Today, October 15, the dynamite documentary, “I Want Your Money,” opens at theaters nationwide. The release of this film so close to the midterm elections on November 2 is no coincidence. “IWYM” is a cry of the heart from its makers; in fact, it wears its heart on its sleeve from start to finish. The makers of this movie urge Americans to rein in Big Government before our country is ruined.
This documentary is not about objectivity or balance. It is openly and unapologetically on the side of conservative, limited government. All the “talking heads” are conservatives. Just as a Michael Moore documentary is regarded as leftwing propaganda by conservatives, so too will “IWYM” be regarded as rightwing propaganda by the left.
If your political beliefs place you in the left-most third of our population, you will probably want to stay away and avoid having your blood pressure raised.
If you are in the third of our population farthest to the political right, you might find this movie to be preaching to the choir; however, if you want to hear some classic conservative arguments, you might appreciate “IWYM” for compiling “The Greatest Hits of Conservatism.”
This movie is aimed at the third of Americans who are in the middle—the independents, undecided voters, and young people still sorting things out. In fact, preview screenings of this documentary have resonated strongly with independents, with many showings accompanied by spontaneous cheers, applause, and other forms of enthusiastic audience participation. Spontaneous Tea Party, anyone?
The main theme of “IWYM” is the choice between two contrary philosophies, two versions of the American Dream. One is the limited-government creed that those who earn wealth should be able to decide what to do with it; the other is the Big-Government religion that prefers political elites to make those decisions. In this documentary, the former is championed by Ronald Reagan, the latter by Barack Obama.
Indeed, Ronald Reagan is the star of this show. In both actual film clips and animated scenes, Reagan’s philosophy is given in his own words. In fact, “IWYM” is the best introduction to our 40th president that I can think of. For older generations of Reagan fans, this documentary offers a nostalgic trip down memory lane; for Americans under 25 who may not know much about him, this would be an excellent place to start to remedy that deficiency.
This is a very polished, professional documentary. From the clever opening (a fast-spinning money counter followed by the distinctive “ka-ching!”) through the close an hour-and-a-half later, “IWYM” stays tightly on theme. Happily, it avoids becoming monotonous by deftly shifting from archival footage to “talking heads,” featuring some of the most eloquent expounders of the limited-government philosophy (Star Parker for president!) to folksy or irreverent, clever, and mischievously humorous scenes starring animated versions of Reagan, Obama, the two Clintons, the two Bushes, Nixon, Carter, Pelosi, Palin, and Schwarzenegger. These political celebrities are turned into one-dimensional caricatures who are (except for Reagan) lampooned with gusto. By the way, the vocal impressions of Reagan, Obama, Nixon, and Bill Clinton, are superb.
“IWYM” has a few minor flaws that I’ll leave for other reviewers to note, but there is one major error. Reagan’s Attorney General, Ed Meese, asserted on camera that Reagan brought federal spending under control. He did not. From fiscal year 1982 (Reagan’s first full-budget year) through 1989 (his last) federal spending rose from $745 billion to $1,143 billion—an increase in the size of government of over 50 percent in only eight years.
The producers of this documentary should consider adding a supplement to the DVD release, explaining how President Reagan, saddled with a Democratic House under the control of Speaker Tip O’Neill, had to accede to large increases in social spending to secure congressional support for the expensive arms buildup that led to the crack-up of the Soviet bloc.
Reagan insiders like Meese shouldn’t try to embellish the Gipper’s record. After all, the man won the Cold War without firing a shot, and his tax cuts gave us a quarter-century of almost uninterrupted growth. Those two achievements alone make Reagan the greatest president of the 20th century. We really don’t expect one man to have solved all our country’s problems, do we?
It falls to us who are living today to take the next step to secure our country’s future—namely, reining in federal spending. It won’t be easy taking on the federal leviathan and the entrenched special interests, but, as Reagan himself reminded us, we can do this, because we are Americans.
Thanks to everyone who worked on “I Want Your Money” for helping to point us in the right direction. God bless America.