Government bailouts and school children

~ Marcus De La O

There was something missing from the $700 billion taxpayer funded bailout that was signed into law. It seems impossible, I know. Congress spent several days making sure nothing was left out, including money for Puerto Rican rum makers, race track owners, wooden arrow manufacturers, and of course, the always under-funded wool researchers.

It was painful to see the very people who caused the mess taking charge of fixing it. If it made you mad, it should have. The bailout amounts to over $2,300 from every American’s pocket, and there are no guarantees that it will work. Most of us would have preferred to stick it to the man and let those greedy Wall Street villains go bankrupt.

If you watch TV or read the paper, you’ve heard that the problem was caused by our government loosening lending standards. This is a symptom of a larger problem, one that needs to be fixed now. The real cause of this disaster is not on Wall Street. It is much closer to home.

Imagine if our children were forced to take money management classes starting in the third grade. Forced! Forced to take classes in money management? Why not? They are forced to take algebra. How many of us use that in the average day? They are forced to take biology, foreign language, health, and geometry. Sex education may soon be forced upon our children as well. Money management, however, is not even an elective.

When offered an amazing loan to buy a house with little or none of your own money, a properly educated young adult might say “no thank you.” When tempted to run up the VISA debt to get that new plasma screen, the ghost from classroom past would say “No.” Every year a new batch high school graduates take to the street with no financial education. This is the real cause of the financial crisis.
Instead of a couple thousand regulators teaching banks how to lend, let’s teach a couple hundred million Americans how to borrow. Rather than showing us how to spend our money, our government should show us how to save it. Our children need to come out of high school knowing that managing their money is just as important as earning it.

Our government has let us down in this area for a long time and missed another chance. Financial education should be required in all public and private schools. Over the past few weeks, we did not hear one of our leaders speak about the importance of teaching money management to our children. Not Bush, Obama, McCain, Pelosi, Cox, Bernanke, Dodd, or Frank. None of them. Yet what is on every adult’s mind every day? How to manage your money.

For the government, a financially literate public is a dangerous thing. Americans would have no use for bailouts, and fewer of us would need welfare or Social Security. Unfortunately, our government prefers that we remain reliant on them for as much as possible. Unless we insist that our schools offer financial education, it will never happen.

Since this is not likely to happen, there are some fun and educational books you and your children can read. “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Clason is fun and easy for kids to read. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki is great for teenagers and adults. Let’s teach our kids money management from an early age. This is how we can all “stick it to the man.”

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