Americans need financial literacy
In a surprising turn, President Barack Obama took the conservative mantra of “cut taxes always” to heart and released a $447 billion plan to combat the 9.1 percent unemployment rate, which looks to cut social security taxes for both businesses and individuals. Of course, Obama is right to be so passionately concerned with the high unemployment rate — as he demonstrated with a rather heated speech to Congress when he presented the plan — but this measure leaves us uncomfortable. We want to see Obama’s plan succeed, because we want to see more jobs, but the meager amount of information Obama has given the public regarding this plan is a bad sign.
The major flaw in Obama’s plan is that it costs almost $450 billion. Perhaps that in and of itself doesn’t sound so bad, but here’s the catch: Obama claims the entire plan is funded, but he has not said a word regarding where that money is coming from. It seems that he is merely conjuring money out of thin air — which is exactly the sort of conduct that led our country into the recession in the first place. If Obama claims we can pay for the plan, it is only fair that he tell us how, exactly, we will do just that.
There’s another problem with Obama’s plan, one not limited to just this instance: Of the scant information released about the bill, much of it is difficult for the layman to parse. For many, the economy is a dark and mysterious force, one which sometimes smiles down on us and sometimes decides it doesn’t much care for us at all. This widespread lack of financial literacy may be the reason people feel dissatisfied with Obama’s bill.
There are two ways in which this issue can be solved. On the one hand, politicians and economists could make more of an effort to explain the workings of the economy in the sort of plain English the common person can understand. On the other hand perhaps financial literacy could, like math or science, become a standard part of the curriculum in American schools. If both of these approaches are taken in unison, we won’t find ourselves with a dearth of information — or, at the very least, we’ll have the tools to analyze the scant amount we do get.