All posts by Richard Thripp

Ph.D. graduate of UCF studying financial education, husband, father, Age 28.

On American Financial Disenfranchisement: No Gift of Moral Hazard for the People

When will the American people enjoy the moral hazards conferred upon wealthy individuals and corporations?

It is so common to hear self-righteous commentary about the dangers of moral hazards that we scarcely notice it. A moral hazard occurs when someone is protected against risk, typically by the imposition of negative externalities. Typically we hear about unemployment benefits and other welfare payments imposing a moral hazard on society by enabling and encouraging freeloaders who are stealing your tax dollars. The evidence undergirding such rhetoric is dubious at best, and yet these purported moral hazards receive infinitely greater attention than enormous aid and safety nets provided to those who need and deserve them the least.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many American corporations came close to insolvency in March 2020, before being propped up by an unlimited firehose of aid from the Federal Reserve. Our central bank began to do something unprecedented, even during the Great Depression: To directly purchase corporate debt. This program is being conducted in addition to many other gifts that serve corporate interests and our nation’s arrogant, parasitic elites. The present disconnect between the American stock markets and Americans’ lived economic experiences is a product of this regime.

Typical, hard-working Americans have no mechanism by which to secure interest-free loans. They don’t have access to virtually unlimited credit lines that can be paid back whenever, with no imposition of interest or penalties. Their feet are held to the fire, if they are lucky enough to be issued credit at all.

In March, when the Federal Reserve stepped in, corporations that would otherwise have had to take loans at 15% interest, if they were lucky enough to be offered a loan at all, suddenly could secure much larger credit lines at half the interest or less. Nationwide, the value of this gift soared into the trillions, as can be seen in corporate valuations and the increase in wealth for the top 1% of Americans, the top 0.1% in particular, and the top 0.01% especially.

This gift is barely recognized. Most Americans do not even understand it. We don’t have laws to tax or regulate it. It’s a quintessential moral hazard, allowing firms to operate in a sandbox where profits are privatized but risk and losses are borne by the people. Similar, smaller moral hazards are conferred regularly upon wealthy and privileged Americans.

One is left asking: When will we confer a gift of moral hazard to the people at large?

The oppression of people of color in the United States of America is as much encapsulated by a knee on George Floyd’s neck as it is explicated in our regime of economic oppression and financial disenfranchisement. The mechanisms and tautologies of these deprivations are sweeping and manifold. One manifestation of this is the proliferation of alternative financial services—payday lenders, check cashing fees, and more. There are many others, and they affect the vast majority of Americans to varying degrees. Student loans and credit cards come to mind. Credit reports and their ramifications are part of this oppression. Bankruptcy is socioeconomically stigmatized and harshly penalized for individuals, but celebrated and rewarded for big business and American elites.

During my congressional campaign, I came to support a universal basic income of $1,000 per month to each American adult, universal healthcare (Medicare for All) for all Americans guaranteed and paid by the federal government, and assumption and forgiveness of all student loan debts public and private. Even these proposals do not nearly approach parity with the value of the benefits, gifts, and privileges afforded to those at or near the top of our economy. The American people are being economically murdered. We are being killed, put in danger, marginalized and derided, having to suffer for no just cause, and having our lives shortened by inequality, inequity, disenfranchisement, and oppression. Meanwhile, those who reap the rewards of this unjust regime have the gumption and obliviousness to believe they earned it in full.

What is the #1 predictor of entrepreneurial success? Not ingenuity, grit, or tenacity. It’s access to pre-existing wealth, such as your family’s money and connections. The United States of America isn’t a meritocracy. In fact, it is similar to aristocratic regimes we overthrew and rebuked.

American financial disenfranchisement is only getting worse, and nothing has been solved. To add insult to injury, the climate crisis has been disproportionately caused by plutocrats—and yet the brunt of the ramifications are borne by disadvantaged people. In 2020, this has become clearer than ever before. We must speak up, speak out, march, lobby, protest—and yes, run for elected office and win.

Letter of Recommendation for Jonathan Hadley, Volunteer Coordinator for Richard Thripp for Congress

Here is a letter of recommendation I wrote for our terrific volunteer coordinator, Jonathan Hadley, shared with permission.


