If you liked ‘The Big Short,” you might want to go deeper into economic theory with Patrick Creadon‘s 2008 primer on the national debt,”I.O.U.S.A.” Loaded with graphs, facts and statistics, it is too weighty a lesson in economics to be digested in 90 minutes, but takes the subject a bit more seriously than Adam McKay’s rube comedy. Perhaps the force of its argument will stir some of those who see it to further research the subject.
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The problem with “I.O.U. S.A.” is its naive assertion that individual citizens could have dug the country out of a $53 trillion financial hole by limiting their purchases to things they can afford and opening savings accounts for their grandchildren.
Several man-in-the-street interviews reveal a woeful lack of public knowledge concerning debt and deficit, the latter of which is vaguely understood by one clueless citizen as “something bad.” To help educate them, former U.S. Comptroller General Dave Walker and Bob Bixby, executive director of theConcord Coalition, travel the country on a “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour.” These two experts provide the human relief from director Creadon’s barrage of statistics.
“I.O.U.S.A.” opens with a montage of U.S. presidents speaking on the failing economy, making it clear that fiscal irresponsibility is not a new issue. The film continues by exploring each of the deficits (federal, savings, trade and leadership) that make up the national debt. It is a convenient structure, but isolating them into four individual quarters of a pie is a gross simplification that does not take into account the overlapping elements of financial life.
Not that it matters much. This is a wake-up call, not a plan of action. As such, it should provide a temporary jolt of reality to those believing their credit line has no end and no repercussions. Even if most of the dated statistics will go in one ear and out the other, the general philosophical viewpoint — that it is immoral for one generation to spend the next generation’s money — should still pinch the consciences of those over-consumers who don’t look beyond their minimum monthly payments.