Movie Reviews
11:04 am
Mon October 27, 2008

I.O.U.S.A.

Almost wonky

"Ask the economists. I think I only got a B-minus in economics. But I got an A-plus in cutting taxes." George W. Bush


Although it's easy to bash Bush on the deplorable state of the American economy, Director Robert Creadon's horror documentary, I.O.U.S.A., ascribes the problem to practically every breathing legislator and greedy consumer, all of whom abetted the credit crisis by allowing or encouraging or simply taking advantage of the buy now, pay later syndrome that left the country vulnerable to mortgages they couldn't pay and credit card balances that crush.

In their heroic effort to encourage debate about the financial state of the country, former US Comptroller General David Walker and Concord Coalition head Bob Bixby have been travelling the country before the election in a "Fiscal Wake-Up Call" for the electorate to stir debate about the crisis. This well-documented doc highlights the testimony of Fed chairman Paul Volcker, billionaire Warren Buffett, and former secretaries of the treasury Robert Rubin and Paul O'Neill, all of whom agree on how the United States accrued $10 trillion in national debt. The doc inevitably will be compared with Al Gore's prize-winning Inconvenient Truth, and rightfully so, because while Gore's is simple in its illustration of future climate challenge, I.O.U.S.A. is complex, almost wonky, in its details about the lethal connections that brought us to the brink.

If you believe we can continue to spend what we don't have and reduce the taxes of those who have, then this is not the documentary for you. To its credit, the film hears from all sides of the political stakeholders with nary a dissent about the problem. In Gore's case, some important scientists still disagree about the severity of global warming; in Creadon's case, no one disagrees about the fiscal cancer.

Insights abound in this overflowing screed such as the warning about a future where there will not be enough wage earners to sustain Medicare and Social Security. The film emphasizes the catastrophic cost of Medicare, exacerbated 40% by the addition of a prescription drug plan that dwarfs the impact of the Iraq War and earmark excess. While Walker and Bixby do their best to be balanced in their reactions to such a choker, they rightfully cannot repress their awe of the ignorance that committed us and our grandchildren to debt for decades.

"A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing." Alexander Hamilton