As Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve dither over what to do about the darkening economy, I’m reminded of, and damn near demoralized by, a scene in “I.O.U.S.A.”, the remarkable and terrifying 2009 documentary about the burgeoning debt crisis in America.
In the scene, a cameraman asks a smattering of people to define “trade deficit.” Here was one of the better answers, delivered by a fresh-faced woman who looked roughly 18 years old: “Deficit usually means…disorder or something. Something is wrong with it. It’s not good.”
Ok, maybe the notion of importing more stuff than we export is a tad abstract. How about the notion of debt? Cameraman to passersby: “How big is the federal debt?” Some responses: “I’m guessing quite a bit”; “3 million”; “I know it’s in the billions.” Try $8.7 trillion. (The film was made in 2009–after bailouts, stimulus packages and healthcare reform, that number is now a few trillion higher, and will soon surpass the $14.5 trillion worth of goods and services this country produces annually.)
The point of “I.O.U.S.A.”—sponsored in part by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (Mr. Peterson is a billionaire investor and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce)—is to scare us stiff about the consequences of mass fiscal irresponsibility. It succeeds. But it also drives at something deeper: our rotting education system that ultimately led to this problem.
Full story: Financial Illiteracy Is Killing Us – Forbes