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FRONTLINE: Ten Trillion and Counting
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2009
Verified Purchase
Frontline offers an objective and fact-based presentation of America's current economic and social crisis. Beginning with Reagan's attempt to borrow our way to prosperity while dismantling appropriate federal regulation, then moving into the casino capitalism of Bush/Cheney, this documentary precisely traces the sequence of events that have lead to our current ethical and financial debacle. The issues raised in this documentary are of greater magnitude than simple dollars & cents or an economic down turn. As is also well illustrated in David Callahan's best-seller "The Cheating Culture," America's moral meltdown is indeed bigger than Enron or the housing bubble.

When legal guidelines are lacking and mandates for transparency in corporate and governmental affairs are absent, we open the door to abuse, greed and corruption. This is as true today as it was in 1929. Even the champion of free-market ideology, Adam Smith, wrote in 1776 that appropriate governmental controls are necessary to limit the excesses and abuses of the "invisible hand" of the market. The issues raised in this eye-opening Frontline video bring to mind a timely quote by Justice Louis Brandeis "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I am a big fan of PBS Frontline documentaries as they seem, at least in my opinion, to be a bit more unbiased than most. This is especially true of political documentaries. Most people know our deficit is high, we hear it all of the time but it tends to go in one ear and out the other. Most Americans are not aware of exactly how far in debt this country is and they don't quite understand the ramifications, especially for future generations, of such a staggering deficit.

While I don't feel that this documentary necessarily portrays President George W. Bush as a villain (one of the interviews specifically mentions that he believed he was protecting this country from terrorism and that he felt safety was important, whether or not one agrees, at least he took a stand for what he believed in), it does outline the massive amount of spending and the fiscal irresponsibility of his administration which caused the debt to soar whereas the United States had surplus at the time he took office. Matter of fact, his own party accused him of being "the largest spender since World War II".

When President Barack Obama entered office, he inherited a mess. This documentary does mention that he had wanted to get the Democrats and Republicans working together instead of the separation but unfortunately, the party lines have become even more sharp. He truly has a daunting task ahead of him. Now, over a year into his presidency, people are starting to shift the blame onto Obama and his administration for not doing enough.

Two other documentaries to watch in conjunction with this one (they are both PBS) are Frontline: Inside the Meltdown and Frontline: The Warning as together, they explain a bit more about how this economic crisis came to be (and it wasn't just the fault of George W. Bush). Also, which I think is even a little more eye opening, is that some of the estimates at the time of this video have come to pass (i.e. they estimated that unemployment would rise to the double digits and at this point it has and is still climbing).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 24, 2011
It's called the "boob tube." It's a reference to the inane shows that pass for entertainment on television. It suggests that any time spent on it is time wasted, nothing learned. Whoever espoused this position never counted on programs like Frontline from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). It is a treasure of information and professional journalism. This edition of Frontline is no different.

Forrest Tucker analyzes our ten trillion dollar debt, and examines its consequences on our citizens and the nation, our present and our future. Greg Ip of the Economist, David Leonhardt of the New York Times, David Wesel of the Wall Street Journal, and author Matt Miller explain how it happened. They tell the story of a surplus economy with the end of the Clinton administration, through 8 years of Bush, to the deficits that President Obama finds bedevilling his presidency today, and it tells us how we got there.

George W. Bush has learned well from his father. "Read my lips; no new taxes," is the phrase that sealed his father's fate when he followed contrarian advice raising taxes to contain deficits and address a recession. His son would not make the mistake of doing what was economically sound over what was politically expedient--ever. Neither would he make the mistake of tolerating a differnce of opinion. Paul O'Neill, his first Secretary of Treasury is fired in November of 2002 after he strenuously objects to borrowing money for a war while reducing taxes. Larry Lindsay, Bush's economic advisor is sacked when he mentions that the Iraq war will cost at least 50 billion dollars. Speaking truth to power is not always the path to steady employment.