September 3, 2020

To whom it may concern,

Jonathan Hadley was the Volunteer Coordinator for the Richard Thripp for Congress Democratic campaign from June to August 2020 in Florida’s 6th congressional district, among numerous other roles. He was an incredible volunteer who put in tons of work on various projects as well as triaging and spearheading several important initiatives. He sent tens of thousands of text messages to voters and answered hundreds of questions. He created campaign plans, organizational structures, spreadsheets, Google Docs, and more. Jonathan helped keep our volunteers focused. He was our point person across Volusia, Flagler, and St. Johns counties. I tasked him with reaching out to various contacts and he could always be counted on to follow up.

In addition, Jonathan was a friend who gave me feedback and guidance when I needed it most. His experience as an emergency medical technician gives him a unique edge in politics, which he is a newcomer to, like me and dozens of other campaign volunteers. We were disappointed to lose the August 18th, 2020 Democratic primary with 28,661 votes (48.5%), but at the same time we are immensely proud of what we accomplished for Democratic values and progressivism in this district and throughout the United States of America.

Like me, Jonathan looks forward to working on other campaigns that are making a difference and that he can believe in. I highly recommend Mr. Hadley for a paid position in a future campaign. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Richard Thripp, PhD
Former Democratic Candidate for United States Representative
Florida’s 6th Congressional District

Prologue: The Financial Concerns of Future Teachers in Florida

The Financial Concerns of Future Teachers in Florida
Richard Thripp, PhD
Independent Scholar

Abstract
(To be written)

Keywords: financial literacy, preservice teachers, Florida Retirement System, retirement knowledge, financial challenges, plan preferences, investor behavior, nonwage benefits, personal finance, financial education, pensions, retirement plans, investing, risk, money management, defined contribution, financial concerns, millennials, Generation Z


I have always found personal finance interesting. Sadly, this is unusual. Most people find it dull, boring, uninteresting. This is true not just in America, but worldwide (Lusardi & Mitchell, 2011). People themselves are not to be blamed—there is plenty of misinformation out there, and most financial curricula does a very poor job of capturing the student’s attention. Nevertheless, I find myself frequently lamenting that people should be motivated by self-interest. The return-on-investment for financially educating oneself is immense—perhaps thousands of dollars per hour. There are few places this is this clearer than in the financial planning of preservice teachers.

Prologue

In the fall of 2019, I completed my PhD in Education at the University of Central Florida (UCF). I majored in the Instructional Design and Technology track (one of 13 tracks offered), completing instructional design coursework, projects, comprehensive exams, and an internship, while also co-editing an academic anthology on online and blended learning (Heafner, Hartshorne, & Thripp, 2019) and teaching EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators to preservice teachers for three years. My supervisor, Dr. Richard Hartshorne, also agreed to serve as my dissertation committee chair. Eventually, I settled on conducting questionnaire-based research of the financial literacy of preservice teachers.

Having dabbled in analyzing National Financial Capability Study data previously, I became friends with Dr. Gary Mottola, Research Director for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation. Gary agreed to come onboard as the lone subject-matter expert on my committee, along with famed motivational scientist Dr. Bobby Hoffman (I am an alumnus of the Applied Learning and Instruction Master of Arts program) and renowned statisticians Drs. Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn and Shiva Jahani (we wanted the CV line item for Shiva as she may seek a tenure-track position in the future).

There was no particular reason to have three statisticians on my committee, and at times I wish this was not the case—Dr. Hahs-Vaughn was tough as nails, insisting that Likert-items be treated as ordinal rather than interval-level data, taking a specific interest in financial education research including finding publications I had overlooked, and interrogating many of my premises and assumptions in a way that may have gone unquestioned in most dissertations. Being that the ID&T track does not actually have much ID&T coursework, I was able to earn an Advanced Quantitative Methodologies in Educational and Human Sciences certificate with no additional credits using the Core and Electives portions of the ID&T program, which connected me with many statisticians as graduate students in other disciplines who flock to UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education for its exemplary statisticians and statistics courses.

