You Report: Election 2010

Published — October 25, 2010 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Futuristic Citizens Against Government Waste ad warns against unchecked debt


More than 20 years ago, a Ridley Scott-directed ad warned of possible “Deficit Trials” in 2017. The controversial spot, paid for by W.R. Grace and Co., offered a 60-second glimpse of a world where the future generation put 1986 leaders on trial for bequeathing a massive national debt obligation. Major networks refused to air the ad, calling it “too controversial.”

Now, a reader in Silver Spring, Md. alerted us to a new ad by Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-profit group founded by J. Peter Grace, the now-deceased CEO of the still-operative chemical company, and by columnist Jack Anderson. Entitled “Chinese Professor,” the new 60-second spot makes a similar point, reusing the 1986 tagline: “You can change the future. You have to.”

The ad shows a classroom in Beijing in the year 2030. A professor lectures, in Chinese, to his students about the fall of great nations such as the ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the United States of America. Health care reform, government takeovers of industry, and crushing debt — owned mostly by China — led to America’s fall, he explains. “So now they work for us,” he tells his laughing students.

Unlike most independent ads this cycle, this one does not portray any candidates as villains or heroes. Nor does it encourage viewers to defeat or elect anyone.

The ad “blames all our leaders for getting us into an economic ditch,” Leslie Paige, media director for Citizens Against Government Waste, told You Report: Election 2010. It will continue to run beyond the election, she said, and possibly through the president’s annual State of the Union speech in January.

“No matter what happens in November,” Paige said, “we’ll have to deal with the national debt and the deficit.” The ad is aimed at those both right and left of center, she added, because the issue “should not be partisan.”

The ad is being run on cable television stations and the group hopes to spend about $1 million on ad buys for the spot over the next few months. Web banner ads are also part of the group’s plans. According to Paige, two networks — the History Channel and A&E — have declined to air the ad. Much like with its 1986 predecessor, she said, those networks told their ad buyers they found the ad “too controversial.”

A spokesman for A&E Television Networks, parent company of the History Channel and A&E, did not respond to a request for comment.

Ad Title: “Chinese Professor

Paid for By: Citizens Against Government Waste

Disclaimer: “Paid for by Citizens Against Government Waste”

Read more in Money and Democracy

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