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Debt reduction talk attracts protesters

Chris McDaniel, St. Louis Public Radio

David Walker has given his lecture on reducing the national debt in 13 cities, but he says his appearance in St. Louis  was the first that attracted protesters. Walker was the Comptroller General of the United States from 1998 to 2008, serving in the Government Accountability Office.

Since then, Walker has written a book and toured around America to lecture on the increasing national debt. His lecture tour, titled "$10 Million a Minute", involves him speaking about a variety of areas in which he believes residents can combat the growing U.S. financial burden.

According to Walker's math, that burden is over $70 trillion, which is well over the $16 trillion estimate from the U.S. Treasury. You can find the reasoning behind Walker's numbers here.

And with Walker's more extreme math, there also comes more extreme cuts. Walker advocates cuts to defense spending, as well as cuts to entitlement programs. That worried many veterans and senior citizens, who rallied outside of Washington University, where Walker was set to speak.

Protesters held up signs that said "Hands off my Social Security!" and "Medicare Yes!" and "Simpson-Bowles No!"

Walker walked over to the group of protesters to try to persuade them to attend his forum. "I actually think there's a lot in common between the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party Movement," he said, trying to calm the crowd. "The Occupy Movement thinks there's a lack of accountability on Wall Street and the Tea Party thinks there's a lack of accountability in government. And they're both right."

But the protesters weren't swayed. A few tried to relay their personal stories of serving in the military and coming home to poor benefits.

Walker told the crowd that they were "sold a bill of goods" by coming to protest. Most protesters linked Walker to the Simpson-Bowles commission, which advocated raising the retirement age for Social Security, among other changes.

Walker says his organization is independent and that he doesn't endorse any specific plans. What's more, he says he's an independent and blames both Republican and Democratic parties for the debt. He advocates cuts to defense, which conservatives generally oppose, and cuts to entitlements, which liberals generally oppose.

"I would be amazed if he was not in favor of Simpson-Bowles," Dave Kingsley said. Kingsley helped organize the protest. "I really don't trust these guys. They're very smooth."

When the lecture began, Walker ended up getting what he had hoped for: almost all of the protesters ended up attending the forum -- although many left in the middle of the presentation. "There are some people that won't be persuaded no matter what. But you do have to have a majority to get anything done," Walker said.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel

  • See more stories on issues and elections from St. Louis Public Radio, the St. Louis Beacon and Nine Network of Public Media at BeyondNovember.org.