In his first few months in office, George W. signs into law one of the biggest tax breaks in history equal to a loss of one trillion dollars of revenue over ten years. The chief beneficiaries of this are the wealthy. The second road to deficit growth are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. becomes the first nation in history to reduce taxes during a war AND borrow the money to pay for it. Two more tax cuts follow, one passed by Dick Cheney's vote to break a deadlock, and the last one being a Medicare Part D for seniors, (the largest voting block of any voters). What is significant about the last bill is that it is passed after the expiration of his father's law known as pay as you go, or "paygo." Paygo demands that any increase in spending must be offset by a reduction in expenditures someplace else or by an increase in taxes. This is the biggest example of fiscal irresponsibility in years. The money for all tax breaks and Part D is from borrowed money, but Part D is likely to cost eight trillion dollars in years to come. Furthermore, President George W. Bush will not veto a single spending bill while in office.

President Obama enters office with bank failure, recession, two wars, and an increasing deficit with which to deal. He borrows even more money to stimulate the economy. If he doesn't, the recession will deepen putting even more people out of work. The national debt soars.

What Forrest Whitaker examines is our borrowing, and the American propensity to want everything including tax reduction, read: having everything without having to pay for it. Our programs are paid to American citizens by borrowing, but what if other countries that pick up the tab don't want to lend the money anymore? This creates the crisis. How do we pay for our military, our education system, our veterans, and our healthcare costs as it continues to take up a greater percentage of GDP (under the old system). And now, the baby boomer generation is applying for social security?

Frontline never disappoints and this segment only adds to its stature. It is worthwhile viewing, giving the observer a quick and objective education in the problems that confront America today and how we got here. They offer this on their website at $25.00. It is much cheaper by Netflix, and even cheaper still, by looking it up on the Internet, as I did. (that's free).

There are a million reasons for viewing 10 Trillion Dollars and Counting. Take the 60 minutes out of your life to see it.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2009
The work begins and ends with Obama. However, as you watch, the work makes it clear that the current president is not responsible for the astronomical debt.

The work spends one-third of its time blaming George W. Bush. In fairness, the work shows how Bush the Son learned never to increase taxes via his father's lost election. However, the work says W. knew that you can't fight a war and reduce taxes simultaneously. Treasury Department heads are interviewed saying they were glad W. fired them because they could not promote his policies with integrity. The work says Bill Clinton faced a law stating that the federal government could not spend money if it did not have a source for that spending. Although many Republicans have promoted small spending, the work emphasized that Bush the Son NEVER vetoed a spending bill. The work implies that W. ran up bills and did not care about the consequences. Several Republicans who favor small government were interviewed condemning W. and his practices.

The work stated that there was no deficit problem when W. first entered office. Although I view the work as condemning Bush the Son, I see that it never gives Bill Clinton any credit for that previous great financial status. The work implies that W. was never punished for his poor policies. However, I would say the landslide elections of Democrats in 2006 and 2008 were the punishment for the last administration. Like everyone, I worship Obama. Still, many have noted that Bush's failures may have created the space in which Barack the bruthaman could win the election.

The work mentions many of the difficulties that Obama faces as president. However, they quote him sounding so smart, realistic, and professional that it made him look like he would be the perfect person to correct these problems. I imagine that many viewers will leave this work saying, "Obama is the man! This reminds me of why I was so happy to vote for him in the first place!" If you think 'Rack and Michelle are the grooviest things since extra-large Reese's butter cups, this will only re-affirm your position.

The work presents Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as the problems that are and will cause a crisis for the government. However, the work skips something crucial. It says we owe this debt to Chinese and other foreign investors. As I watched this, I wondered, "What if the Chinese say, 'Sorry, America! We want to focus on our own country. We no longer want to give our money to you.'"? To me, that is the main problem with the deficit and the work does not answer that concern.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2013
It starts off as a puff piece to Obama who is met with a virtually impossible task of correcting a bad economy. Of course this completely ignores the fact that the markets had bottomed out and credit had been stabilized before any plan of his could be implemented. Granted, credit was not flowing due to the apprehension of the banks but there was nothing that Obama, or any other president, could do to resolve that specific problem.

