A guy named Buzz wants to create a buzz for something America desperately needs: reducing the national debt.
“It's not about politics,” said longtime Omaha financial adviser John “Buzz” Garlock, 57. “It's about math.”
Nationally honored in his profession by Money magazine and Barron's, Garlock also received an award in Omaha from President George W. Bush in 2006 for his community volunteerism.
Now he has volunteered, on his own, to push for America to carry out the spirit of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan to reduce the debt. Three weeks ago, he recorded and posted a YouTube video.
Looking directly into the camera, with a couple of graphics but no music or colorful background, Buzz says in a flat but sincere voice that he is a proud resident of “Omaha, Nebraska, USA” who is a “registered independent and independent thinker.”
His teenage son told him his delivery isn't passionate enough, and Buzz admits that his voice is somewhat of a monotone — but he says he is very passionate.
With debt at $15 trillion and rising, and spending far exceeding revenue, he said, we're on a nonsustainable path. But doesn't everyone know that?
Maybe, but what is being done about it?
“Something must be done,” he writes in an email that includes the link to his video. “Our polarized Congress chooses to do nothing.”
The debt has built up, he notes, under presidents of both parties.
To generalize, Garlock said, Republicans want to cut spending and Democrats want to increase taxes — when what is needed is both.
That's what was recommended on Dec. 1, 2010, by the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, a Republican, and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
The Simpson-Bowles plan, designed to reduce debt by $4 trillion over the next decade, has been largely ignored. And in a presidential election year, with the two parties trying to defeat each other, Garlock says it's doubtful the dire situation will be addressed.
Unless, he says, enough Americans read up on the Simpson-Bowles report, titled “The Moment of Truth,” and write to their congressmen to insist that they address the issue. That's what Garlock urges in the video and in an email that he is asking people to forward.
“My goal is not to have the video go viral,” Buzz told me on Friday. “The video is just a means to an end. I hope that my actions, along with actions of others, will be a catalyst to have Congress do the right thing.”
He has hooked up with Citizens for Enacting the Simpson-Bowles Plan (enacttheplan.org), headed by financial adviser Tim Pagliara of Franklin, Tenn. Garlock's new video is posted on that site.
When so many Americans have served in the military and many have given their lives, he said, it's not asking too much to request that citizens write a letter.
Buzz said he always has felt guilty about not serving in the military. His father and father-in-law both served in the Air Force.
His dad, Jack Garlock, was a World War II bombardier in the Pacific. The night before Buzz made his first start on the Bellevue High basketball team as a junior, his father reminded him to stand at attention during the national anthem at the Omaha Civic Auditorium and think of all the people who had served the country.
He did so and played hard — only to find out afterward that his father had suffered a heart attack on the way to the game and died at 53.
Buzz went on to captain the baseball and basketball teams at Bellevue University. His sister, Jill — who gave him his nickname because saying “baby brother” came out as “baby buzzer” — became a popular teacher and coach at Omaha's Burke High.
An ex-boyfriend killed her with a shot in the head as she slept, and is serving a life sentence without parole.
The two tragedies have underscored the importance of life and helping others. Buzz is a longtime volunteer at Boys Town and elsewhere.
He and his wife, Becky, have three children, and he doesn't want future grandchildren to be saddled with paying our debt.
Buzz said we need to emulate the World War II generation.
“Everybody worked for the common good of the country,” he said. “Now Congress is so polarized and the country is so polarized.”
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