By Andy Frankenberger
I know something about taking risks. Calculated risks. In 2009, I followed my heart and quit a lucrative job that I loved and held for 14 years—trading equity derivatives. I longed for a change, and, unsure what that change would be, it wasn’t until a year later that I found my new calling: poker. Neither my decision to leave Wall Street nor my decision to play poker professionally was made without great deliberation. I made the move only after I had become financially secure and proven to myself that I could compete at the highest level. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be named the World Poker Tour Season IX Player of the Year, and as of June of this year, after winning my second World Series of Poker bracelet, my tournament winnings have topped $2.5 million.
Through professional poker, I’ve been able to turn a personal pleasure into my full-time job. I am comfortable doing this for three reasons: 1) I am betting with my own money, and no one else’s; 2) I am financially secure and am not putting myself or my family at risk; 3) I follow a simple rule that you do not throw good money after bad.
Unfortunately, rather than taking deliberate and calculated risks, our government is in the business of gambling. They are not gambling with their money, but ours; they are wrecking our nation’s finances in the process, and they won’t stop doing the very things that are worsening our fiscal condition by the minute.
And, yes, I mean by the minute—$10 million a minute, in fact. That’s how much, and how quickly, our fiscal sinkhole is growing, as I learned attending a keynote speech in New York City delivered by Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker on his national bus tour—appropriately called the “$10 Million a Minute” tour. David has a unique ability to break down complex problems using a tool that has mysteriously evaded our presidential candidates: arithmetic. His goal is to get voters to understand the full dimensions of our fiscal insanity and to pressure candidates for federal office to get serious about solutions, or pay the price on Election Day.
David contends that the well-known National Debt Clock, which debuted in 1989 at $2.7 trillion and has since grown to over $16 trillion, actually understates our fiscal woes dramatically. His “U.S. Financial Burden Barometer” includes not only our current gross national debt, but also the government’s total liabilities, including unfunded obligations and promises such as Social Security, Medicare and federal pension plans. And the Burden Barometer presently stands at just over $70 trillion, and is rising at the unbelievable clip of $10 million a minute.
I first heard David lay out the true condition of our country’s finances, and the urgent steps we need to take, on a television program he was hosting. As a numbers guy, I was struck by how simple and clear the figures are to anyone who knows where to look. Even more, I was inspired by this man who actually GETS IT, and is devoting his career to sounding the alarm before it’s too late.
Listening to David’s message, it became clear to me that our government is playing high stakes poker with a losing hand, and our children and grandchildren will be left to pay the debt. The most disgraceful part is the bluff being pulled on us by our politicians, who want to convince us that there are easy solutions.
In recent weeks I’ve reached out to David to see how I can help. One way is through this editorial, my effort at attracting attention to his $10 Million a Minute tour, which visited Atlanta this past Thursday. The ultimate answers have to come from extraordinary leadership from our next president, and bipartisan support in Congress for common sense solutions. And the best way to bring this about is through the power of the ballot box to force the hand of our elected officials.
I strongly encourage people to listen closely to David’s message that We the People must rise up and give voice to the voiceless—our children and grandchildren yet to be born. They have had no part in creating the mess we are in, but they will inherit the crippling IOU unless we act now. David’s tour is all about calling the bluff of our national candidates and demanding meaningful action now. I stand wholeheartedly behind this effort, and hope each of you will do the same.
Andy Frankenberger is the 2010-2011 World Poker Tour Player of the Year and two-time World Series of Poker champion. To learn more about the $10 Million a Minute bus tour, which visited Atlanta this past Thursday, visit www.10millionaminute.com. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.
© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (October 5, 2012). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.