JWR Articles: Film/DVD - I.O.U.S.A. (Director: Patrick Creadon) - February 2, 2009
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I.O.U.S.A.

4 4
85 min.

Fending off the global repo man

If we truly get the government we deserve, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for the current economic calamity.

In America, those who do vote (from riding association executives and candidates through all manner of election ballots) have the satisfaction of participating and exercising their rights as citizens. Those who won personally but whose party couldn’t muster sufficient numbers can only snarl from the opposition/minority benches, while those who seized power simply don’t have the ability to govern wisely or the current debt wouldn’t be over $10,000,000,000 (forcing the debt clock to be retooled to afford the extra digit). Some argue that the smartest minds in the room (cross-reference below) eschew politics in order to make a much larger fortune in the private sector (or, increasingly, as senior executives in the not-for-profit sector). Yet, even those non-government movers-and-shakers have failed to act wisely and honestly, more than playing their part in the realm of corporate fraud, credit abuse, bailouts and shoddy marketing practices.

For those who don’t vote, you still get the government you deserve (a by-product of your inertia) but you’ve lost the moral authority to bitch and complain even as you and yours are being saddled with a mound of shared debt that could well see the U.S. become repossessed by its global lenders. Make payments, not war!

Thanks mainly to director Patrick Creadon and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (currently run by David Walker who along with Bob Bixby are behind the allegedly non-partisan movement to apprise Americans as to the woeful state of financial affairs that could be the worst-ever catastrophe faced since independence), the horrific details contained in the U.S. balance sheet are readily available to those who can fathom what many trillions of dollars might look like or appreciate the old adage, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

Seen through the eyes of Bixby and Walker, the deficit quartet (budget, savings, trade and leadership) is spun out in four movements that could have been marked, andante miseroso (or at a walking pace of despair).

The first three segments are relatively easy to fathom: either you have money or you don’t; if you don’t but keep on spending, the day of reckoning will come and most certainly won’t be pretty. Many will be lucky not to live long enough to witness the country-wide havoc when the “Global Repo Man” arrives to grab the nation’s assets once payments on the astronomical debt (not to mention the principal) can no longer be made (the producers estimate that $85,000,000 is added to the total in just the time it takes to view their film). No worries: unsuspecting children and grandchildren will be left to sort out the financial tsunami unless tough decisions are taken now.

Indeed, many of the elders, who are expected to be wise and paid handsomely for a lifetime of knowledge and experience, have no clothes. There is no finer example of that than a clip from Alan Greenspan testifying at a hearing in early 2000. Looking somewhat bewildered, his comment following remarks by Representative Ron Paul, (R) Texas and an unidentified attendee, “…frankly we are not quite sure what the answers are.” speaks more meaningfully than any of the dozens of statistics, charts or animations (Warren Buffett’s Squanderville vs Thriftville is fun, but not even that investment guru saw the full extent of the turmoil currently embroiling the U.S. and the rest of the world).

The opening montage of U.S. presidents is both informative and darkly humorous in its historical retrospect (notably Clinton’s prediction, “And now we are on course for budget surpluses for the next 25 years.”).

The metaphor of an overwhelming wave of red ink hits home but, finally, the proffered analogy of selling land to and letting unsuspecting people live in an area where the vendors know the surrounding levees are too weak to withstand the coming storm is a knockout. As the good citizens of New Orleans can attest, trust in the highest office in the land was washed away with their lives, homes and employment.

It only remains to be seen whether President Obama will “be prepared to lose [a second term] for [his] values and lead ahead of the polls” rather than following their retrospective advice. Doing the right thing was never more difficult than now. JWR

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Director - Patrick Creadon
Editor - Douglas Blush
Original Music - Peter Golub
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