Saturday, November 08, 2008
Some topics are just over my head, and I feel no shame in admitting that fact. The nuances of economics often leave me befuddled, and I'm happy if I can just get a broad understanding of the issue. Having said that, I.O.U.S.A. was an informative, very important documentary that was actually relatively easy for me to understand. For those of you with no designs on the Wharton School of Business, I think you'll be able to understand it as well. The film offers an in-depth examination of America's crippling debt, highlighting the financial crisis as one of the most important issues of our lifetime, the handling of which will shape the futures of our children. Economics is not a sexy topic, so despite the film's gravity it probably will not be viewed by the average person looking to enjoy an afternoon at the movies. The film begins with a brief overview of the history of our national debt. Our founding fathers placed an emphasis on eradicating debt and were successfully able to pay down our significant debt in the wake of the Revolutionary War. World Wars I and II increased our debt, but we again were able to pay it down significantly through the purchase of war bonds and other methods. The 1980's bought inflation, and our national debt increased. Under the Clinton administration, the national debt decreased significantly and we actually had a surplus when he left office – no small feat by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, the surplus was the first we had in over 30 years. Ahh, but that was then and this is now. Our national debt is somewhere around 10 trillion dollars, an astronomical figure that will not change unless we make significant changes here at home. The film outlined the biggest drains on the U.S. economy, the largest of which is the money being eaten up by Social Security and Medicare. It also discussed our dependence on foreign nations, and it's not simply those nations in the Middle East, as you might think. Apparently China practically owns the U.S. We heavily rely on the importation of their goods, while very few other nations are clamoring for any of our products. Even if we stopped spending money on the war in Iraq, fixed Social Security, and eliminated earmarks, we'd STILL be in the hole. I started to feel pretty depressed as I sat through this movie. I appreciate the severity of our current financial situation, but it would have been useful if the movie offered a more detailed look at what everyday folks like you and me can do to help the economy. After 78 minutes of informative but very bleak data, the movie spent the few remaining minutes offering a glimmer of hope. The only problem is that it wasn't enough. You wanna know what we can do to help diminish the national debt? Save money. Don't buy what you can't afford. After sitting through a sophisticated financial tutorial, that's the conclusion the film boils down to? I was a little disappointed. The movie also mentioned that leadership was important, which is very relevant considering that election day is upon us. I just would have liked a more sophisticated discussion of how we can fix the problem. Overall, I.O.U.S.A. was an important film, but the nature of the topic makes for a rather dry night at the movies. It was interesting, but painted a somber picture. I guess the truth hurts.