Saturday, July 30, 2011


by contributor Marana Moore

Glowing stained glass windows and golden menorahs added light and beauty to an evening with Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg of NPR’s Planet Money. 

The historic Sixth & I Synagogue was first dedicated in 1908 and cost $90,000.  Flash forward to the year 2011: the priceless cultural and historic value of this DC icon now frames the dynamic duo known for editorializing the ins and outs of the financial world in snarky fashion. 

A bit of levity in the face of financial peril might very well be worth its weight in gold to some.  However diverting the evening may have been, attendees would still be hard pressed to find even a thin pretense of reality in the dialogue that ensued.

Adam Davidson Marana Moore Alex Blumberg
The evening began with a tale of two financial outlooks—“Broken” America, and “American-Dream” America. 

“Broken” America consisted of people with a high school degree or less in education.  For this demographic, the outlook is decidedly grim.  According to Planet Money, there is essentially no way of achieving the “American Dream”, or “doing better than your parents” for this demographic. 

PM goes on to state that the “American-Dream” outlook is much improved from a statistical perspective—just over 4% unemployment for those with higher education, according to Alex and Adam.

Do all the people who raised their hands because they are currently unemployed feel better now?  People who attend “public radio events…in synagogues…in Washington DC” will probably  tend to be on the more educated side. “It might not feel like it now, but statistically speaking…it’s gonna be ok” for you. (Uncomfortable audience laughter.) 

(I wonder if any of the unemployed considered waiting for Planet Money outside in order to provide a little firsthand field research about what being beaten by the 4.5% unemployment rate is like?)

It was then noted that those who tend to be successful in today’s society of predominately non-physical, intellectual jobs also tend to possess certain “soft skills”, which apparently can only be acquired in preschool.  According to Planet Money, those who do not attend preschool make only two thirds the income of their pre-schooled counter parts, and get arrested twice as much.

In a closing fit of patriotism, we were reminded that we are still the world’s strongest economic power, China is not beating us yet, and that “US financial problems are really like Jersey Shore problems”—not so bad if you cut all the drama.

Tell that to the 9.2% (arguably higher) Americans who are unemployed, which becomes an even larger figure when you take into account the underemployed.  There is also the (small?) threat of US debt being downgraded.  It IS the standard of risk-free debt by which all other debts are measured…in the entire world.  

While we are all adaptable, capable people, a few (small?) problems may arise.

We were expecting a few jokes about the debt ceiling…not a re-visitation of preschool playtime and its neighborhood of make-believe.   Playdough or prayers anyone?