After the necessary media fawning over the new president we get to the crux of the issue - we cannot keep spending the way we are doing. Incredibly, the documentary (if it can be called that) claims that Obama knows this but never asks why he doesn't act that way, this seems to be a glaring omission.

After watching the film it becomes apparent that Forrest Sawyer comes off as a biased Keynesian, who accepts Keynesian economics as being sacrosanct and never once examines any other viewpoints. This becomes completely distributing when you realize that he only interviews people that agree with his point of view. This sort of biased journalism is replete throughout the so-called documentary and unfortunately puts this particular frontline episode much more into the realm of a Michael Moore Mockumentary.


Sawyer claims that Clinton left a budget surplus - FALSE - When Clinton left office the Debt was still INCREASING, in other words, NO budget surplus - see Wikipedia or the CBO for charts and graphs that PROVE this point. The worst part is they had a big-wig Democratic political figure lie bold-face to the audience and claim that Clinton gave us FOUR years of surpluses. Any nonbiased journalist would have challenged this false assumption and brought out the real FACTS that thoroughly dispute this but Forrest Sawyer simply agreed - pathetic.

The parsing together of comments by Forrest with clips from Bush, making it seem that Bush agreed with Forrest's claims. He then used Democratic operatives to agree with his premise, many times making false claims in the process. This was blatant propaganda, ala Michael Moore, cutting and splicing speeches to make claims that people never made.

The mockumentary (yes it seems to fall into that category) makes a great deal of hay about Bush's tax cut but never once mentions that the largest tax-cutter in History was none other than their President Obama. While Forrest likes to excoriate tax cuts you would think he would at least mention the largest one in history but nope, that seemed to have been forgotten - I wonder why????????

Sawyer claims Bill Clinton (or any president for that matter) was/is responsible for spending - FALSE - Congress is responsible for spending and is the only branch authorized by the constitution to spend money. It was the Republican congress under Clinton that forced Clinton to sign budgets he detested and fought against. The result was greatly reduced spending but Forrest claims this was Clinton's doing. It becomes apparent that Sawyer is so biased that if the parties were reversed he would have given credit to the Democratic congress, this is sad.

On the starve the beast propaganda, Forrest Sawyer let a far left pundit babble on and make numerous false claims without a challenge. One of the most egregiously false ones is that congress spends the same under democratic or republican control. This is FALSE, the real number from is that Democratically controlled congress's have increased the budget deficit by $ 10,917,243,000 VS Republican controlled congress's which have increased the budget deficit by $ 2,399,450,000.

"Bush disastrous tax cuts" vs " Obama's stimulus plan" aka Obama's tax cuts which were LARGER than Bush's . This use of negative terms when describing anything Republican and the use of positive terms when describing anything Democratic got nauseating after a while. Can one scream BIAS any louder????

The absolutely FALSE claim that war appropriations (which have been used for 150+ years as the normal procedure to pay for wars) were a dishonest way that Bush tried to keep the war off the books. This is such a BLATANTLY FALSE claim that any and all respect I had for Forrest Sawyer not challenging this, went out the window.

The FALSE idea that reconciliation was something new and underhanded done by President Bush to enact budget bills. The FACT is congress and President Clinton used reconciliation 4 times (he wanted a fifth but his party went against him and said no) while Bush used it twice. As of 2010 President Obama has used it once. Did the mockumentary mention Clintons or Obama's use of reconciliation - of course not, instead Sawyer described it as a "political maneuver" and a "end-run". I guess it's only bad when Republicans use it.

