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We’re Not Broke
56-minutes
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We’re Not Broke

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Filmmaker info pending
Running Time
56 minutes

We’re Not Broke

America is in the grip of a societal economic panic. Lawmakers cry “We’re Broke!” as they slash budgets, lay off schoolteachers, police, and firefighters, crumbling our country’s social fabric and leaving many Americans scrambling to survive. Meanwhile, multibillion-dollar American corporations like Exxon, Google and Bank of America are making record profits. And while the deficit climbs and the cuts go deeper, these corporations—with intimate ties to our political leaders—are concealing colossal profits overseas to avoid paying U.S. income tax. WE’RE NOT BROKE is the story of how U.S. corporations have been able to hide over a trillion dollars from Uncle Sam, and how seven fed-up Americans from across the country, take their frustration to the streets . . . and vow to make the corporations pay their fair share.

Filmmaker Notes:

In August 2010, my co-director who’d all but sworn off making films, called and
exclaimed, “We’re making another documentary!” The topic: offshore tax havens. The
only thing I knew about tax havens was what many people commonly think of when the
subject is mentioned — shady business dealings done on myriad Caribbean Islands or
behind thick, impenetrable walls of Swiss banks. The thought of delving into this murky
world sounded fascinating and challenging.What seemed like an intriguing idea at the start, began to affect me on a much deeper
level throughout the production of WE’RE NOT BROKE. The more I learned about how
corporations could legally game the system, and how many of our politicians allowed
them to do so, the more incensed I became. Something was definitely not right.
But what could we do about it? Most people I talked to would either yawn or form beads
of sweat if the subject of taxes came up. The connection between what the multinationals
were up to in the world of tax planning seemed a far cry from most Americans’ daily
lives. But as I discovered, it wasn’t that far away at all. The ripple effect is all too real. As
corporations contribute less, we contribute more. I realized that our film was much more
than just the subject of offshore tax havens, it encompassed a larger view of what the
middle class has been suffering, how we got to this place, and where we’re headed if we
don’t take the reins back.Halfway through shooting the film, with a much better understanding of the effects of
corporate tax avoidance, we still lacked a clear way to connect it to the everyday person. I
read an article in The Nation magazine, which did just that. It described a protest
movement called UK Uncut that sought out corporate tax dodgers and related their tax
avoidance to public service cuts. This led me to an article mentioning one person in the
US who had decided to follow UK Uncut’s lead—Carl Gibson. Two days later we were
on a plane heading to film Carl and the beginnings of US Uncut in Jackson, Mississippi.
We soon discovered that the idea was spreading across the country; similar Uncut groups
were forming in cities from Novi, Michigan to Honolulu, Hawaii, to New York City.
Finally, we had found a way to illustrate the link from the corporations to the everyday
person. It wasn’t until months later, when we feared US Uncut might be dying out, that
the fire started again with Occupy Wall Street.As I filmed some of the US Uncut members at Zuccotti Park on the first day of Occupy
Wall Street (September 17, 2011), I was overwhelmed by the energy of the growing
crowd. From interviews with a high school student to an 89 year-old-man, I was inspired
by the stories people told about why they had chosen to take to the streets, and by their
determination to bring attention to issues that were affecting 99% of Americans.
Throughout every twist and turn in the making of WE’RE NOT BROKE, I’ve been
challenged both personally and professionally. I believe that our film can add to the
discussion of where do we go from here. As one of our main characters, Kira, states: “We
as Americans have to decide whether or not we want to be a community, we want to be a
strong unit or if we want to be every man for his self. And I would be willing to bet that
the majority of Americans need a community in order to survive.” I hope audiences will
leave the film discussing what steps can be taken to turn things in a far better direction—
for all of us.— Karin Hayes, January 2012, New York, NY
In 2010, WE’RE NOT BROKE executive producer Charles Davidson approached
me to write a book about how tax evasion places an enormous burden on world
economies. Davidson’s goal was to bring attention to the issue and to try to help change
the global tax system. Although intimidated by the complex subject, I set out to
investigate. What I discovered was that the topic seemed much better suited to a
documentary film, rather than the book. I then enlisted my long-time filmmaking partner,
Karin Hayes, to embark on a year-long journey to direct and produce a film about
corporate tax dodgers.When we first began filming expert interviews in October 2010, I felt like I was making a
film far detached from my daily life. But as these experts began to unravel the mysteries
of our national and global economy, I was blown away. I was finally able to link the
economic ruin that our country is facing to the corporate greed that’s been holding our
government hostage for most of my lifetime. There was a reason that my neighbors are
declaring bankruptcy to save their homes while big banks receive trillions in tax-payerfunded
bailouts. Other neighbors have lost their homes to foreclosure. My daughter’s best
friend in the neighborhood comes over to eat her meals at our house because her mom’s
unemployment benefits have run out. The other day, I overheard her tell my daughter that
she and her mom may soon be on the street. She is 8 years old.It’s been incredibly difficult to understand how my middleclass neighborhood came to be
like this. But as we learned more and more through the production of this film, I found
the answers. The step-by-step clandestine corporate takeover of our government was
accomplished because Americans were blindsided by the opportunity to get everything as
cheaply as possible on borrowed money—without consequence. How did we let this
happen? What I now understand is that having our collective head in the sand is not a
way to have a successful democracy. In being asleep for four decades, we have, in the
words of one of our film’s experts “outsourced our democracy to the richest people in
America” whose interests are only their own.I was born at the end of the Vietnam War, as a public outcry originating from college
campuses put pressure on our leaders to end the bloodshed in that far away country. At
the same time, the brave soldiers of the civil rights movement put an end to legalized
segregation. As I grew up, there was really no work to be done except to prosper and
make money—to buy wholly into the corporate American dream. As a carefree 20-
something in the 1980s, I remember Detroit autoworkers laid off as their jobs were sent
to Mexico: a scene from Michael Moore’s pivotal film, Roger and Me that haunts me to
this day and has replayed over and over in my mind for the last 20 years. Why didn’t we,
as Americans, stand up for those autoworkers? As one American company after another
argued that they couldn’t compete or survive with Americans making their products, we
began to believe that we were too expensive, because the big corporations told us we
were. And now, in the end, we’ve made ourselves obsolete in our very own country
where there is no industry or manufacturing to drive a thriving middle class.This film has changed me irrevocably, and I know that there will not be a day in my
future when I don’t take responsibility for my contribution to my country and my
community. Our political system is broken. Our two-party system is a joke. And
Washington D.C. is a hotbed of corporate corruption that only works in the interests of
the mega-rich who descend on our leaders like vultures.But my most prized possession that I take away from the experience of making WE’RE
NOT BROKE, is what I’ve learned by following very passionate, caring Americans who
took to the streets on a frigid February day in 2011. From Chicago, to San Francisco to
Boston to Jackson, Mississippi, young college graduates, middle-aged moms and dads,
30-somethings trying to survive in a broken economy, were not afraid to take the front
lines of the fight against corporate greed. And what I took away from them all is a
growing and intense feeling of hope. As Jim Coleman, one of our film’s characters, a
father and small businessman from Chicago, says, “It doesn’t have to be the way things
are.”
— Victoria Bruce, January 2012, Riva, Maryland

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