Face It: Too Many American Voters Are Stupid

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Of course, it’s not politically correct to say this, but the sad fact is that millions of Americans don’t know the first thing about how their government works and the basics of finances.  They are stupid.  This explains why Americans have ranked very low in international financial and political literacy tests for years.

Now, it shows up in the MAGA movement, which is based on dumb or the more politically correct “less informed” voters who make up much of the MAGA movement. 

This explains why MAGA (Make Adultery Great Again) followers don’t know how the court system works, how people are elected to Congress, the differences between the branches of government, and how many people are in Congress.  The recent college demonstrations about the plight of Gazans would also show that many protestors cannot find Israel on a map, define Zionism, and how much money was donated to U.S. colleges by Arab nations.  (See this video).

On the financial side, Americans are terrible at financial literacy, which helps explain why they face huge debts, have trouble paying for college and retirement, overpay for financial services, and are easy targets of financial fraudsters.

On the everyday side, this shows up in daily life when it comes to voting, electing intelligent people, shopping, investing, and making the best decisions for the household.

“When stupid people vote, you know who they nominate: Other stupid people,” according to James Carville.

My personal experience also does not place too much faith in younger adult Americans.  I was recently in a post office in Boca Raton, Florida, waiting in line to mail a package.  Three students behind me were wearing shorts from Lynn University in Boca Raton.  (Lynn University is a private school, and tuition is about $41,000 annually.)  After a few minutes, one of the students tapped me on the shoulder and said she wanted to ask a question.  She wondered whether she had correctly addressed the envelope she was mailing.  I told her it would be helpful to include the zip code if she had it.  She corrected the error and told me this was the first time she was mailing a letter via the USPS.

Here is another great video example of two 20-year-olds who cannot use a rotary phone. Sadly, we can assume that this is not a staged event.

What Caused the Nation’s Stupidity?

There are many culprits, but we can point fingers at:

  • The overall education system, including colleges;
  • The financial industry which benefits from dumb investors;
  • Social media, which has compromised ethics and is focused only on the bottom line;
  • Corrupt politicians who want to take over the nation and rely on dumb followers to watch helplessly as parts of the federal and state government are sold to private corporations and wealthy individuals.

How bad is the situation?

Here are some examples from a recent article, “The Price America Pays For Ignorant Americans,” written by Bruce Maiman and posted on MSN.com:

  • “In a 2009 survey of 1,000 adults by the American Revolution Center, a nonpartisan educational group, 60% knew that reality TV’s Jon and Kate Gosselin had eight kids.  But more than one-third didn’t know in which century the American Revolution had occurred, and half believed that either the War of 1812 or the Civil War preceded it.”
  • “Ninety percent of those survey participants said knowledge of the American Revolution and its principles is essential, yet 83% failed a basic test on knowledge of our founding, with an average score of 44%.  Remember, those were the days of beloved Birther conspiracies.”
  • In 2011, “the Institute for Citizens and Scholars, also a nonpartisan educational institute, found that while two-thirds of participants could name all three branches of government, nearly one-fifth couldn’t name any.”
  • “Only 1 in 20 could name all five freedoms protected by the First Amendment (speech, religion, the right to assembly, freedom of the press, and the right to petition the government).  Over one-fifth said the First Amendment protected the right to bear arms. (Nope. Second Amendment.)”
  • “A 2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of 18-to-24-year-olds found that only 14% of participants could find Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Israel on a map — a map, by the way, that had the countries lettered on it.”
  • “In its most recent nationwide testing, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 13% of eighth-graders had a proficient knowledge of American history; only 22% scored proficient in civics.  These kids will soon enter a high school where civics and history are under fire in highly politicized debates over content and instruction.”

In my reporting, I found that Americans are also pretty stupid regarding political and financial literacy.

An article in the Harvard Political Review cited a 2016 survey showing that only 26% of respondents could name all three branches of government.  The same article cited another study showing that 10% of American college students thought TV’s Judge Judy was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

FINANCIAL LITERACY PROBLEMS

As part of the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC has been charged to “identify the existing level of financial literacy among retail investors as well as methods and efforts to increase (it).” Part 1 of the SEC Financial Literacy Study was released recently, but the horses left the barn long ago.

Not surprisingly, the study finds (based on research done since 2006) that “investors do not understand the most elementary financial concepts, such as compound interest and inflation…diversification or the differences between stocks and bonds…are not fully aware of investment costs and their impact on investment returns… and lack critical knowledge of ways to avoid investment fraud.”

A 2016 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation study found that risk management was one of the lowest areas of financial knowledge.  An invezz.com survey also found that Americans who want to invest in stocks are being held back by their economic illiteracy.  The study found that about 72% of Americans who want to invest say they lack the financial knowledge to make an intelligent investment.

In another article, while the U.S. is the world’s largest economy, the Standard & Poor’s Global Financial Literacy Survey ranked the U.S. 14th (tied with Switzerland) when measuring the proportion of financially literate adults.  “To put that into perspective: the U.S. adult financial literacy level, at 57%, is only slightly higher than that of Botswana, whose economy is 1,127% smaller,” according to an article in Investment News.

The news doesn’t get any better over time. In another article, Improving financial literacy is an international corporate concern, in the 2015 Global FinLit Survey conducted by Standard & Poor’s, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands were the seven most financially literate nations. The chart below shows the percentage of adults in each country who are financially literate.

More recently, a study from Bank of America found that only 42% of employees rated their financial health as “good.”  This was an all-time low for B of A’s data,” according to the November/December issue of Employee Benefit News.  The main reason was inflation, which stressed salaries and forced some to forego their retirement contributions.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Movies about stupid Americans reflect this reality.  The Dumb and Dumber, Bevis and Butthead, and the best example, Idiocracy, written by Mike Judge, all show how stupid people function to some degree in a complex, modern society.

A great film, Idiocracy

In the 2006 film Idiocracy, Corporal Joe Bauers, a decidedly average American, is selected for a top-secret hibernation program. Still, the people managing the experiment forget about him, and he awakens in an America that is so pathetically dumb that he is considered the most brilliant man in the nation.  In his new capacity, he becomes a consultant to a gangster, motorcycle-riding president.  In time, Corporal Bauers solves the problem of growing food by watering the plants and solving the nation’s food shortage problem.  However, the stupid populace remains. 

The sympathetic lead character in the classic film Forrest Gump says, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Gump staggers through turmoil, war, antagonists, and a bad love relationship but emerges as a positive force. Unfortunately, dumb, uninformed, and brainwashed Trump supporters cannot make most Americans optimistic about the future.

The sad state of Americans today, with their low knowledge of politics and financial management, is not new.  It is not improving and does not bode well for the future.

As for the stupid voters, they probably will not change until their hands and the entire nation get burnt in the fire.  Maybe there is more hope for the next generation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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