I.O.U.S.A. (PG)

Movie Biases:

It’s not sexy, but it’s important.

Major Players

Co-writer/director Patrick Creadon.

“I will argue that the biggest threat to America isn’t someone hiding in a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but our own fiscal irresponsibility.” David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, sort of like the nation’s accountant, leads a dishearteningly fascinating discussion of America’s checkbook, a.k.a. the budget, and its rapidly widening deficit. Enlisting the aid of the nonpartisan Concord Coalition, Walker sets out on a nationwide tour to spread the gospel of fiscal responsibility and the real deal behind the nation’s financial picture. Delving into four chapters of serious deficits - budget, savings, trade, and leadership - Creadon explains our current economic crisis - one that goes far beyond our $8.7 trillion debt - and how it does and will affect our generation and beyond.

This movie is for anyone who has ever wondered how (and why) the U.S. has been able to run a deficit for years and why it continues. Besides the obvious of Reaganomics’ Trickle Down Theory spiraling us deeper into debt, Creadon demonstrates how “America was becoming addicted to debt,” with countries like China bailing us out via investment in Treasury bonds and the like as our debt doubled from $4 to $8.7 trillion since 1992. Hell, just under Bush 43, a Clintonian budget surplus this administration inherited (which, mind you, did not erase the previous debt but slowed and began to reverse it thanks to a balanced budget) has leapt from $5.6 billion to $9 billion. Considering the GOP is the self-proclaimed party of fiscal responsibility in the face of “tax and spend liberals,” THAT takes talent.

Creadon & Co. break it down even further. “A budget is a diet,” Robert Bixby, Executive Director of the Concord Coalition posits. The only way to live healthy is to reduce your calories (budget) or burn more calories (raise taxes). For an unwieldy $2.9 trillion budget where Social Security alone is the biggest line item at $610 million, followed closely by Medicare and Medicaid, cutting the budget is easier said than done - unless you’re ready to have Grandma come live with you when we scrap Social Security.

Among the heroes of this movie are those Lone Ranger political afterthoughts like Paul Tsongas and former Presidential candidate Ron Paul, who blanks former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan during a Congressional budget hearing with a simple question about inflationary pressures that underscores the government’s aloof abandonment of its citizens. It’s not just decrepit politicos getting into the act. Take Mike Tully of the Concerned Youth of America, a college student who stands in a prisoner costume on campus shouting at passing women, “Would you like to go out on a date with me? No. Would you like to learn about the federal debt? Yes!” Better than nothing, I guess.

What’s worse is all that is just the BUDGET deficit; but wait, there’s more! Equal parts informative and frightening, “I.O.U.S.A.” expounds on the definition of inflation (when the government arbitrarily prints more money and credit, thereby making it more accessible and decreasing its value/buying power. Thank you, “I.O.U.S.A.”!), how it’s controlled (or not), and whom it hurts (”If inflation rises, those who aren’t more well-off will suffer more,” laments Walker). Creadon’s tour of the savings deficit exposes an American paycheck-to-paycheck vulnerability (guilty as charged) historically unprecedented in earnings-to-savings ratio (we have a negative savings rate for two years in a row, spending more than we’ve taken home - AWESOME!).

The trade deficit chapter discusses how outsourcing to the East has killed our industrial base while also listing our top debtors, which include China (duh) and Japan. Japan! A nation without a real army that we bombed 60 years ago is now economically bombing us! No wonder Walker likens our present economic conditions to the fall of Rome, where an empire self-destructed due to “declining morality and political civility at home, [being] overextended militarily, and fiscal irresponsibility.” China’s not the Boogeyman here, although their holding a great portion of our US Treasury Bonds could be considered their “nuclear option” (Seriously - if China were to invade South Korea, who’s to stop them when they OWN us? If China ever called in their chips, we’d better start learning Mandarin…).

With “too much easy credit [creating] a false sense of worth,” as exhibited by the domestic subprime lending and real estate market collapse, the sad truth of it all is that we did it to ourselves. Don’t even get me started on our leadership deficit of the last decade.

