Details on the lack of financial literacy in Arkansas, positive recovery for U.S. Sen. John Boozman, death penalty difficulties and a new name for the transportation artists formerly known as Arkansas Best Corporation are part of the May 2 Friday Wire for the Fort Smith region.
NOTES & ANALYSIS
• Miserable money managers
It’s a good thing Arkansas has a Constitutional requirement to balance the state budget, because our collective understanding of finances is so small that only the Large Hadron Collider could measure it.
A recent study by WalletHub found that Arkansas ranks 50 out of the 51 places studied (50 states and the District of Columbia) in the United States. The study that looked at education efforts in financial literacy, high school dropout rates, percentages of people with college degrees, the unbanked and those who borrow from non-bank lenders.
The City Wire talked to several folks around the state to see if they might refute the horrible WalletHub finding. No such luck. Dr. William Bailey, a professor at the University of Arkansas, was not surprised to see the state rank just a step above the bottom. Dr. Ed Bashaw, dean of the College of Business at Arkansas Tech University, also was nonplussed by the study. He said it’s a generational problem. Poor folks often don’t have the time, intelligence or desire to discuss their poor financial situation with their children.
Keith Weigelt, a professor at the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said high schools around the country need to do a better job of teaching financial management. But he doesn’t see that happening.
“This is a life skill. These high schools, these schools are failing to understand this is a life skill. The sooner you can know about finances, investing and so forth the better off you will be, but with all this emphasis on standardized testing, they just don’t have time for it. Financial literacy should definitely be included in public school curricula,” Weigelt said in the WalletHub report.
It’s a sad possibility that Weigelt is correct. We’ll have the most tested students in the world, but just don’t ask them how a mortgage works or what they are really paying for that rent-to-own big screen television.
Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it ...
• Corporate name change
Christmas may come early to select signage and print companies with Fort Smith-based Arkansas Best Corp. announcing Wednesday (April 30) that as of May 1 the transportation holding company will rename and rebrand to ArcBest Corporation.
• USA Truck posts quarterly loss
Van Buren-based USA Truck continues to lose money, but the losses are trending lower and officials with the trucking company maintain that their turnaround plan is delivering better results.
• Positive recovery
Less than a week after an emergency surgery to fix an aortic dissection, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., has returned home and has instructed his staff to work to help with tornado damage recovery in central Arkansas.
NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$5: That is the rate per credit hour that students at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith will pay to fund a new fitness center on the school's campus. The current facility is too small and hosts general recreation, academic and athletic programs.
$8.50: The hourly minimum pay rate organizers are trying to get approved by Arkansas voters in the November election. Stephen Copley, one of the organizers of the Give Arkansas a Raise Coalition, said there rate would be easier to get passed than President Barack Obama's proposed $10.10 per hour.
16%: Percentage of Arkansas drivers without auto insurance coverage, one of the highest uninsured percentages in the nation, according to the Insurance Research Council.
OUTSIDE THE WIRE
• This is what Amazon's smartphone will look like
The phone will make use of a data plan called "Prime Data," and while the details on it are far from totally known, it's expected to piggyback on AT&T's "Sponsored Data" program. Sponsored Data allows companies to subsidize your data use, paying for the data you consume inside certain apps and services — the data used inside of certain apps effectively doesn't count against your data plan. This might mean that Amazon could offer unlimited data for music and video streaming, but this is still speculative.
• A new rule on home care workers’ wages
A new rule from the Obama administration designed to provide better pay and working conditions to 2 million home care workers is forcing many states to rethink how they look at Medicaid payments and may result in higher Medicaid costs.
WORD ON THE WIRE
“Poverty is generational and with a lack of education the cycle continues. And in terms of non-bank lending, sometimes it may be cheaper to borrow from a payday lender than bounce several checks. But, once they borrow like that it’s easy to become enslaved.”
– Dr. Ed Bashaw, dean of the College of Business at Arkansas Tech University, in explaining how Arkansas ranks so poorly in terms of financial literacy
“I think the litigation challenges that we’re facing now on lethal injection would be exponentially increased if we attempted an electric chair [execution]. Take the policy out of it – whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea or whether it’s barbaric or whatever – I don’t think you could ever get to the legal point where a federal court would let us use the electric chair.”
– Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, about problems with Arkansas’ death penalty rules
"You know, mixed reactions. Business never likes taxes, but yet we've had a lot of businesses saying they've been hurt by crime. I've had several say (it is) more than hot checks, but air conditioners units ripped off their building and things like that and knowing that those individuals ether weren't prosecuted because it was a moot point or they were and were never incarcerated."
– Van Buren Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jackie Krutsch, explaining the business reaction to a proposed increase in sales taxes that would fund and operate a new Crawford County jail