If it only takes a dollar and a dream to play the lottery, it takes even less to officially run for president of the United States. Just a 45-cent stamp to mail a statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission, and the proper motivation: patriotism, a deep desire for public service, a massive ego, love of the absurd (or a good publicity stunt) or an elevator that doesn’t get anywhere close to the top floor.
Every four years, hundreds of fringe candidates around the country try to take over the White House, and this year, a handful of locals—or folks with deep Philadelphia roots—are among them. So if Obama, Romney or Santorum don’t set your pants on fire, well, there are options.
The Debt Collector
George Ballard III, a 59-year-old Mt. Airy resident and Wharton grad—and former Simon Gratz High student body president (so he knows what it’s like to hold elected office)—has run a couple times before as a Democrat, including in 2008. He believes he was poised to become the country’s first black president, but that Obama stole his thunder by announcing his “hope-and-change” candidacy before Ballard.
Ballard says Obama has whiffed on fixing an economy on the brink of collapse. “Our country’s going broke, and the broker it gets the closer we get to civil war, my man,” he says. “I don’t wanna scare anybody, but I have enough vision of the way these things work to see it coming.”
Not to worry. Ballard has a plan. When he becomes president, the first thing he’ll do is push through a Constitutional amendment to create a fourth branch of government—the finance branch—that would account for all the nation’s money, break deadlocks on budgetary issues and “report to the American people like a corporation does.”
That’ll help right the ship, he says, but that’s not enough. Ballard warns that the national debt is “a 15 trillion dollar train flyin’ down the tracks, and it’ll take just about an act of God to turn that thing around.”
Or maybe a Ballard presidency. He says he knows 30 virtually foolproof revenue sources that would generate $60 trillion over 50 years and get us out of debt. What are they?
“Well, I can’t tell you that,” he snorts.
Here’s the catch: Before he reveals his plan to save the future, he wants a contract from Congress that will pay him a 5 to 15 percent finder’s fee. On the $60 trillion.
What about just doing it for the good of the country? “That’s important,” he laughs, “but this is a business transaction.”
While Ballard’s looking to become a savior and the richest man on the planet, Lester Byerley is trying to spread the wealth. The 67-year-old independent candidate is a Philly-born retired contractor who makes his home near the Jersey Shore.
“When I’m president we’re gonna hand out Federal Reserve debit cards to anyone earning under $50,000 a year, and it’ll start off with $12,000,” he says.
Byerley, a diehard FDR fan, thinks Obama is “a bad person from beginning to end.” He particularly objects to Obamacare, saying it will “put people in jail for not buying insurance.”
He’s got a better answer for the healthcare crisis: Hydrogen peroxide. Byerley says it’s a cure-all, ridding the body of viruses, colds and cancers, and we need to regularly drink the stuff. (The FDA disagrees.)
“The need for doctors and hospitals will be reduced enormously and it will mean a cost in jobs,” he admits. “But human health should supercede everything, including the economy.”