UCI activists try to raise awareness of mounting national debt

Amanda Flack, 20, right, and Amanda Minsky, 18, sign a petition in front of a "National Debt Clock" set up by Young Americans for Liberty at UC Irvine on Tuesday. The number stands at more than $14 trillion.
(KENT TREPTOW, Daily Pilot)

IRVINE — Four-foot tall pieces of plywood painted with black numbers counting out the more than $14 trillion national debt were lined up in a walkway at UC Irvine Tuesday morning.

Many students walked past, many ignoring the four men telling them that the debt breaks down to about $130,000 per American.

“Can you blame them for not getting involved in politics?” asked Senior Filip Sola, 22.

Sola joined three others from the UCI chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty to try to show their peers how serious the national deficit is with a “debt clock” as well as gather signatures on a petition asking Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach) to do something about it.

The local chapter was one of 100 nationwide this week to hold campus protests about the national debt, said chapter President Matt Eggleton, 18.

“We believe both the Democrats and Republicans are spending too much and not taking it too seriously,” Eggleton said “We agree with a lot of [Campbell’s] ideals, but we want him to be more of a doer than a sayer.

“We want him to take action.”

The topic wasn’t garnering a lot of attention because it’s an “impending-doom situation” that makes people uneasy, Sola said.

“It’s not good,” he said. “It doesn’t have a happy ending.”

The biology major said he isn’t under any illusion that what they are doing will change the world — he’s hoping if nothing else they can plant the seed of awareness in a few of their peers.

“Hopefully, that seed grows into something,” he said.

Some people stopped to find out more and several signed the petition. A few shouted back at the men without stopping and one woman, in pink sweatpants and a white hoodie, stopped to check if they were giving out candy.

Graduate student Tim Wong, 33, stopped at the booth to read the petition, but made clear he wouldn’t just sign his name to anything.

After reading it, Wong said he agreed the government needs to cut spending, but he was concerned the petition endorsed cuts that could hurt education. He ultimately didn’t sign.

“This whole idea of shrinking government is completely erroneous,” he said.

Freshman Noah Hernandez, 18, was one of the few who stopped to support the petition and signed up to get more information from the Young Americans for Liberty.

UCI might not have a reputation for being politically active, but it is possible to get students interested, Eggleton said.

“I think a lot of kids nowadays don’t pay attention, but I think they’re going to have to pay attention in the near future,” he said.