Completing a PhD is an ordeal and an achievement, accomplished with the help of others but ultimately on one’s own. I often say, quite seriously, that I would have stopped at the master’s degree if I had it to do over again. My wife Kristy and I had a baby in February 2019, and I did not get my best work done on the dissertation until afterward. Laypersons are often surprised to learn that I also deprived the taxpayer of tuition along with receiving free health insurance, a $5,000 fellowship, and $60,500 of payroll disbursements. This, in fact, the norm for many PhD students, who are seen contributors to the United States’ scientific output, receiving funding that is ordinarily unavailable to seekers of professional degrees (MD, JD, PsyD, PharmD, etc.). During my master’s I applied only to this PhD program and was surprised to be accepted. I am very grateful for being given so many opportunities at the University of Central Florida. Higher education, particularly at the doctoral level, is considered by economists as an opportunity cost in and of itself, which is why being paid to go is well-advised.

My dissertation (Thripp, 2019a) was arguably three dissertations in one, involving the development of a nine-page questionnaire, the administration and analysis of responses from 314 future teachers in two modalities (print and Web) during the Summer 2019 semester and first few weeks of fall, and a concurrent comparison study of 205 American college-aged, college-attending adults on Amazon Mechanical Turk who I paid $1.00 each to complete the same questionnaire (with the removal of several items specific to preservice teachers). The questionnaire was unprecedented, attempting to measure investing acumen, preference for two types of retirement accounts, and other items in ways that had not been done before or even considered. It also included many free-response (written or typed) qualitative items, and the dataset was robust with participants consistently answering most, if not all, of the items.

Although my dissertation has already been republished as an e-book by The International Society for Technology, Education and Science, titled A Survey of Investing and Retirement Knowledge and Preferences of Preservice Teachers (Thripp, 2019b), this publication has no additions. My committee prohibited my discussion of any of the qualitative data (handwritten and typewritten responses to open-ended questions) due to the breadth of the quantitative data and my lack of time and energy to do this rigorously and comprehensively. Therefore, additional publications are required.

Following my December 2019 graduation, I made an unsuccessful bid as a Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives for Florida’s 6th district, which ended in my defeat by three percentage points in the August 18th, 2020 Democratic primary. Although I am profoundly disappointed, as are hundreds of donors, supporters, and volunteers for the Richard Thripp for Congress campaign, it has been a relief for Kristy, our son, and I to settle into a more leisurely pattern instead of the frenzied pace I have maintained for the past eight years.

The typical thing for me to do at this time would be to write and submit academic journal articles based on my dissertation. However, I am not all that eager to become a professor, and have taught only college students, never grades K–12 (a prerequisite for many such positions). In addition, I would prefer to present the material to a wide audience, without delay, in a less scientific manner that appeals to laypersons. This paper will attempt to do that.

(To be continued)


References

Heafner, T. L., Hartshorne, R., & Thripp, R. (Eds.). (2019). Handbook of research on emerging practices and methods of K–12 online and blended learning. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-8009-6

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2011b). Financial literacy around the world: An overview. Journal of Pension Economics & Finance, 10, 497–508. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1474747211000448

Thripp, R. (2019a). A survey of investing and retirement knowledge and preferences of Florida preservice teachers (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from University of Central Florida STARS database. (Accession No. CFE0007868)

Thripp, R. (2019b). A survey of investing and retirement knowledge and preferences of preservice teachers. I. Sahin & W. Wu (Eds.). Monument, CO: International Society for Technology, Education and Science.

Diary Entry: September 12, 2001

9/11 Diary, Photo 1

In 2001, at age 9 going on 10, I began writing a diary, which was really more of a journal, and continued this practice for several years. For the 19th commemoration of the September 11 attacks, here is my diary entry from the day after the attacks, as well as an epilogue on my childhood and political transformation.

9/11 Diary, Photo 2

9/11 Diary, Photo 3

Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2001
My 36th diary entry.

