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Book Review - I.O.U.S.A.


I.O.U.S.A. : One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt.

Authors: Addison Wiggin and Kate Incontrera

Quick Summary:

I.O.U.S.A. does a great job of highlighting the problems that America faces right now. You often see these issues being highlighted in the mainstream media, but having them compiled so neatly alongside with the consequences of not responding to them, makes for a completely different reading experience.


On the budget deficit: Our national debt is soaring, in less than ten years, Social Security will start paying out more than it takes in, the healthcare programs are an embarrassment; we are asking the government for services, but we’re not paying for them.  “It’s fundamentally wrong – and mean – for one generation to spend the next generation’s money”. 

On the savings deficit: In the aftermath of the technology bubble, “Americans began to look at their homes not as a place to live, or a long-term investment, but as an ATM”. We all know how that turned out.  I.O.U.S.A. stresses that Americans need to save more, invest those savings, and at the same time be assured that their money will hold its value.

On the trade deficit: Large and persistent trade deficits will be problematic for the United States, which, in a worst-case scenario, could be “colonized by purchase rather than conquest”. Given that the threat of financial warfare is extremely real, the United States needs to “reduce its reliance on foreign capital” (through increased savings), ensure that “the nations’ mortgage is held primarily by Americans, stabilize the dollar, and stimulate foreign exports”.

The book also speaks of a leadership deficit in the government, and concludes with interviews from major political and economic experts such as Alan Greenspan, Warren Buffett, David Walker, and others.  


I.O.U.S.A. is a product of “moderate media interest” for the Wiggin and Bonner book, Empire of Debt, which focused on “the history of rising debt in all levels of American society”.  Therefore, Wiggin thought to create a documentary, something lighter and more easily accessible. However, the documentary “took on a life of its own” and is quite different from its inspiration (Empire of Debt). And I.O.U.S.A. the book is essentially the transcript of the documentary. The book has a foreword by David Walker, the former comptroller general of the United States.

Personal Take:

While the statistics are surely outdated for a book published in September, 2008 (before all hell broke loose) it’s still an informational, quick read and a slap of cold water for anyone still unaware of the thin ice our economic system is on right now.


This book is available from Agora Book Publishing.