Meet Randolph Bragg, a Northern Virginia actor who was paid $150 to educate the public about the national debt by standing outside the White House in a tattered Uncle Sam costume.
The 17 bearded “Sams” were all over the D.C. area Tuesday, holding signs and handing out fancy brochures sending people to Defeat the Debt to get a handle on “why you should care” about skyrocketing debt. The group also ran a full-page Wall Street Journal ad.
The Employment Policies Institute is behind the effort, which senior research analyst Justin Wilson told TPMDC has cost them “millions” and is funded by private donations.
“People accuse us of being a front group on this issue … there’s no hidden agenda,” Wilson said.Wilson said the goal of the Sams project was to “make people realize just how big these numbers are” using a quirky stunt since “the debt never gets attention in Washington.”
(The city’s homeless population doesn’t get much attention either, but that’s for another post.)
“If we don’t solve this problem what we will have is Uncle Sam begging for money,” said Wilson, who put on one of the red, white and blue suits himself Tuesday.
Bragg told me he was hired by a PR firm to stand with his sign for five hours and given instructions not to annoy people.
He’s usually used when people need 18th century period dress, and thanks to his real beard, sometimes plays Santa Claus.
Reader CH wrote us about her experience with one of the Sams when walking across the Key Bridge into Georgetown:
… I spotted two guys, not too far from one another, in Uncle Sam costumes. One was on the corner where Leesburg pike crosses North Lynn Street, perpendicular to the bridge, and the other was at the entrance of the bridge on the Rosslyn side. Both had handwritten signs on their hats and handwritten signs on cardboard that said something about “Help, $32 trillion in debt.”
Living in the DC area recently, seeing teabaggers around in their hyperbolic regalia is not exactly new. However, this morning’s encounter seemed particularly ridiculous. You see, the guy on the corner of Leesburg and North Lynn was standing with his sign next to an actual homeless man, a man who stands at that corner every morning with his own, real handprinted sign, politely pleading for people on their commute to lend him some change so that he can eat. And the misguided buffoon in the red, white, and blue costume, complete with a white beard, whining about the national debt, didn’t bat an eye at the man whose clothes had browned and whose beard was ragged.
The juxtaposition of the two men put into perspective for me how detached many people have become, shouting about principles and misinformed ideologies, when they can’t see the plight of people literally right next to them. The nation may be in debt, but real people — not abstract institutions — are suffering and can benefit from social programs that do cost money. The teabagger’s callous lack of awareness of his mocking of the homeless man shows how far they’ve gone from reality. …
EPI also is running this ad on national cable showing children pledging allegiance to China: