The Story of Broke

In Season One of The Story of Stuff,
we looked at a system that creates way too much stuff, and way too little of
what we really want. Now we’re going to start looking at the stories
behind the Story of Stuff. That’s where we’ll find ways to turn
this situation around. Welcome to Season Two! These last few years, I’ve had to get
a lot more careful about how I spend my paycheck. Everyone has. Like I’m eating out less often, holding back on expenses I don’t really
need, saving for my kid’s college. I’m getting more responsible,
taking control of how I spend. But one thing I can’t control is that
every month a big chunk of my paycheck goes off to the government. It’s not the most fun part of my budget,
but I believe in paying taxes. Not just because it’s the law but because that’s how I invest in a
better future that I can’t afford to build on my own. You know that future we all want and
nearly every candidate promises us — great schools, a healthy environment, clean energy, good jobs. But a funny
thing happens to our money on its way to that better future. It seems to disappear. And by the time we get around to
investing in it, all we hear is, “sorry, not this year, we’re broke.” In fact, we’re so broke, they say, that we have no choice but to slide
backwards, cutting things that made this country
great — like schools and the EPA, maybe even Social Security and Medicare. Wait a minute. Broke? I’m sending in my share of
hard-earned cash every month and so are you! If everyone did, we’d have
plenty of money. Now, what we’ve got to work with shrinks
a lot thanks to corporate tax loopholes and unprecedented tax breaks for the
richest 1%. But even after those, we’ve still got over a trillion dollars. So if we’re broke, what’s happening to all that money? I decided to look into it and it turns
out this whole “broke” story hides a much bigger story — a story of some really dumb choices
being made for us — but that actually work against us. The good news is that these are choices, and we can make different ones. So, where is all that money going?
Well first the military takes a big chunk — $726 billion in 2011. Wow! We could build a lot of better
future with that kind of money. Spending billions on fighter planes
we don’t need or wars with no end, and then saying we’re broke,
just isn’t honest. It’s like calling your kid from your
billion-dollar yacht to say you can’t afford her lunch money. Then hundreds of billions more go to
propping up the dinosaur economy. You know, the obsolete system we talked
about in The Story of Stuff — the one that produces more pollution,
greenhouse gasses and garbage than any other on Earth —
and doesn’t even make us happy. In so many ways, it’s just not working, but we’re keeping it in on life support
instead of building something better. A lot of that life support comes in the
form of subsidies. A subsidy is a giveaway that gives some
companies a lift over others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing —
we should help companies that are building a better future. The problem is the government keeps
lifting up companies that are actually dragging us down. Everywhere you look along the dinosaur
economy, you’ll find these subsidies. There’s spending subsidies: where the
government just gives our money away — like payments that benefit big
agribusiness, while helping drive family farms off a cliff. Or the less obvious version where the
government foots the bill for things corporations should pay for themselves like cleaning up toxic chemical spills
or giant livestock manure ponds. Or building roads that go to only
one place — a new Walmart. Or paying for polluting and wasteful
garbage incinerators that would never make financial sense to build on their
own. Then there’s tax subsidies: which excuse big corporations from
contributing their fair share — like the enormous tax breaks granted
to oil and gas companies even in times of record profits. These subsidies amount to billions of
dollars we should be collecting and putting to good use. And there’s risk transfer subsidies:
where the government acts as an investment bank and even an insurance
company for corporations doing risky things, like building nuclear reactors. If anything goes wrong,
we have to cover for them. There’s freebie subsidies: where the government gives stuff that
belongs to all of us to corporations for cheap or even free. That’s billions more we should be
collecting but never see! Like permits to mine public lands,
granted at prices set in the Mining Law of 1872. Really. 1872. President Grant signed this law to
encourage settlement of the West. News flash: it’s settled. And all this doesn’t even count
externalized costs. They don’t show up on any spreadsheet and
could amount to trillions of dollars — they include the damage to the
environment, public health and the climate that this
dinosaur economy causes. Without laws that make the polluters
pay, we all pay with the loss of clean water and air, or increased asthma and cancer. By the time we’ve handed out all these
subsidies, there isn’t even enough money to pay our bills — forget about building the better future. So why is there always enough money for
the dinosaur economy, from big oil to bailouts for big banks, but when it comes to building a better future we’re
supposedly broke? Maybe it’s because these guys know how to ask for it. Their lobbyists and giant campaign
contributions let the government know what they want, and what they’ll do if they don’t get it. And it works. US Senators who voted to keep big oil
subsidies in 2011 had received 5 times more in Big Oil
campaign cash than those who voted to end them. So, while subsidies should
be a tool for government to help companies that are helping all of us,
instead, they’ve become a prize for those with the most power
to get on the handout list. But you know who has the real power? We do! What if we got as protective of
our tax dollars as we are with the rest of our money? What if we told the government
what we want and what we’ll do if we don’t get it — starting with
voting them out! We could re-direct these dinosaur
subsidies, freeing up hundreds of billions of
dollars. Forget broke, we could build a better future right now! We could start by reinvesting the
$10 billion in oil and gas subsidies to renewable energy and
energy efficiency projects. With just half of that amount, we could
put solar systems on over two million rooftops. Then use the
rest to retrofit half a million homes, creating jobs and saving energy
year after year. The average cost of cleaning up a
toxic site on the Superfund list is $140 million. Let’s make the polluters pay and instead
invest our money in developing safer materials so we don’t have to worry
about them spilling in the first place. Most chemicals today are made from oil —
that’s why they are called petro-chemicals.
Switching just 20% of them to bio- based materials would create
over 100,000 new jobs. Instead of subsidizing garbage
incinerators, let’s subsidize real solutions, like zero waste. Raising the US recycling rate to 75%
would create one and a half million new jobs — with less pollution,
less waste, less pressure to harvest and mine new
stuff. What’s not to like? That would still leave hundreds of
billions of dollars for improving education — the best
investment for a healthy economy. With $100 billion, we could increase
the number of elementary school teachers by over 40% and give college scholarships
to over 6 million students. See, we can rebuild the American Dream;
we can afford to have a healthy environment, good jobs,
and top-notch public education. But not if we continue subsidizing the
dinosaur economy. So next time you have an idea for a
better future and someone tells you, “that’s nice, but there’s no money for
that,” you tell them we’re not broke. There is money, it’s ours,
and it’s time to invest it right.

100 comments on “The Story of Broke”

  1. Bart Bewuster BE says:

    good video with good message, but, unfortunatly, all americans have is debt. they have no money, they all live WAY above their (and everybodies) standards !

  2. Closed For Hate 〈3 ~ Have Fun says:

    Like this comment if your a pineapple

  3. A. C. E. says:

    If you are wondering where your tax dollars are going lets put it this way. If you think you are living in a democracy, you are, one day every election period and that is the day you get to vote. The rest of the time, it is a dictatorship where they spend your tax dollars as they see fit.

  4. GamuhBoi says:

    Thanks Obama

  5. Haze Plays says:

    1/6 dislikes, people are stupid.

  6. Kiljoy says:

    Defence (military) is essential… The reason the bill for the military has skyrocketed is because Cultural Marxism, feminism, left liberalism generally has so severely eroded moral fortitude and resilience, the 'stuff' she claims to have at the beginning i.e. Being responsible with her finances, living within her means. It is fair to say that the likes of Edward Bernays (The Engineering of Consent) has used marketing, big business, to exploit the human weakness illustrated in the Marshmallow Experiment and doubtless a lot of so called 'right wing' interests are behind that but the sad reality is that the left have played right into their hands.
    The best wealth, innovations, capital (especially social capital) arose out of conditions that most people these days would consider to be austerity, in the true sense of the word. I don't desire a return to those conditions, not entirely anyway. A lot less choice in the 'sexual market place' would do a lot of people a lot of good. For a society to flourish, sustainably, there needs to be a high degree of good faith but modern attitudes to sexual relations ensures that bad faith is rampant.

    Read Pride And Prejudice, the Left essentially expects the government to be a Darcy, intervening with financial aid to rescue the likes of Lydia Bennett and George Wickham.

  7. TheTrueabundance says:

    not only talking about USA, but also Spain, Germany, France, UK, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Ireland among others

  8. Kinev Perantzom says:

    What a dumb video. Last year the U.S. collected ~3 trillion dollars in revenue from taxes, up ~15% from the year before. The national debt has risen an average of almost 1 trillion dollars per year since 2012 and currently stands at 18 trillion dollars. Assuming those rates hold relatively constant, it would take the U.S. 50 YEARS to pay off the national debt if 50% of our annual revenue goes to paying it off. What that means is, even if all our of military and defense spending went to paying off the national debt, it wouldn't even matter. That doesn't even include all of our government's unfunded liabilities. Social Security ALONE, according to the 2009 Social Security and Medicare Trustees report, is expected to cost 50% of government tax revenue by 2030. We may be rich, that doesn't mean anything if you're wasteful. Even the richest people go bankrupt. Donald Trump did. Twice.

