SPRING HILL — Blaise Ingoglia loves to go for the gasps, groans and guffaws.
And though Ingoglia owns a home-building business, has played professional poker and serves as chairman of the Hernando Republican Executive Committee, he says he has another call of duty.
"God has bestowed on me a gift of being able to speak in this way and I love educating people," Ingoglia told a crowd of more than 400 who gathered Thursday evening at Silverthorn Golf and Country Club for the revival of his Government Gone Wild seminar.
"And you know what? The government is afraid of everybody totally realizing what's going on. I'm doing this," he said, "because I care deeply for this country."
For 90 minutes, Ingoglia tried to show that debt, waste and fraud at the federal level are bankrupting America, crippling future generations and putting the country on a path to "third world" status.
He used the same formula as in 2007, when he held seminars on local government spending that helped raise his profile in Hernando County. The ingredients: a slide show, wireless microphone, lots of pacing in the aisles and plenty of audience participation.
"We're all about educating and motivating," he told the audience. "Correct? Yes or no?"
"Yes!" the crowd replied.
He offered plenty of figures, writing out most numbers for full effect. The nation's current debt was not $13 trillion, but $13,057,856,000,000. The amount of interest paid on the debt in 2008 was not $451 billion, but $451,000,000,000.
"We have to stop the insanity," he said.
Ingoglia also threw out gasp-getting bullet points like this one: "Washington spent $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to 'drink more responsibly on the job. "
The five-year federal grant, from the National Institute of Health, actually aimed to help a Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher evaluate whether an alcohol and HIV intervention center can help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS among sex workers in China, according to the Wayne State website.
Trying to point out how costs of programs often far exceed government forecasts, he said that Medicare A was projected in 1965 to cost $9 billion by 1990 but wound up with a price tag of $65 billion.
"This may make you sick," Ingolia said, and flipped to a slide proclaiming that Medicare fraud costs an estimated $60 billion a year. "And now they want to increase government's role in health care?"
Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that figure in a speech earlier this year and pledged to crack down on fraudulent activity.
Ingoglia took a jab at President Barack Obama's strategy to pull the country out of recession with federal stimulus dollars. A slide with the title "Epic Failure" popped up with a portion of the president's quote from a speech at the Brookings Institute on Jan. 9, 2009.
Obama, according to the slide, said the government needs to "spend its way out of recession."
"That's like trying to eat your way out of obesity," Ingoglia said.
Obama noted that concern, according to the full text of the speech.
"Even as we have had to spend our way out of this recession in the near term, we've begun to make the hard choices necessary to get our country on a more stable fiscal footing in the long run," Obama said.
"Despite what some have claimed, the cost of the Recovery Act is only a very small part of our current budget imbalance. In reality, the deficit had been building dramatically over the previous eight years."
Ingoglia noted, as did Obama, that the decline of the country's financial situation goes straight through the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush.
He emphasized that the free seminars are not meant to be a call to partisan arms. He did, however, choose to tap into the anger embodied by a new political movement by titling this round "Government Gone Wild, The Tea Party Edition."
"What you will not hear me say is that the current administration is spending us into oblivion," Ingoglia said. "What you will hear me say is the government in general is spending us into oblivion. Is that a true statement, yes or no?"
"Yes!" audience replied.
The seminar's host committee was comprised mainly or entirely of Republicans, including several prominent GOP members like Brooksville developer Tommy Bronson, who introduced Ingoglia.
As the head of the local GOP, Ingoglia is aware that he is now inextricably tied to conservative party politics — and doesn't mind making light of it. At one point in the seminar, he predicted that "the liberal media" would call his information inaccurate, say he's anti-government and a member of the Mexican drug cartel, to boot.
But the country's fiscal crisis won't abate until people across the political spectrum get involved, Ingoglia said. "We could sit here and mince words all day and blame one party or blame the other party, but that gets us nowhere."
He also urged audience members to register to vote. On tables in the back of the hall sat voter registration forms and information on both parties.
Ingoglia said he invited Cy Wingrove, chairman of the Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee, to provide literature on the party. Since Wingrove never got back to him, Ingoglia printed the information himself to make sure the party was represented.
"I appreciated," Wingrove said Friday of Ingoglia's offer. "I've just been swamped."
Ingoglia offered to put on the seminar in other counties, and pleaded with the audience use the Internet to spread the seminar's message.
"Facebook is going to be huge," he said, urging them to register for the next installment of the seminar, "Land of the Freebies, Home of the Enslaved," which he said will focus on entitlement programs. Ingoglia said after the seminar that he would not mix his roles by using registrants' information for GOP purposes.
Craig and Velvet Baxley walked to the seminar from their home about a block away. The Baxleys, who own a home health care business, said they are Republicans and the message resonated with them.
"It's about the good of all of us," said Velvet Baxley, 49. "We all have to work together."
Jim and Frances Nico, retirees from Ridge Manor, drove across the county to attend the seminar. Both said they came away impressed.
"It's covered over and we don't see this stuff," Frances Nico said. "Our government thinks it can just spend and spend. I have nine children and 28 grandchildren, so I will get involved."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.