increase national service opportunities and strengthen civic culture. The campaign will include a summit attended by high-profile community and political leaders, a mobilization effort that will unify more than 100 partner organizations, and a bipartisan legislative strategy. It will serve as a model for future advocacy campaigns on education and fiscal issues. The non-profit start-up is receiving a grant of $250,000.
The Committee on Economic Development (CED) will identify and support statesmen and women in the business community who will challenge their peers on Wall Street and Main Street to recognize the need for a range of public-policy reforms, including reforms to growing entitlement spending, rising health care costs, debt and deficits. Both the Foundation and the business-led policy group understand that support across the business community is essential to persuading elected officials to begin tackling these issues. CED is receiving a grant of $1 million.
The Concord Coalition will expand its highly acclaimed Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, a bipartisan call for changes to America's fiscal policies. Town-hall meetings in presidential battleground states will foster discussion of forthcoming tough choices. A pilot program of "fiscal stewardship committees" in select cities will encourage citizens to demand change from their elected officials. The Coalition also will organize screenings of "I.O.U.S.A." in all 50 states. They are receiving a grant of $1.5 million.
The National Academy of Public Administration and PETLab will develop a "big fiscal game" to be played on college campuses around the country. The game will educate students about the extent and causes of the country's looming fiscal crisis and will model the budget and policy trade-offs involved. Several universities will host the game for 1,500 students starting in 2009. The partners are receiving a grant of $325,000. PETLab (Prototyping, Evaluation, Teaching and Learning laboratory) is a joint initiative of Parsons The New School for Design and the nonprofit Games for Change.
The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) will develop a set of curricula for elementary and secondary school students in low-income areas to increase their financial literacy and teach them to create personal financial plans. Called BizTech 3.0, NFTE will broadly disseminate this content through its network of schools and community-based organizations serving over 42,000 young people. To accomplish this, NFTE is receiving a grant of $295,000.
Public Agenda will expand its "Students Face up to the Nation's Finances" initiative, designed to engage college students across the nation in learning and discussion about the nature, causes, and potential consequences of - as well as solutions to - America's fiscal challenges. The goal is for many of the 20,000 to 30,000 educators involved to continue using the learning and discussion tools for years, and for federal finances and fiscal responsibility to become an established part of more colleges' curricula. Public Agenda is receiving a grant of $500,000.
And, The State of the USA will expedite the development of a series of key national indicators which will be made available online in 2009. Selected with input from issue experts and the National Academy of Sciences, these indicators will enable the public to measure specific conditions or trends in the United States and make comparisons to other countries. The system will address a broad range of issues including public finance and health, and will enrich reporting and research on these issues and enhance civic dialogue. The effort is receiving a grant of $400,000.
About the Peter G. Peterson Foundation:
Founded by the senior chairman of The Blackstone Group with a personal commitment of at least $1 billion, the Foundation is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of several key challenges threatening America's future, and to accelerating action on them. To address these challenges successfully, we will work to bring Americans together to find sensible, long-term solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results.