Not much happened to me. I have been doing a lot of algebra. Daddy went to work 3 days ago. Daddy went to work at 10 A.M. I continued making a chain out of paper. On Sep. 9 we went to Big Lots and I got 2 poster boards. I started making a paper chain. On the day after that I got up and Daddy had gone to work. I watched cartoons and continued making the paper chain. I cut poaster [sic] boards into strips and cut those strips in half. Then I make it into an interlocking chain. I did that all day. Daddy got home at 2 P.M. I put the chain up. It starts above the computer and goes left and enters the front room. It goes around the perimeter of the front room. It goes above the T.V. and stops above the air-conditioner. I went to sleep and woke up and played Mickey’s Speedway U.S.A. [Nintendo 64 video game] Daddy had been watching the news. He got up and told me a jumbo jet hit the north World Trade Center and another hit the south tower. One also crashed into the Pentagon. I turned on the T.V. at 8:50 A.M. 4 planes were hijacked. A few minutes later one of the planes, a 767 jet hit the north World Trade Center. A little while later a 757 [correction: 767] jet hit the south tower. Later the whole south tower collapsed. Then a half hour later the north tower collapsed. It looked like winter. 6 inches of dust covered New York City. The towers were each 1,385 feet high. Then, a little later a 757 hit the Pentagon and penetrated through the outer 3 rings. A hijacked 757 jet crashed in an open field in Penn. The whole country shut down. All the air ports shut down. Disney World’s 4 parks, Universal, Sea World, and many other parks closed. I think that the government shouldn’t be able to shut down the whole country. They’re going to damage the world economy and maybe even kill people. *

I just watched T.V. and made my paper chain longer. At 5:57 a 47 story building near the World Trade Center fell. When those jumbo jets hit the World Trade Center, they had a full tank of fuel which caused explosions that weakened other buildings. Today airports are still closed. We went to Scotty’s to see its lumber [a home improvement retailer that went out of business in 2005]. I spent 5 dollars. Now they’ve got toys in there. Really junky toys. I got some toys because they were marked down. It is preety [sic] gloomy in Scotty’s. We went to Big Lots, too. We didn’t do much else.

It’s terrible that thousands of people died when the World Trade Center collapsed.


* Epilogue: I was schooled at home by my father, supervised by a private school, for grades 2–12 after having attended Westside Elementary in Daytona Beach in 1996–1997 for kindergarten and several months of 1st grade (I skipped the remainder of the grade). His views had an enduring impact on me, which were Libertarian and individualistic, including many conspiracy theories and unsavory beliefs, later to include “9/11 was an inside job” (per Alex Jones / Infowars). Our relationship should have ended much earlier, and did end after Kristy and I had our son on February 27th, 2019, at his prerogative being outraged that we vaccinated his grandson. Following this, I switched political affiliations from the Republican party to the Democratic party on March 8th, 2019 as described in this essay, married Kristy on November 22th, 2019, graduated with my PhD in Education at University of Central Florida on December 13th, 2019, started running for Congress on January 1st, 2020, and lost on August 18th, 2020. I lived with my father and my step-mother (his 3rd wife) until age 26. If you spent as much time around him as I did, you may have been convinced of Donald Trump’s greatness, too, along with alternative medicine, the moon landing hoax, the flat earth (he managed to have convincing arguments), and the superiority of white men. My mother moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998 and I did not get to see her much until adulthood. She still lives there now and encourages Kristy and I to move there for the great weather and jobs (although the firestorms are a downside). She is a Chinese immigrant, an evangelical Christian, and a Donald Trump supporter presently collecting petitions to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. I kid you not.

9/11 Diary, Photo 4

You may have noticed a lack of emotion in reading this. Kristy and I think this is a product of my upbringing. We are trying to be better parents to our son than our parents were to us. The September 11th attacks were heartrending, even with no personal connections except having witnessed them on television as a child. But with COVID-19, we are basically having the same as two 9/11’s a week, and a big percentage of the population has managed to downplay and compartmentalize it. You have to, to a certain extent, to get by—but we should be better than this, better than treating our fellow Americans as disposable, with no defensible rationale. Humanity has been down this road many times. No encore performance is required.

Campaign Q&A by Richard Thripp for Volunteer in Political Science Course

We are proud of Jessica Smith, who volunteered for the Richard Thripp for Congress campaign, works as a Team Lead Digital Organizing Fellow with the Florida Democratic Party, is a Financial Team Officer with the Florida College Democrats, and is now studying Political Science, Statistics, and Research at Florida State University. One of Jessica’s course assignments is to interview a political candidate. I was happy to answer the following questions.

September 7, 2020

How would you describe your background in experience and education?