  9. NatetheNerd says:

    This lady makes a lot of good points but what she said about the military was dead wrong. Try having your so called "great future" with no military budget

  10. quaqmireful says:

    Has those in the power in USA lost it ?

  11. Dariana Barrios says:

    thah people have the mind so terrible close… This point is important and neccesary for us and our planet 🙂

  12. Ultra Fire says:

    She is right, it is the only way to go, to build something new that good for all people and get rib of nonsense old thinking

  13. kapustek salatek says:

    good luck with that

  14. MrSharko12 says:

    or mabey giving the money back to the taxpayers and letting them decide what to do with it?

  15. JIP says:

    This is another typical hippie communist bullsnat loaded Utopian video. If it was that simply it would have been done and the rich elite would have profited from just as well.

  16. Celine Salas says:

    I want you for president of the universe.

  17. Pro Kitchen Builders says:

    Stupidest. Video. Ever. Vomit non sense

  18. MrsJQuinn says:

    The military is so over-funded they have TOO MUCH money at the end of the fiscal year and have to go on a spending spree, buying tons of unnecessary items and weapons so that they can secure the same amount the next fiscal year. The military spends ridiculous amounts paying officers that do nothing. The military is (dare I say) pointless. We don't need to invade other countries. Cut everything back. All we need is National Guard and Coast Guard. We don't need to police other nations (and by police I mean make them worse).

    How could I possibly know this? Why would I say that? Do I not love our troops!?

    I did 8 years in the Army as a combat medic. I saw it. I heard it. I understand the game they play. And no, I didn't defend your freedom. Someone a long time before me did that, so if you really want to thank soldiers and appreciate them, how about not starting more wars. A way to ease out of the want for more wars is by cutting back the military. If we don't have all these new toys and toy soldiers for the gov't to throw around, they won't be ABLE to do the things they do, in your name. Believe me, if you knew what they were doing in your name, you'd be sick.

  19. Edz Gomz says:

    what program do you use to make these videos

  20. Chris Baines says:

    Payment of income tax is unconstitutional as it is not apportioned as the constitution demands it must be. Income tax is therefore illegal. There is no law which requires the payment of income tax. The income tax collected only goes to pay the national debt incurred as a result of the creation of the federal reserve which prints money at interest even though the government could print the same money itself for free. For more information see an uploaded version on YouTube of "America from freedom to fascism".

  21. John Donovan says:


  22. John Donovan says:


  23. Sheryl Straub says:

    You should run for a public office!

  24. Ken Bell says:

    "Yes we can!",… sooo, how'd that work out? Just sayin'

  25. Cringe Fest says:

    Erm. I think you will find that US needs to be dominant when it comes to military power for as long as possible. Look it up.

  26. Cringe Fest says:

    Greece be like: "Not enough money to pay tax? Gosh thats a shame, I guess we'll have to borow another 10 millions or so…"

  27. Giselle D'Souza says:

    I think you should run for office
    Many talk like this and get elected then say

    I didn't realize how much debt the government is in oops

  28. CellLord01 says:

    And we spend trillions on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare. Around 60%. Go look it up.

  29. antigen4 says:

    ummm i think you're missing the MAIN CULPRIT here – how about 'The Story of Banking'?? think you could wrap your head around THAT one…?

  30. earlytimessc says:

    they gave up on this channel?

  31. Dave Mayton says:

    The entire video is predicated upon statism and fiat currency, both faulty logic.

  32. SerJahPhoto says:

    How do you "vote them out" if they are all equally sold out to the corporations? The real solution is to stop consuming their "goods". Start growing your own food, building your own houses, using hand tools, trading goods, buying clothes at thrift stores.
    If everybody was doing it, the corporations would go bankrupt.

  33. John Puccetti says:

    The real problem is the industrial military complex. They are running this country!

  34. Amy Solecito says:

    549 555 views!! I'm in shock!! These videos should have millions of views!!

  35. googlation says:

    You missed one point, paying off the interest on the money that the privately owned federal reserve is creating out of thin air.

  36. Gabriela Razazi says:

    The Story of Meat!!!

  37. alanc045 says:

    I wish she ran for president… wait she would most certainly lose. I wish more people understood, we need more people aware. Who needs a monarch when we got big business 🙁

  38. breekwhal says:

    This was cute.

  39. Roark says:

    Typical leftist tripe.

  40. Madison van 't Zelfde says:

    how can people dislike this, idiots

  41. SakariWolf13 says:

    I like what you're getting at but how can you choose to invest in these things if most politicians are corrupt? Even when you vote for the right candidates, the corrupt ones usually end up elected. And it's not like you can just stop paying your taxes until they actually change because you'll just end up in prison.

