About midway through the new documentary I.O.U.S.A., one of the main protagonists, a geeky-looking policy analyst who drinks Tab, makes this complaint: “The budget deficit just isn’t a sexy issue.” This is true. That’s probably because abstract economic issues don’t really touch the hearts and minds of everyday Americans.
About midway through the new documentary I.O.U.S.A., one of the main protagonists, a geeky-looking policy analyst who drinks Tab, makes this complaint: “The budget deficit just isn’t a sexy issue.”This is true.
That’s probably because abstract economic issues don’t really touch the hearts and minds of everyday Americans. I.O.U.S.A., however, screams, THIS IS IMPORTANT! And when the film’s whirlwind of infographics and talking heads finishes, there’s only one thing you can do: agree.
The basic premise of the film is this: If the United States does not do something about our federal budget deficit ($9 trillion), the international trade deficit, the savings deficit and “the leadership deficit,” our republic will fall, much like the Roman Empire. It’s very explicit in its doomsday scenarios.
David Walker, former comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, puts it thusly: “I would argue that the most serious threat to the United States is not someone hiding in the cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but our own fiscal irresponsibility.”
Heavy stuff. And, to the film’s credit, it doesn’t lay blame at any one political party’s feet. It’s pretty much everyone’s fault. The United States’ debt-burdened society is a symptom of our politicians’ lack of will, corrupt corporations looking for short-term gains and, perhaps most damning, our own laziness and selfishness.
We don’t save, we spend. We ask for tax cuts, but demand more programs. We want our cake, but we’re licking frosting from our lips. And as I.O.U.S.A. makes painfully, obviously clear, this is not a sustainable way to live.
I.O.U.S.A.‘s most interesting point was its condemnation of a generation of Americans who have piled an almost insurmountable debt on the backs of their children. Baby boomers, I’m looking at you.
After viewing the film, I was trying to understand why a generation of seemingly intelligent, “world-changing” people could be so dumb when it comes to the way our country spends its money.
Toward this effort, I called my Dad.
He’s a two-time George W. Bush voter (a president who, it must be said, ballooned the federal deficit like few others), a “fiscal conservative,” and, as I was soon reminded, something of an armchair economist.
“What is your generation thinking?” I asked. “Why are you burdening us with your debt?”
“Well, to be honest, it’s not fair. It’s wrong.”
“OK. Then why is this happening?”
This answer was more complicated. He blamed it, in his usual way, on government entitlement programs. He also blamed the politicians of both parties, though still claims that “Republicans are the best party for small government.” He said he hopes to retire by the time he’s 67, and is saving money with the expectation that Social Security as we now know it won’t exist.
Which is good, I suppose, because, as I.O.U.S.A. demonstrates in a series of truly terrifying graphs, as baby boomers retire, the Social Security system is only going to balloon in costs. Same with Medicare.
And the movie posits that if these problems and others are not solved, our country will fall to financial ruin.
I.O.U.S.A.‘s director Patrick Creadon (Wordplay) deserves ample credit for making an engrossing documentary of an extremely wonky subject. The pacing, information and tone all make for a film that makes its point without sounding stringent. And its prescience in relation to our economic situation, which was caused by poor lending practices, is undeniable.
So here’s my final take: Go see this movie. I’m no economist, and I know there are various philosophies regarding deficit spending and value, but it was refreshing to see a reasoned, impassioned argument about the economy presented in a genuinely entertaining way.
I.O.U.S.A. will make you think–and if a documentary does that, it’s a success.
I.O.U.S.A.Four starsFox TowerNow showing