The Story of Broke: An Animated Look at US Federal Spending and Values

Back in 2008, Annie Leonard produced The Story of Stuff (see below), a 20-minute animated film that explores the way our consumerist habits take a toll on the environment and sustainability. The video racked up millions of views on YouTube, and now Leonard returns with the second video in a longer series. It’s called the The Story of Broke (see above) and it takes a shorter, animated look at U.S. government spending — at how we prioritize our spending, and what it says about our core national values.

We have a lot of money floating around. The federal government collected $2.16 trillion in tax revenue in FY 2010 (and we borrowed yet another $1.3 trillion more). Meanwhile, roughly $705 billion went to defense spending, which is seven times (or $589 billion) more than the next biggest defense spender, China. It turns out that operating a bloated empire with troops deployed across 150 countries is a costly national priority. Then, as Leonard points out, we also unthinkingly funnel a lot of money, in the form of subsidies and giveaways, to dinosaur industries. And then we’re told that nothing is left over for Social Security ($707 billion), Medicare/Medicaid ($732 billion), and education. But we shouldn’t take those claims at face value. Where we spend money is a choice. It’s ideally our choice, but all too often it’s really a matter of what’s valued by our leaders and their financial backers….


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  • Nathan Johnson

    As long as the government hands out subsidies, special interests will have the greatest incentive to control who gets them. Trying to redirected subsidies to good industries (Solyndra?) is a failed strategy. It’s best to end all subsidies and magically the lobbyists will go away. Then people can spend the money where they want.

  • Neal

    Yep, good points. I think that just voting isn’t enough anymore though. I think “lobbying” should be made illegal because it’s corrupt and it gives big corporations and special interest groups an unfair advantage over the common people/voters.

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