Finley: Prove Gruber wrong; teach kids economics
If Americans really are as economically gullible as Jonathan Gruber believes, it won’t be Michelle Balconi’s fault if the next generation remains that way.
Balconi, a Grosse Pointe freelance writer and mother, just finished a children’s book titled “Let’s Chat About Economics!” If you think such a suggestion might send your kids running for the video game console, Balconi says you’re the perfect target for her book.
“I really do want this to be a conversation, not a lecture, based on the things that come up in everyday life,” she says.
Referring to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber’s admission that the administration had to lie about the health care act because the public, in his description, is too stupid to understand its complexities, Balconi says, “People are so shocked and offended by Mr. Gruber’s comments that it opens the door to talking with children about economics.”
So it’s Christmas, and everyone is writing books for children, although most don’t deal with issues this hefty.
What sets Balconi’s book apart is her co-author — Arthur Laffer, one of the most influential economists in America and President Ronald Reagan’s economic adviser. He’s the father of supply side economics and author of the Laffer Curve, which measures the diminishing returns of higher tax rates.
Laffer’s a big deal, and children’s books aren’t his normal fare. But Balconi heard him speak at the Detroit Economic Club in 2012 and sent him a proposal. Laffer, who lives in Nashville, loved it.
“I thought it was a cool idea to touch kids in this way,” Laffer says. “It’s the basics — understanding incentives, trade-offs and other basic principles that come right from Michelle’s own family.”
Balconi’s two kids are in their early teens, and she says once she started talking to them about the economic principles she discussed with Laffer, the book wrote itself.
“The stories in the book are about trips to the grocery store, vacations, yard sales — all opportunities to teach children economic lessons,” Balconi says.
Balconi could have added a chapter on chutzpah. She’d never written a book before, and knew little about economics when she embarked on the project.
It took her nearly two months after the economic club event to work up the nerve to contact Laffer, whom she never even spoke to at the lunch. She had little faith that he’d sign on, but felt she had to try.
“I screamed out loud when I got his response,” she says.
Laffer was impressed with Balconi’s enthusiasm.
“She’s really a high energy, wonderful person,” he says. “I think this book will do great.”
“Let’s Chat About Economics” is 35 pages, colorfully illustrated, and is aimed at elementary school children. It’s available in hard- and soft-cover editions at Amazon.com, in a Kindle version, and locally at Book Beat in Oak Park and Book Connection in Shelby Township.
I’m outside the target audience, but I read it and, and found economics presented at a grade school level to be just about the right speed.
Had it been written earlier, it may have derailed Obamacare.
Follow Nolan Finley at detroitnews.com/finley, on Twitter at nolanfinleydn, on Facebook at nolanfinleydetnews and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on “MiWeek” on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.