The Math Of America

MidasMoments: Rob Slee’s Comments on the Nation

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This may be the most unsettled period in non-war US history. No wonder both presidential candidates have the largest negatives since such statistics have been compiled. But what really is going on here? It appears the math of America is so bad that even many Matrix denizens have finally woken up.

Let’s review some highlights:

– Every year for at least for the next 5 years the US will exceed $500 billion in trade AND budget deficits and will generate more than $2 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Each year. This will continue until the system fails. Then Grampa Slee’s words about life will ring true: it’s bad for a while, and then it gets worse.

– Yet the debt math is worse than the Government admits (imagine that). Hundreds of billion$ are being added to the public debt each year which are being erased from the official deficit number due to the peculiarities of government accounting. For instance, during the last two years nearly $200 billion was borrowed by Uncle Sam to fund student loans, but that didn’t count in the official deficit because these outlays are considered “investments”, not spending.

– Retirement? Ha! The median working-age couple has saved only $5,000 for their retirement, while 70% percent of couples have less than $50,000 saved. The majority of Americans are planning to tap social security for most of their retirement funding. Yet there is no social security trust fund. The ratings for future presidential debates will be Super Bowlish when it’s finally discovered that Grandma can expect her future monthly SS payments to drop by more than 50%.

– Basic education is a disaster. Sixty six percent of all U.S. fourth graders scored “below proficient” on the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading test, meaning that they are not reading at grade level. Even more alarming is the fact that among students from low-income backgrounds, 80 percent score below grade level in reading. Reading proficiency among middle school students isn’t much better. On the 2013 NAEP reading test, about 22 percent of eighth graders scored below the “basic” level, and only 36 percent of eighth graders were at or above grade level.

– College education is a disaster. The media talks a good bit about the trillion$ student loan debt, and the fact that much of this will never be repaid. But here is the unstated crisis: the fact that more than half of those who start college fail to finish. More math: only 15 percent of the bottom half of the US population (based on family income) have earned a college degree and only 9 percent among the bottom quarter. At a time when the majority of new jobs require post-secondary education, this is a national shame. Not only does it limit individual socioeconomic advancement, it minimizes the country’s capacity to make the most of talent that exists at every level and in every neighborhood.

– And all of the while, 80% of our private biz owners aren’t increasing the market value of their businesses.

No corporate earnings growth…historic indebtedness at all levels…and on and on and on.

The only reason we don’t have mass riots in the streets right now is that most Americans are terrible at math.

What’s the real problem in America? The upside down math is proof that we have been consuming more value as a society over the past 25 years than we have created. No amount of monetary and/or fiscal stimulus can change this fact.

Our only hope to maintain US sovereignty is that we change our education system so that our students become whole brain thinkers, and at the same time all of the rest of us change our behaviors to generate more value than we consume.

And that’s something we didn’t hear in any of the debates.

– Rob

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