Friday, August 22, 2008

I.O.U.S.A. Recap

IOUSA movie posterI had the pleasure of attending the premier for the film "I.O.U.S.A." last night, and it turned out well. Obviously the message they were trying to get across is that the country’s economic situation, specifically our debt load, is perilous and something needs to do done quickly to address it. What is echoed throughout the movie is that if something is not done, our kids and grandkids are going to be the ones paying for our indulgences. The film does a good job of pointing out the four main problems which are going to create the deficit and it was interesting to hear some of the solutions proposed in the round table discussion afterward.

The four main factors contributing to the deficit, according to the film, are budget, savings, trade and leadership. I think most people reading this blog are probably already aware of the budget and trade deficits, but the other two garner less attention in relation to our debt problem. Savings, or should I say the lack thereof, are a huge issue in this country. For the last couple years, our savings rate has actually been negative; as a country, people are spending more money than they make, which is a recipe for disaster. Not only is this going to leave us ill-equipped for emergencies or retirement, but it also means that we are becoming that much more reliant upon other countries. If we aren’t saving, that means we are going to continue to increasingly need savings from other countries to finance our expenditures. The problem with this is that it leaves us politically vulnerable, along with everything else that comes with debt.

The biggest of the four factors, though, is leadership. This point was hammered in again and again throughout the movie and in the round table afterwards. In order for us to effectively address this problem, we need to get leadership in place that is committed to solving it. The most important leader, of course, would be the president, but leadership in Congress is also vital. How are we going to get leadership in place that is committed to this? The people have to empower them. We live in a democracy and the people have the power to elect to office individuals who represent their values. Until we demand action, there will be none. Right now all that leadership is hearing is that we want lower taxes and any other handouts we can get, and until the people change their view, leadership will not change theirs. Ultimately in a democracy leadership echoes the voice of the people. For much of the movie, the filmmakers followed the “Fiscal Wake-up Tour” which is dedicated to bring the message of change to the people. As the movie showed through interviews with numerous people, the reality is that the average American has no clue how bad this problem really is. Before the people are going to stand up for change, they first have to understand why change is needed. This is the goal of the “Fiscal Wake-up Tour” and really should be the goal of every American.

I think this movie is a great start towards alerting the public of the problem. Unfortunately, I think the people watching it are the ones who already understand the problem. We need to figure out how to get this message to the masses who otherwise don’t know or don’t care. I think a start would be making this movie freely available on the Internet so that it could be sent around virally and hopefully get the attention of enough people to make a difference. I think that the movie will do a better job than any other medium out there at getting people fired up about this topic. I applaud the makers of "I.O.U.S.A." and I sincerely hope that their film is distributed to enough people that it can make the impact I think they are hoping for. If you haven’t already seen it, the film is definitely worth the time to go see. When you go, though, make sure to bring some less financially savvy people, too; it might be just the wake-up call they need.

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