PAUL B. FARRELL
A $75 trillion fright fest
Eight megahorror debts chilling America
By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
Last update: 7:41 p.m. EDT Sept. 8, 2008
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- America's out of control, drowning in debt, gorging: $75 trillion and getting worse. Now we're dumping Fannie and Freddie on America's balance sheet. Every year we pile trillions more on future generations.
Can't trust McCain? Obama? Time for new leadership! The best qualified for president is the same great American hero we picked as our favorite write-in candidate for the 2006 elections: David Walker, former comptroller general, chief auditor of the U.S. Government Accounting Office for a decade before resigning last spring. He is ready. See previous Paul B. Farrell.
Walker was the "voice of reason" in Washington while Congress and the White House kept wasting trillions like out-of-control drunks, digging America deeper into debt. Nobody listened. Politicians ignored Walker's warnings, making matters worse as we went from a surplus of $5 trillion in 2000 to crushing debt that's now $9.6 trillion.
Washington tuned out, so Walker went on the road, on the "campaign trail" so to speak, taking his fiscal-conservative message directly to the people in town-hall meetings with his "Fiscal Wake-up Tours," where he spoke of a "fiscal cancer," comparing America to Rome. Now his message is a new film: "I.O.U.S.A.: One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt."
Unfortunately, the film's not a major Hollywood studio release. Why? Even with co-stars like Warren Buffett and a "Saturday Night Live" skit with Steve Martin, it'll bomb at the box office, go to video fast. The 16 reviews I read will scare people away, not draw them in.
Movie-goers would rather see a horror film classic like "Halloween," "Friday the 13th" or "Night of the Living Dead." Why? Because horror films are emotionally cathartic experiences. When you leave the theater, the horror stays behind.
But with "I.O.U.S.A." America's debt will haunt you for years. It already totals about $150,000 for every single household. Worse yet, it's metastasizing $1.9 billion each and every day on the National Debt Clock. So who will go see the film? Few:
Liberals. Maybe a small contingent of lefties. But they already know the story about America's lethal addiction to living on borrowed money.
Conservatives. No way. They actually love big deficits and big federal debt. That money comes out of taxpayers' wallets, pays for their wars and all the profitable deals with China and oil producers that make neocons personally rich.
Main Street. The other 95% of Americans are too focused on their own personal problems; gas, food, rent, foreclosures, inflation, teen pregnancies, credit-card fees, outsourced jobs, and so much more. They'll go to the new Bond film, or stay home and watch the new fall shows, like "Terminator," "Prison Break" and "Fringe."
Sorry folks, but while I recommend this new film starring Walker, it's no "Dark Knight," "Tropic Thunder" or "Ironman." If Congress turned a deaf ear to Walker's "Fiscal Wake-up Tours," this film won't work either. Great message but doomed to the art-theater circuit.
So what will wake up America? Only one thing: A major disaster. Another 9/11 attack? More likely another, bigger financial meltdown during the next presidential term, crippling an already weakened U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve, set up by more leadership failures in Washington, driving America deeper into debt hell.
So here's my adaptation of the 8 most "megahorror" debts to focus on: A format for a film festival highlighting the "The Megahorror Hits of American Debt:"
1. Horrors of Endless Massive War Debt
Vote for the war films symbolizing the horrors of America's addiction to war debt: Think "Apocalypse Now" and "Platoon" or write in your choice. Remember, Americans love war! We love starting wars, spending 54% of our tax money on war. Iraq and Afghanistan wars cost about $12 billion a month. Warning: If we can't find bin Laden in hell or Pakistan, the odds are the Pentagon and neocons will bomb Iran to stimulate our war economy.
2. Horrors of Gluttonous, Addictive Oil Debt
My favorite horror film on our oil addiction is "Mad Max." In a post-apocalyptic world people are killing each other for a few gallons of gas. America is just 5% of the world, yet burns 25% of the oil. By 2050 the planet's population will explode by 68%, from 6.6 billion today to 9.6 billion, all competing with us, demanding more.
Peterson says global warming is the "first cousin" of energy addiction. So the best horror film pick here is loosely based on Pentagon war studies: "The Day After Tomorrow," a coming Ice Age.
3. Horrors of Trillions in Trade Deficits and Foreign Debt
Neocon dreams of globalization and free trade have become a nightmare. America's a new third-world debtor nation. China and oil-producing countries own over half our debt, buy 70% of new debt. Foreigners own us. Now we're forced to sell them our best assets. Expect re-regulation, nationalization pressures and more wars. Best horror flick picks: Think Darth Vader commanding the Death Star in "Star Wars," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Alien."
4. Horrors of Killer Social Security and Medicare Debt
The Social Security Trust Fund "isn't funded" and "can't be trusted." It's a government-run Ponzi scheme. You put in cash. Washington puts in a paper IOU, then wastes your retirement cash to cover their current out-of-control deficits. A scam. Entitlements total about $75 trillion.
When 78 million baby boomers try to retire over the next few decades, no cash! Watch out, the next generation will balk at paying boomers. Best films revealing the horrors of government corruption: "All the President's Men," "The Bourne Ultimatum."
5. Horrors of Cheap Money, Self-indulgent Consumerism, Zero Savings
Top films targeting this horror: "Barbarians at the Gate," "Other People's Money" and, of course, Oliver Stone's "Wall Street," where "greed is [always] good!" Give us cheap money, so we can indulge in our most immediate gratifications at the mall. Unfortunately Main Street's also trapped in this delusional get-rich-quick mindset that narrowly focuses on the next paycheck, quarterly earnings and annual bonus, never saving for an iffy future.
6. Horrors of Skyrocketing Health-care Debt
Best horror films here: "Thank You for Not Smoking," "Sicko," "Flatline," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." With 45 million uninsured, this is a disgrace, a total moral failure: Greed consumes Big Pharma and our insurers. They steal from taxpayers with no-bid contracts. While America's health-care costs are over twice per capita of other developed countries, our longevity and health are no better, and getting worse with rising obesity rates.
7. Horror of a Failing Educational System Debting America's Future
Here the biggest horrors are exposed on television: The illiterates on Leno's Jay Walking, "Jeopardy" and "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?" Asia awards more graduate degrees in critical technology areas, while half our kids in urban areas, a third overall, never graduate high school. Our kids are unprepared to compete for fast-food jobs let alone with Asia.
8. Horrors of Failed Leaders Triggering Catastrophic Debt Meltdown
Best film: Hopefully a crisis will trigger a revival of "It's a Wonderful Life," wake us to what's killing us from within, without totally destroying us. As Nobel economist Milton Friedman put it in "Capitalism and Freedom," his 1962 classic on conservative economics, that may be impossible: "Only a crisis -- actual or perceived -- produces real change" because in the aftermath of a crisis "the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable."
But that's high-risk: In that worst-case scenario, our fate parallels the Rome of Caligula, decadent, vulnerable, ripe for a "Fiscal Armageddon," and eventually overrun by foreigners. Perhaps a better film to highlight the horrors of debt piled up by Washington's current leaders: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
Comments? What's your best horror film for debt? Cast your vote for David Walker