‘Planet Money’ team brings economics, humor to Warriner Hall
When thinking about the future of the U.S. and the current state of the economy, one has reason to ask, “How screwed are we?”
That was the question “Planet Money’s” Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson posed to the audience of about 300 attendees Tuesday night in Warriner Hall’s Plachta Auditorium. The live talked based on their popular NPR segment was presented by Central Michigan University’s Public Radio. The show aims to explain the economy in terms that anyone can understand.
Blumberg and Davidson walked out to a standing ovation, and were greeted by a row of high school boys lifting up their shirts to display “Planet Money” written out across their chests in bright pink duct tape. The festive fans were part of a group from Petoskey High School.
Davidson said America in a way has two economies.
“A good economy exists side by side with a really bad economy, that will exist in both the short and long run,” he said.
Then they provided background. Blumberg said since the 1970s, for about 80 million Americans, there has been virtually no economic growth, with some who are worse off than their parents. He said this phenomenon masked as earning was replaced by borrowing.
“In the old system — auto plants, mill, steel plants — you would start as a high school drop out or an immigrant, maybe with limited English, but there were jobs you could start with your body,” Davidson said. “There was little technical school. You learned on the job. Now low-skill jobs are disappearing rapidly.”
The duo said research has shown that in today’s economy, it is the soft skills that matter — skills acquired as early as preschool.
They referenced the Perry Preschool Project, which took place in the 1960s in Ypsilanti. The project conducted a study in which one group of children attended preschool while the other group stayed at home.
Later in life, those who went to preschool avoided crime, earned a larger salary and enjoyed greater employment — all which researcher and Nobel-Prize winning economist James Heckman attributed to their early education.
Before concluding the talk, the pair ended on a positive note about the local Isabella County economy.
“What Isabella County has is what we need for the country and state as a whole, rather than rely on one industry, Isabella has education, a growing medical center, a lot of agriculture and Michigan’s primary source of economic growth — a casino,” Davidson said. “This is another huge part of the dimension — having this diversity. Not having all your eggs in one industry.”
“It was awesome,” said Paul Winegard, a junior from Petoskey High School. “It was kind of cool how they explained everything, especially right now as I’m getting ready to go into college.”
Charles Walmsley, Financial Advisor with HS&C Wealth Management, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial, said he thought the presentation was very entertaining and felt it was important for students to be educated.
“The economy is deeply entwined in everyone’s future,” he said. “It’s important that students understand about the economy; it helps them make decisions about everything they want to do in the future.”
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