Even scarier than “An Inconvenient Truth,” “I.O.U.S.A.” does gloss over some solutions at the end of the movie, so all is not lost? Not the least of these solutions is to educate ourselves. If this all sounds a little wonky, I don’t care - it’s IMPORTANT. Just the fact that it could take this average American and turn him into a federal debt policy pundit in just 85 minutes (and $60 million added to the deficit total during the time I watched the movie) is a testament to the direness of the situation and the creative strength of the filmmaking. Charts, graphics, music, narration - you name it, Creadon throws it at us, giving the most effectively visual crash course in American macroeconomics I’ve ever seen. Engaging, intelligent, and nonpartisan (much unlike this review), Creadon’s fiscal fright flick hits home - to the tune of the $184,000 per American we owe on the national debt, and the damage it could inflict on future generations, particularly when Social Security runs out in twenty years (”It’s fundamentally wrong and mean for one generation to spend the next generation’s money.” Agreed.).

“True, we are not the only country with this problem…But what good does it do to be the best-looking horse in the glue factory?” While more edu than tainment, “I.O.U.S.A.” has scared me straight. I’m going to re-open my savings account - and work on my language skills. Ni hao, Bank of America!

@@@@ REELS


An urban legend/instant classic.

UTC’s resident film critic Edwardo Jackson is the author of the novels EVER AFTER and NEVA HAFTA, (Villard/Random House), a writer for The 213 Magazine, and an LA-based screenwriter. Visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com where his new novel I DO? is available NOW.

Email This Post Email This Post

Leave a Comment


September 4th, 2008 at 10:39 pm thelma says:

Believe it or not this sounds right up my alley
I’m trying to learn what’s really going on in the world

September 4th, 2008 at 11:04 pm SweetSis says:

Sounds intriguing. Good for HBO.

September 4th, 2008 at 11:12 pm Philip Giddings says:

@sweet I’m with you
Great info but I’ll pay it along with the cable bill!

September 4th, 2008 at 11:16 pm kamalp says:

This kind of stuff don’t play where I’m at but it ssounds real good.

September 5th, 2008 at 12:53 am Regina Holloway says:

I read about this on Facebook. Also given rave reviews there. I’m going to seek this out this weekend. Thanks Edwardo

September 5th, 2008 at 5:33 am nicq says:

I don’t think I can get into this one bro

September 5th, 2008 at 5:54 am Destah Owens says:

great review, EJ. I would’ve gone to see this anyway, but after 4 reels it’s almost a must. If i didnt know better i’d think u were the publicist on this project…lol

September 5th, 2008 at 6:47 am Mr.Fantastic says:

Prolly Catch it at one night rental bruh

September 5th, 2008 at 9:26 am lilmamma86 says:

sounds pretty good i may go check it out…gotta find someone to take me out to see it first..any takers? OKAY LOL!

September 5th, 2008 at 10:09 am speedy says:

you just gave all the info i need!

September 5th, 2008 at 10:50 am heatmizer says:

4 reels is high praise from you!

September 5th, 2008 at 11:41 am chica22 says:

I will go see it this weekend.

September 5th, 2008 at 11:57 am Nicole Malave says:

This is an eye opener
We all need to keep thinking about saving and being responsible the worst is yet to come

September 5th, 2008 at 12:22 pm MR TIBBS says:

Crucial topic for everyone of every color

September 5th, 2008 at 1:23 pm Sooth sayer says:

repubs will have you think that the other party is the one doing all the spending that is awful to pit us against each other we all in this together

September 5th, 2008 at 1:32 pm BRUH MAN says:

nah this is a pass

September 5th, 2008 at 4:09 pm Krista Wills says:

Come on ya’ll be begging for something differnt and not so full of testosterone for weeks! LOL — go on and check something fresh and info laced

September 5th, 2008 at 8:30 pm Stephanie says:

4 reels I don’t think I have ever seen 4 reels! I gotta go see this.

September 5th, 2008 at 10:40 pm Camilla George says:

We draining money like there is no tomorrow i wonder if there will be when we are a very poor country needing aid like the others

September 5th, 2008 at 10:50 pm Edwardo Jackson says:

Sweet! By the time this hits HBO, we could’ve elected another economically inefficient Republican administration and China could call in its loans. We need to see this movie NOW!
Nicq! What’s more important than managing our money?!? Don’t say I didn’t warn you when we’re all learning Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic three years from now…
Destah - This movie will scare you STRAIGHT - and turn YOU into a publicist for the film. Just the Social Security stuff alone is downright SCARY!
lilmamma - Don’t wait to pimp some dude - just go spend the money and see this movie! It’ll open your eyes for real, and maybe inspire some action!


Related Material

Related Posts

Tag Cloud


Blog Archives by Month

Other UTC Blogs