The mathematics of ending the endless war on poverty

The Wall Street Journal has an article titled “Americans Rank Last in Problem-Solving With Technology,” with very bad news for the economy.

The results build off a global survey conducted in 2012 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. To better compare the skills of younger and older adults and the unemployed, researchers did additional surveys in 2014. The countries that scored the highest on the problem-solving with technology criteria were Japan, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Poland scored second to last, just above the U.S.

One stark revelation is that about four-fifths of unemployed Americans cannot figure out a rudimentary problem in which they have to spot an error when data is transferred from a two-column spreadsheet to a bar graph. And Americans are far less adept at dealing with numbers than the average of their global peers.

“This is the only country in the world where it’s okay to say ‘I’m not good at math,’ ” said Mr. Provasnik. “That’s just not acceptable in a place like Japan.”

Perhaps a key cause of the problem is the kind of free-spending, vote-buying Democrats who do not want to have to deal with the fiscal realities and therefore encourage innumeracy in our public schools.  The kind of politicians who might say, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” or who promise “free” college tuition to everyone.  What good is a free college education if the “graduates” can’t do simple math and therefore can’t get a paying job?  Once again from the WSJ:

The new report does nothing to dispel that gloom. Data on 16- to 34-year-olds, for instance, found even workers with college degrees and graduate or professional degrees don’t stack up favorably against their international peers with similar education levels. Fewer of these most-educated Americans perform at the highest levels on tests of numeracy and problem solving with technology.

Nobel laureate for physics (1965), Richard Feynman had something to say that now seems prophetic

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.

This from a 1987 class, as quoted in David L. Goodstein, "Richard P. Feynman, Teacher," Physics Today, volume 42, number 2 (February 1989) p. 70-75, at p. 73

The total U.S. national debt in 1965 was $322 billion, the sum of all the national deficits since our nation’s founding.  In that year, “Johnson funds Great Society, creating Medicare, Medicaid and HUD. Sends 100,000 troops to Vietnam. War's total cost will be $111 billion.”

It seems the War on Poverty has greatly exceeded the cost of the Vietnam War and the combined cost of all other wars in American history!  Is it time to declare defeat and give those dollars back to the American taxpayers, who earned them in the first place?

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