    There must be a solution.

  42. Deepak Bansal says:

    I wonder if she is a Democrat or Republican

  43. GodOfStars says:

    fuck that who cares

  44. nerdalert226 says:


  45. Milton Mackowski says:

    jet fuel can't melt steel beams

  46. Andrew E. says:

    This is such cute left wing propaganda.

  47. MARAYAM plays says:

    this is one of the best channels I've ever seen

  48. FiT PT says:

    Everything this idiot says is stupid and incorrect.

  49. Syamala Nair says:

    After all is said and done more is said than done.

  50. Keith Haddad says:

    I think the problem is waste creates more jobs and free energy ultimately creates less jobs. We are stuck in the idea that a 5 day work week is normal so we need more jobs for people. If we learned to share the few jobs a healthy future would have we would all be happier but selfishness of people probably will destroy this idea. We could create a much less wasteful society except as of right now too many people are working so hard just for basic rent and food which justifies the rest to be wasteful to create jobs. We need a new way of thinking about economy and life. The current point system (aka money) is unbalanced with what amazing future we could create. Money needs a rebalancing.

  51. Jeff Campbell says:

    You believe in taxes is science of stupid. Governments steal your money(taxes), print money(inflation) and borrow money(debt) and you believe in that system, I feel sorry for you. USA has been broke since it went off the gold standard and experimented with paper money printing, it hasn't work for anyone else, repeating others mistakes is insanity.

  52. Daniel Keener says:

    Some of this is pretty bullshit, they really do not know what they are talking about here. Not great information:/

  53. Tom Hines says:

    We'd be even more "broke" WITHOUT the military.  …or is that saying without the military, we wouldn't need to worry about money?  Also, the richest 1% (mathematically) WILL ALWAYS exist even when it's made up of people YOU designate and they will ALWAYS get incentives because that's HOW THEY GET TO BE THE RICHEST 1%!!!

  54. hashmo101 says:

    So making the public hate Islam means someone continues to get $750 billion dollars a year.

  55. Brock Skyman says:

    Morpheus said : You can feel it when you pay your taxes.

  56. yaknowme says:

    I love this video! I find that this is the same situation we have in italy

  57. Paria Canyon says:

    Legalize drugs.  Problem solved.

  58. Marthinus Steynberg says:

  59. Marthinus Steynberg says:

  60. djtoland says:

    This woman has just now discovered that a large, powerful government is a corrupt government – unfortunately, her solution is simply to "elect the right people".
    She hasn't figured out that if legislators control buying and selling, the first things bought and sold are legislators……
    The founders had it right, the best government is a small, limited government.

  61. Winter Star says:

    This one was fairly well done, in context of continuing to do economy in familiar models……unlike their video on bottled water.

  62. CriminallyVulgar says:


  63. fleamarketmutt says:

    Actual income tax is unconstitutional

  64. Gabrielle Tenório says:

    Why not crowdfund privately for "the future you want but can't get alone"? With metrics, due dates and accountable people doing the work. The government is not about "building a better future" this is just an idea some people believe because it's easier then acknowlodge the hard truth. Government is about institucionalized appropriation of other's production as it has (almost) always been. It's sad and hard but the sooner people can see it the sooner they can change it.

  65. Smashinbedrock says:

    The government does not know how to spend your money better than you do.

  66. Roland Giersig says:

    "If voting changed anything, it would be outlawed." – Wladimir Putin

  67. boz says:

    she doesn't understand that taxes do NOT form revenue for the federal govt. Money is created and then spent through the public sector or through the banking system, before it ends up in the private sector. Since she believes govt gets its money from the public, I had to stop watching because the foundation for her argument is utterly false. If anybody's interested, here's a link to outline how federal govt funds itself:

  68. Mark R. says:

    Biobased is not always better than plastic, the so called "biodegradable" plastic have been shown to stay longer in the environment than regular plastics and use food crops/land to produce = more agriculture = more oil use.

    Some of the so called "green" solutions aren't actually green, they just sound nice, and the corn/SOY/GMO fiber rich potato manufacturers "plastic/ink/cardboard" are of course promoting and financing the hell out of that as being environmentally friendly.

    Everyone always likes to think they're not the ones who have been affected by clever marketing, but wrong!

  69. Lia Fadhilla says:


  70. MEMEMEET says:

    Because the whole world works like the USA…

  71. Makayla Jones says:


  72. Why Is the Sky Blue? Questions says:

    The USA isnt the richest country on the planet, its qatar

  73. Beatriz Ferreiro Ortiz says:

    IT IS SIMPLY TRUE but we cannot do anything. The people with the real power is managing the world and they don'r care about us. A developped world CANNOT BE CONTROLLED!!. They need to control us in order to continue being the powerful!!

