Congress' Economic Literacy (Or Lack Thereof)

Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY
by: Markham Lee

Interesting little tidbit from the WSJ's "Real Time Economics Blog" around the economic literacy levels of the members of Congress:

From the WSJ:

As Congress works on one of the most important pieces of economic legislation in a generation, a Washington research group has pointed out that more than 8 in 10 members of Congress don’t have a formal educational background in the business, economics, or finance fields.

The research by the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, which aims to educate the general public about finance issues, showed that about 14% have degrees in economics-related fields and just 6.7% specifically have an economics degree. More than 30% of members have degrees in politics and government, while 18% majored in humanities.

“It’s interesting that those who are responsible for solving the biggest economic crisis in generations don’t have the educational background to know the difference between commercial paper and copy machine paper,” said James Bowers, managing director of CEEL."

CEEL looked only at undergraduate majors or minors and graduate degrees in economics, business and finance. Law degrees weren’t included in the tally.

Such a rubric leaves off Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd and ranking member Richard Shelby , as well as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and ranking member Spencer Bachus . They all have law degrees, but don’t have formal education in other economics-related fields

Personally, I think the real problem here isn't so much the lack of formal education as it is the lack of formal EXPERIENCE in the world's of business and/or finance, as the business world is full of people who majored in Engineering, Humanities, Law or Mathematics who go on to become quite successful in the business world. It's not that our Congress isn't full of educated people, it's that it isn't necessarily full of educated BUSINESS PEOPLE, and more specifically, business people who have a solid understanding of the dynamics at play in this particular crisis.

After all, when you hear the rhetoric coming out of Washington around the bailout plan (for and against), the potential benefits/costs/negative aspects of it, not to mention the usual rhetoric around economic and business issues, it's quite clear that most of these individuals are rather clueless. So for me it's not so much their educational background as it is their working knowledge-base.

Still, the point around economic illiteracy at the average citizen level and within our government is very valid; it's quite rare to hear a politician speak knowledgeably on business or economics instead of just parroting their political party's ideological talking points.

You can read more here.

Source: The WSJ: "Real Time Economics: Most Lawmakers Don't Have Economic Education" -- Phil Izzo, October 1, 2008.