I.O.U.S.A. (One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt.)

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[Film Review]


Irrational exuberance to the contrary, all you have to do is look around to see that America is in the midst of a worsening recession.

From the precipitous devaluation of real estate to bank failures to the credit collapse to runaway inflation to the price of gasoline to the high unemployment rate to the devalued dollar to the exorbitant cost of waging two wars simultaneously to the bear market, it’s clear that the country has a host of money woes. 

But listening to the experts and political pundits weigh-in on the subject is likely to leave you confused about why we’re in this mess. Democrats and Republicans predictably resort to blaming each other, while economists tend to explain the situation using jargon too complicated for the Average Joe to comprehend.

For this reason, director Patrick Creadon is to be commended for making I.O.U.S.A. (One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt.), a nuts and bolts documentary which seeks to explain the burgeoning financial crisis in layman’s terms. The film opens by stating the basic proposition that the most serious threat to the U.S. is our own irresponsibility when it comes to spending. America’s present predicament is then put in perspective via telling analogies of the Roman Empire shortly before its fall.

Next, Creadon cleverly sets about proving his premise by relying on a combination of archival footage and some surprisingly frank interviews with concerned, if not fed-up folks like billionaire Warren Buffett, fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, the late Tim Russert, CNBC’s Jim Cramer, presidential candidate Ron Paul, and former Comptroller General of the U.S. David Walker.

The conservative Congress which ran Washington until recently is referred to as schizophrenic, since it repeatedly lowered taxes while irresponsibly continuing to encourage runaway government spending. The result is an ever-escalating national debt and a record trade deficit which together threaten to burden unborn citizens for generations to come, if the country doesn’t fall apart at the seams first.

Secretary O’Neill whose words fell on the deaf ears of President Bush when he was a member of the current administration, warns that, “When you get extended to the point that you can’t service your debt, you’re finished.” Ron Paul is shown sounding an equally-dire alarm in a videotape from a House hearing in 2000 during which the Congressman tells then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan to his face that he had so mismanaged the economy that he should start looking for another job.

Greenspan’s replacement takes it on the chin, too, his hit coming courtesy of animated Jim Cramer who shouts that “Ben Bernancke is an academic who has no idea” how bad the crisis is. “The Fed is asleep,” an exasperated Cramer concludes.

Apparently, America’s basic problem boils down to the fact it is a nation which has become addicted to credit in the wake of outsourcing so much manufacturing overseas. To balance the budget we either have to raise taxes or cut spending, because a country which consumes more than it produces is unsustainable.

Tough talk for tough times.                 

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG for mature themes. Running time: 85 minutes
Studio: Roadside Attractions

To see a trailer for the movie, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBo2xQIWHiM

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