As the average American can attest, personal debt is bad enough, but as Thomas Jefferson once cautioned, public debt is “corruptive of the government” and “demoralizing of the nation.” Patrick Creadon’s I.O.U.S.A. documents the efforts of two concerned citizens, former US Comptroller General Dave Walker and Concord Coalition Director Robert Bixby, to explain how America racked up over $9.5 trillion in debt and what we can do to stem the tide.
Based on the book Empire of Debt by William Bonner and Executive Producer Addison Wiggin, Wordplay’s Creadon combines Walker and Bixby’s “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour” with observations from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Paul O’Neill, superstar CEO Warren Buffett, and student activists.
The information flows with ease and the clips from Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show add levity to an undeniably dark and timely topic, but the narrative rests on a long list of facts and figures, leading to a production that feels more like a special news report than a work of cinema.
Unlike Alex Gibney’s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, on which co-writer/producer Christine O’Malley (Creadon’s wife) assisted, character development takes a backseat to data. Arguably, the director lacks an out-sized personality, like Enron’s Kenneth Lay, around which to assemble his argument, but the subject calls for more of a human face to have the desired effect, i.e. to encourage beleaguered taxpayers to care enough to rise up off their easy-chairs and agitate for greater fiscal responsibility.
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