Last night I attended a screening of I.O.U.S.A. Live, a documentary America’s national debt. This was a special screening which was followed by a live town hall meeting featuring Warren Buffet (rich dude), Dave Walker (Peterson foundation), and William Niskanen (Cato Institute) among others.
I have seen better documentaries but the content on this one was fascinating and quite scary. The basic premise of the film is that there has never been a time when our nation was more in debt, and unlike other times of great national debt, we won’t be able to pay the bill off unless we make some serious adjustments in how our government spends and takes in money. The reality, as put forth by this film, is that unless serious changes are made, our children and grand children will live in a very different world from us—saddled with a debt they didn’t rack up and can never pay. As one congressman in the film put it, “The only thing scarier for our country would be if a terrorist were to explode a nuclear bomb on American soil.” Scary stuff indeed!
Scary documentaries are nothing new these days. In fact scary documentaries are quite en vogue right now. I recent years I have been scared by documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth, or even the light hearted Super Size Me. But for some reason the reality of I.O.U.S.A has really resonated with me. Maybe it’s because of the simple nature of economics verses the very complex nature of speculating about global warming. While I have heard convincing arguments on both sides of the global warming debate, this topic is seems much less abstract because we all have experience with making, spending, saving, and losing money. What’s scary is how much we have simply trusted that government would run its finances (our finances) in a responsible way. Whether it’s ignorance or just wishful thinking this does not seem to be the case.
In the last five years Dina and I have been taking deliberate and consistent steps at getting out of debt. This has meant that we have all but stopped using credit cards and that we have paid off both of our car notes and that we are being very aggressive in the repayment of our student loans (someday soon I hope!). After years of trying to be more fiscally responsible it is actually becoming kind of fun to get out of debt and live within our means (though certainly not as sexy). One thing has become abundantly clear to me over the last couple of years—if I ran my family’s finances the way the United States Government is running it’s budget we would be in really big trouble.
I.O.U.S.A. is at the very least a good lesson in history and economics; a much-needed lesson for anyone under age forty, since we stand to loose the most if these fiscally irresponsible ways continue. And for this reason, I would urge anyone who can find a showing of I.O.U.S.A. to check it out.