When negotiations started about a Obama's budget and stimulus plan, Sawyer fawned over Obama as wanting to stop partisanship when in fact he increased it by creating secret committees, excluding high ranking republicans from talks, and ignoring much of what his political advisors told him on negotiating. This was all known and any neutral documentary would have exposed Obama as a big part of the partisan problem. See for a non-biased viewpoint from a veteran reporter.

Only one person mentions the effect that 9/11 had on the economy, which for those of you who don't remember was the most devastating single economic event EVER. It ground an economy that was suffering from the Clinton recession even deeper into a mini-recession with broad-sweeping ripples. However the connection between this large slow-down and the resultant loss of tax revenue was NEVER linked to the increasing of the deficit, instead Sawyer claimed it was all tax cuts, ironically the large deficits now are not form increased spending or Obama's tax cuts (bigger than bushes) but from the economic slowdown - arghhhh this hypocrisy is all over this documentary..

In an attempt to attack Bush even more Sawyer complains that Medicare Part D costs us too much but doesn't ever say that Part D's costs is less than 13% of all Medicare Costs. Later on he exposes the unsustainable total cost of Medicare, none of which was paid for when enacted, but he only singles out Bush for Part D. He also never mentions that Part D was a Democratic plan originally under Clinton (just like personalized social security accounts) but when Bush enacts it - it's the devils incarnates plan.

Sawyer made the claim that Obama only added 787 Billion to the debt in his first budget, this number was FALSE then, FALSE when the program was edited and FALSE when it aired. The real number was 1,294 Billion. An error in FAVOR of Obama by 507 Billion. Such careless and sloppy reporting cannot just be ignored since he makes so many mistakes in FAVOR of Democrats and AGAINST Republicans one must conclude that this is done purposefully.


It was silly to think we could wage war without paying for it.

Highlights pay-as-you-go rule that should be implemented.

Highlights that JUST Medicare Part D costs more than the war in Iraq.

Shows that entitlement spending is going to destroy the country unless we do something.

Used accurate numbers on the projected debt segment.

Admits taxes have to rise "across the board".


A pro-Keynesian, pro-Democrat, Anti-Republican rant for 80% of the film. Only the last 10 minutes actually outline the real problem without extreme partisan bias. If you are a knowledgeable you will see through the blatant falsehoods however most Americans will be misinformed by the propaganda in this work. Stick to the last 10 minutes only.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
Verified Purchase
I joined others in blaming Obama for our debt bomb. Even though he has inspired a new generation, I think as far as forwarding true american principles (not the microwave, fast food sound bites found in country music) he has missed the boat and is THE WORST President. Obama sounds good but when you really listen to what he says and you throw some logic to his statements, he is a scam artist talking out of both sides of his face.

But after seeing this video, I got to see that Mr. Bush started the ball rolling in royally screwing us over. Mr. Bush displayed even less fiscal responsibility and also made us enemies of the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2012
Verified Purchase
This video is a must see very well done.

It is already outdated as the nation is at $15 Trillion even quicker than
the documentary had warned. Will the country ever be able to live within it's means again?

The wealth disparity continues growing and promises and libabilites made by the US Gov
this video proves the country is NOT on a sustainable course!
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Every American should watch the last 15 minutes. Now to give 5 stars to a documentary that deals in politics, did you notice both blue and red folks rate it 5 stars, it is exceptionally brave journalism.

"Tentrillion and Counting" contains this message - STOP politicizing overspending.

We need a take/spend ratio that plugs this hole. To me this is urgent, plug that hole - then fancy up the ship. Amelioration's that follow are possible down the road if, and only if, we first address this massive hull breach, sealing it so the atmosphere can be restored, we are running out of oxygen faster than we can produce it, if our financial ship-of-state is not immediately addressed - we implode. this documentary shows just some of the things purchased to create the hole, defines well the rate of bleeding out.

Are you short of time? Just watch the last 15 minutes. Since that will send you back to the start, consider an hour of your time. Then as the documentary so apply points out, get out of denial.
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