Caught I Want Your Money this week. Oddly, it wasn't playing anywhere in Hollywood or the City of L.A. Go figure. Luckily, I was in the Valley running errands anyway (hello entertainment-based credit union that doesn't actually have a branch in Hollywood!) and I was able to catch it playing in an eerily deserted mall in Burbank.
Entertaining, educational and terrifying, I Want Your Money takes a complex and convoluted topic - our national debt - and explains not only what it means to us and to generations to come in an easy to understand breakdown, but also how it happened, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barack Hussein Obama. The film uses a combination of interviews interspersed with historical footage and animated politicians (including Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, both George Bushes, and both Clintons) to help explain the insanity of our current debt. Forget An Inconvenient Truth - I Want Your Money is the film that should be shown in schools and should be required viewing for every adult in America, or at least every adult who cares about America.
According to the film, President Reagan got it. Cut taxes so the people could keep their hard earned money and feel free to spend it, energizing the economy, but also - and this is equally important - control spending. Under Reagan, this two-pronged approach was wildly successful. Years later, when President Clinton veered off this course during the first two years of his administration, he was rewarded in 1994 by the people with a Republican Congress and the sense to move to a more center positiion. When George Bush moved into the White House, he appeared to get it half right, slashing taxes but failing to control spending. Part of this was due to the wars that followed 9/11, which were going to be necessarily expensive, but the point is he left office with a massive deficit. A deficit which, despite Barack Obama's bleatings about the mess he inherited, has multiplied in the less than two years since he assumed office (but for which he seems reluctant to assume responsibility). Combine our massive national debt with financially crippling entitlement programs and the current administration's determination to force redistribution of wealth on the American taxpayer and you have a complete disaster, where the country is in seemingly insurmountable debt and those that work the hardest are expected to foot the bill for those that can't or won't with no say in the process thanks to arrogant politicians who seem to view the public as nothing more than an ATM to be used and abused at their whim.
The intelligent, common sense talking heads include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Republican California Governor Pete Wilson (who vacated his office in 1999 with a $16 billion surplus that his Democract successor Gray Davis quickly burned through before being recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mike Huckabee, Steve Forbes, Andrew Breitbart and Michigan Congressman Thad McCotter, a personal favorite of mine from his appearances on Red Eye thanks to his droll combination of sheer common sense and a quietly wicked sense of humor. How someone like McCotter can stand to spend a minute with the imbeciles in Congress is a mystery to me, but I'm glad he's there. The cast is a who's who of people I wish were in a current presidential administration.
Producer/director Gary Riggs is our host and guide for the film, and if he doesn't have Morgan Spurlock's impish on-camera charm, he does a great job of moving things along and representing the American everyman whose earnings will be drained by the current situation, along with those of his children and grandchildren. And if he's not the most natural on-camera talent, his off-camera talent shines with this exceptional film. Also have to give props to the voice actors here (and whoever is responsible for casting them), especially for Obama and Reagan. I really felt like I was watching and listening to "teachable moments" between the two (Animated Reagan wins that one hands-down).
Some quotes from the film:
- Stephen Moore (Economist, Wall Street Journal) on trying to explain the concept of a trillion dollars to his eight year old son: "I asked him who's the greatest basketball player in the world and he said LeBron James. We looked it up and we found out LeBron James makes $40 million per year. Then I asked, how many seasons would he have to play to make a trillion dollars. You know what the answer is? 25,000 seasons."
- Star Parker (Author/Founder, Center for Urban Renewal and Education and current candidate for California's 37th Congressional District) on how welfare deters participants from taking action to get off the dole: "I've lived on it, I know the rules...Do not work, do not save, do not get married and we'll keep you enslaved to this poverty plantation."
- Mike Huckabee (former Governor of Arkansas) quoted Margaret Thatcher's famous comment about socialism: "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
- Alison Fraser (Economist, The Heritage Foundation): "We are fiscally hemorraghing and we need to do something about it."
- President Ronald Reagan, on irresponsible government spending: "We could say that they spend like drunken sailors, but that would be unfair to drunken sailors, beause the sailors are spending their own money."
- Pete Wilson on the same topic: "Trying to get them to stop spending is like trying to get an alcoholic to stop drinking."
- Kate Obenshain (VP, Young America's Foundation and former Chairperson of the Republican Party of Virginia): "If you put the government in charge of the Sahara Desert, within five years there would be a shortage of sand."
- Thad McCotter: "Well, it's a very short story. The President told the Democratic congress he wanted to spend a trillion dollars with interest. They agreed. They didn't even take the time to read the bill; they passed it into law."
- Moore again: "The stimulus plan is one of the great hoaxes of all time."
Animated Reagan: Whatcha doing here?So what did I learn from I Want Your Money? I feel like I have a better understanding of our current economic dilemma, how we got into this mess and that as overwhelming as it seems, there is a solution to our problem (my grateful thanks go to McCotter for the pep talk near the end of the film, I needed that). I also learned that an animated Ronald Reagan would be a better President than the real-life Barack Obama.
Animated Obama: I'm redistributing the wealth. I learned in school spreading the wealth is good for everyone.Animated Reagan: Well, I learned from real life that it's not. In fact, there's a word for it. It's called "theft".
Apparently the film is underperforming at the box office, which surprises me, considering how topical it is. While it probably won't end up doing well in theaters, I think it has the potential to do better business on DVD. In a way, the DVD format may actually work better for I Want Your Money.
One last thing: This film should be a front-runner for Best Documentary at Oscar time. Yeah, I know it won't, given its material, its predominantly Republican/conservative cast and its criticism of the current administration's off-the-charts spending and stupidity. I'm just saying it should be. But it won't, and that to me speaks volumes about how disconnected the elite in this country are from We the People. Which is one of the points of I Want Your Money. Many members of our current congress may despise the Tea Party, but they have no one but themselves to blame for the movement's spontaneous conception. It was their actions and disregard for the constituency they seem to forget they work for that prompted it.
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