Rally at College Park targets the federal deficit Participants 'fed up' with mounting debt

June 24, 1993|By Katherine D. Ramirez | Katherine D. Ramirez,Staff Writer

Fearful that deepening federal budget deficits will lead to higher taxes, about 50 students and faculty members gathered at the University of Maryland's College Park campus yesterday to demand fiscal responsibility from Congress and the White House and a drastic reduction in the deficit.

The protest was organized by Lead. . .or Leave, a national grass-roots organization that wants to see a 50 percent cut in the annual federal budget deficit by 1996. A future generation of Americans will soon be paying the price for the government's overspending, rally participants said.

"Our purpose is to send a message to the Senate, who are now looking at Clinton's economic proposal, that we want tougher deficit reduction than what we see now," said Nick Nyhan, 25, deputy director for Lead. . .or Leave's national headquarters in Washington. If the current trend continues, Mr. Nyhan warned, "we will be paying the highest taxes in history and our benefits will be the lowest."

The highlight of the rally was a penny drop in which 4,200 pennies, each representing $1 billion of the national debt, were dropped in front of the student union building to illustrate the gravity of the country's economic situation.

As of March, the estimated deficit for fiscal year 1993 was $332 billion.

Emily Weant, 34, a part-time student at Maryland, said she was protesting because she was "fed up."

"The government is filled with wimps," Ms. Weant said. "It is too factioned. The young generation of people in this country now are fighting apathy and trying to get something done."

Lead. . .or Leave, Maryland, one of 150 chapters nationwide, reports that each Marylander's share of the national debt is $16,000.

University of Maryland chapter President Paul Mandell said that the group has appealed to Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes to make a "declaration of economic independence."

In the spirit of the July 4th holiday, they have asked the senators to vote to cut the deficit by the proposed deadline.

Pointing to the voting muscle exhibited by young adults in the 1992 presidential election, Mr. Mandell, 20, said this group will continue to demand a reduction in the deficit because "younger Americans are not going to allow today's leadership to sell out the future."

Lead. . .or Leave began its mission in August with a deficit-cutting "pledge" campaign. The campaign was designed to pressure 100 candidates for Congress to pledge to cut the deficit in half by 1996 or not seek re-election.

The organization has almost 10,000 members, mostly young people, nationwide.

The group is trying to foster support from people of all age groups, Mr. Mandell said. Lead. . .or Leave's National Advisory Board boasts such well-known names as Paul E. Tsongas, Lee Iacocca and Texas Gov. Ann W. Richards.

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