  74. elizabeth coopersoutham says:

    seems australia is still in this phase in 2017 !

  75. Brad Z says:

    Hmmmmm- great vid…BUT…

    I'm sceptical- running the worlds economy can't be as easy as they make it out to be

  76. classical baby says:

    Was wondering if by subsidizing education you meant this business college we drove past the other day, located in a highly Republican area of supposedly very Liberal southern California. The ironies never cease! Welcome to humanity. When it comes to humans, Occam's Razor doesn't apply, does it. Everything gets complicated & this allows corruption to prosper & grow. Like thieves who know the big city makes for great cover. No wonder broad sweeps in animated public service messages like this one have done little to effect real change.

    Still, a superb video. Shame on Americans for not heeding these important points concerning our corrupt economy..

  77. Bond Brown says:

    JUST DO IT!!

  78. sivakesh paladugu says:

    the only problem is we dont know which companies

  79. G Lac says:

    Fed, state, county, municipal Unions and Illegals are costing us more than corporate subsidies. Social Security on people who didn't contribute. Quit sticking it to the corporations and get rid of liberal politicians(socialists).

  80. John Strang says:

    We should not subsidize ANY businesses.

  81. John Strang says:

    And we should switch to a flat tax

  82. Chris Moderate says:

    schools suck and have since the eighties.

  83. Vivek Patil says:

    The problem is that the 'green' alternatives are difficult to identify and more difficult to scientifically verify for a common citizen. As you explained in one of your previous video, 'carbon credit' was hailed as a great solution, even by me, until I saw your analysis which logically concluded that it is not.

    The point is, there should be a website which can give a logical conclusion about many analyses we try to do but can't do. In simple terms, which choice is really a game- changer? A page-long analysis of simple choices in everyday life can help a lot!

  84. Claudia says:

    OMG!!! I thought mainly in my country, Brazil, the taxes has been used in a wrong way, but in USA it´s the same. We are lost guys, the world is lost!!!!

  85. Seowah Kahn says:

    She should be president.

  86. GoalsonCubes says:

    This problem is already starting to fix; trump is in office know.

  87. Dragon brothers animation says:

    Ha ha ha, what a bunch of total nonsense. The truth is that 50% of people pay no tax at all. Maybe they need to step up and pay the same tax as the rest of us? Who cares if you make 20,000 per year? Everyone should pay the same flat tax and forget all of this communist jargon on this video.

  88. Jason Hinojosa says:

    Dirty Commie

  89. Emel Inal says:

    A big chunk of US tax goes to Israeli military under the cover of foreign aid.“Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America's entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.” – John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"

  90. Tate Brinkman says:

    Everyone go out and buy motorcycles to spend less money on gas and taxes boom, especially if you live in the northern states.

  91. Goldie O says:

    And people say to military " thanks for serving our country". Most.guys don't join to serve this country, but because they don't know what else to do with their lives and think they are gonna get benefits. Sure. 10% off at Home Depot. What are we really "protecting"? Let the damned politicians fight their own fight. All these young men are doing is enabling a sick system at their own expense. I asked the native peoples why they call their vets "warriors" and place so much emphasis on them. They said because they are protecting their land. I said, you're 400 years too late. That is truly delusional.

  92. Carlos Spicyweiner says:

    'Dinosaur Economy", that's a polite way of saying shit-where-you-eat crapitalism.

  93. Mr Geoxen says:

    Lee Doren of How The World Works debunks this video, as well as others on this channel.

  94. kempossible Privateinvestigator says:

    Our votes don't count. Your next note should be the story of voting. This system is broken. It is time for revolution. Wake up. Or be slaves to Google, Amazon and nestle. Wondering what government? Because our gov't is throwing all of us under the bus. Revolution. It's time

  95. Carter Kenwell says:

    Lets strip 1.39 million people of jobs and force them to enter electrical engineering. Good one headass

  96. Carter Kenwell says:

    Lets make everyone commit tax fraud. Good one headass

  97. Donald Trump5777 says:

    It's the Jews in power that are ruining this world and our country. We desperately need Adolf Hitler back more than ever.

  98. The Story of Stuff Project says:

    What could go wrong if profit-driven corporations gained control your city's public water systems? Watch our latest animation, The Story of Water! 👉🏽

  99. wheatonna says:

    There is no shortage of money. There is no shortage of work.

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