Thursday night marked the premiere of the movie \”IOUSA,\” which is essentially being billed as \”The Inconvenient Truth\” for beancounters. Basically, the movie is an outgrowth of the Fiscal Wakeup Tour (which rolled through Milwaukee a few weeks ago), which makes tour stops around the country to warn people of the impending fiscal crisis the U.S. government faces.
Here\’s the trailer:
Being a bit of a budget wonk myself, I decided to go check it out. I headed over to the theater with my neighbor, who is comfortably rooted in the progressive wing of the Democratic party. (Although, oddly, we are almost identical on a lot of traditional parenting issues – calling parents \”Mr. and Mrs.,\” not wrapping children in body armor every time they hop on their bikes, etc.) The beauty of the movie, however, is that the message is bipartisan – despite the fact that we may have vastly different conclusions about how to fix the entitlement crisis.
Part of the appeal of the movie is that after tonight\’s showing only, the film\’s producers broadcasted a live roundtable discussion featuring many of the economic experts featured in the film. Unfortunately, this extra service cost us – it was only after I asked for my ticket at the counter that I realized it cost $12.50 to see. I thought it was more than a little ironic that it cost $12.50 (plus $9.25 for popcorn and a drink) to go see a movie that lectures me about being fiscally prudent.
As we walked into the theater, I was surprised – the place was packed, hardly a seat to be found. I had initially predicted that the viewership of a movie about government debt would make my public television appearances look like Ugly Betty by comparison. But it was actually pretty encouraging to see so many people willing to learn about government finance and the hole our entitlement programs will eventually put us in.
As I settled into my seat, I noticed a whole lot of white hair on the heads in front of me. This is relevant, because the upcoming entitlement crisis will likely never touch any of the old folks in the audience. It\’s the young people that should be most worried, yet \”Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2\” is out, so – can you really blame them?
I thought the movie was fairly ideologically balanced, although there certainly were points where it went out of its way to embarrass George W. Bush (many of them deserved.) For instance, they interview former Treasury Secretary Paul O\’Neill, who Bush appointed, then removed for disagreeing with him on tax policy. One would think the President has the right to have secretaries that fulfill their boss\’ vision. Yet, when interviewed, O\’Neill goes into detail about how Bush forced him to lie and say he was resigning, instead of just firing him outright. This happens in virtually every business, and isn\’t relevant to anything in any way, other that to make Bush look like a bad guy. It also means Paul O\’Neill is a weasel. But I digress.
Naturally, it being Madison, the crowd began to hoot, snicker, and hiss every time Bush\’s visage showed up on the screen. The lefty next to me honestly couldn\’t control himself. He actually gave Bush a double-middle finger when he showed up in the movie. What is it with these people that they can\’t sit and watch a movie without behaving like a six year-old?
As for the movie itself, it\’s pretty good. Could have used more nudity. Lots of charts.
The roundtable discussion following the movie, despite being a really cool idea, kind of dragged on a bit. At one point, Cato Institute chairman William Niskanen suggested raising the retirement age and privatizing a small portion of Social Security, which drew a rebuke from the obnoxious lefty sitting to my right. You would have thought someone slashed the tires of his Prius. But this brings up an important point – everyone is for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets until it\’s time to be fiscally responsible or balance a budget. I mean, good grief – our Wisconsin Constitution requires it, and we can\’t even do it at the state level here.
The highlight of the roundtable was the fact that it was moderated by fiscal supervixen Becky Quick, of CNBC\’s \”Squawk Box.\” Sure, she may be reasonably ordinary by TV news standards, but after watching two hours of old guys and charts, her appearance felt like the Phoebe Cates pool scene in \”Fast Times at Ridgemont High.\” Here she is interviewing T. Boone Pickens:
Of course, if this movie is a big hit, we\’ll be better off as a nation. But even if people see the movie and understand its conclusions, I remain skeptical of what effect it will actually have. Of course, it\’s easy to tell people that they should \”hold their elected officials accountable\” and \”demand change.\” But the next time that actually happens might be the first.