by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
It is probably best for Tribune columnists to stick to the subjects they are assigned, but please indulge me for a moment as I attempt to channel Tribune movie reviewer Scott May and tell you about the latest must-see film. It’s not a tale of love and romance or the latest summer action movie. It’s about one of the unsexiest of topics: economics.
Although this film scores low on the titillation and adrenaline scales, you might find your blood is boiling by the time you are done watching “I.O.U.S.A.”
“I.O.U.S.A.” could have just as well been named “An Inconvenient Debt” because, in the style of Al Gore’s movie about global warming, this film shines a powerful light on the enormous deficits facing our economy and our country. And like “An Inconvenient Truth,” “I.O.U.S.A.” also has its origins in a PowerPoint presentation, in this case one given by the nonpartisan Concord Coalition as part of its “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour.”
The film neatly breaks down the economic threats facing our country into the four national deficits: budget, savings, trade and leadership.
Budget deficit: It probably comes as no surprise that our government spends more than it takes in. The national debt has climbed to nearly $10 trillion. However, most Americans are not aware the annual budget deficit (now at $482 billion) and the national debt would be much greater if not for the fact that the federal government has been funding the budget by stealing from the Social Security Trust Fund, which has more money coming into it right now than it needs to pay those currently receiving Social Security. Of course, as more baby boomers start to draw Social Security benefits, the trust fund will be paying out more than it takes in, and budget deficits will start growing at a much faster rate.
And as those baby boomers have more health problems, Medicare and Medicaid expenses will also grow rapidly. When these future obligations are taken into account, our national debt is really more like $58 trillion. Our national debt represents the biggest case of taxation without representation that our country has ever seen. Our representatives are spending money that future generations will have to pay back with their taxes. The next generation can’t avoid these taxes — the debt will have to be paid sometime. Don’t be surprised if in 25 years, someone writes a best-selling book about the…