I don’t have any background in politics and had to learn almost everything from scratch. I stayed in school for a long time, earning a B.S. in Psychology, M.A. in Applied Learning and Instruction, and Ph.D. in Education in an Instructional Design & Technology speciality by the age of 28, including 3 years of teaching educational technology to future teachers. At the same time, I studied financial literacy and financial education for my Master’s capstone projects and doctoral dissertation. I chose this topic because personal finance is intensely interesting to me. I think these experiences and skills helped me be an effective leader of a large volunteer force that joined my campaign in May–August 2020.

What is your current position?

Unemployed, volunteering for a few campaigns

How would you describe effective campaign staffing?

There are at least 3 things no campaign can buy: Enthusiasm, time, and competence. If you waste a day, you can’t get it back. No amount of money buys enthusiasm. I saw that in Michael Bloomberg’s campaign among others. I was in the DeLand dog parade in February 2020 (pre-coronavirus), and 2 paid staffers, young kids, were there from the Bloomberg campaign. They were well paid, but had no enthusiasm. I didn’t even have any signs yet but I was giving out business cards left and right. You have to have that sort of enthusiasm in your staff. It helps if they really believe in your cause. Competence is critical too. Rep. Michael Waltz has spent $1 million on his campaign for re-election as of July 29, 2020, but they do stupid and incompetent things all the time, like writing the ballot access fee check for the wrong amount, putting out tone-deaf social media postings, and constantly talking about Jacksonville (not in the 6th district) in the few times Florida is mentioned at all.

Overall, it is critical to have good systems in place early. We should have bought the voter file (“DNC VoteBuilder Florida” or “VAN” for voter action network) much earlier. It’s $3,500 for a congressional campaign. Reconciling canvassing spreadsheets is no fun. To be honest, our Democratic primary opponent ran such a ghost ship that it’s embarrassing we lost. If we were running for Congress for the 4th time we would have won for sure.

What positions do you feel are absolutely necessary in a campaign? Why?

You definitely need a strong candidate, and you need a core team of hard-working staff or volunteers who really believe in the cause and are willing to work late nights without a lot of rewards. I actually was my own treasurer, which I don’t recommend at all. Having a good graphics designer is essential. So many of our volunteers and supporters were enchanted by our campaign graphics. We would never have gained traction without Emily Humphrey’s work. A volunteer coordinator is important and a position we didn’t have until very late. You also need boots on the ground to go canvassing (even during COVID-19 leaving door hangers is important), place signs, campaign at early voting and election date, et cetera. Ideally you would have someone to bring in big campaign contributions too (we did not). Also, you definitely need a tech person (we had a few), for things like setting up phone banking, canvassing turfs, text messaging campaigns… These can be tricky. Finally, going back to the idea of a strong candidate, as a candidate you need to have policy chops and be able to boil it down to a middle school reading level. I had the former, but the latter was a big struggle. You also must treat this as a full-time job, even if you’re a volunteer candidate. Sadly, this makes it impossible for so many hard-working people to actually run.

Why is it beneficial to work in a team style similar to the one that you have described?

What I’ve described is bare bones, with not a lot of layers. Each person has a lot of work to do, but they have a big impact in the campaign. There are no layers of management or approvals to go through. For instance, we had a volunteer, Chris, with direct access to my Twitter. There were no committees to approve the tweets he was sending out. Of course trust is important, and I had seen his work and loved it. But even if we added a lot of red tape for Chris to post a tweet, it wouldn’t have been helpful. Overall, relationships and human connection are so important. It’s important to be 100% authentic to foster these sorts of relationships. The former Democratic nominee for this congressional district, Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, talks about that regarding her work in 1985–1992 under Senator Ted Kennedy. He fostered the sort of loyalty where no matter what, you were on his team and he was on yours, even years later. That’s really what I’d like to see come out of our campaign. It’s a 2-way street. Some of our volunteers are launching political careers from this, and I’m writing letters of recommendation, being put down as a reference, networking, giving and receiving feedback, and so forth. We’re not just packing up the shop and going home. We’re here to tell you that young people will have a say in the future of this nation. We’re ready, we’re putting in the work, and we’re making it happen.

What can be negative about working in this style?

Some people really dislike it. One item I didn’t explicitly state, but was implied, is that I’m the type of person who is always questioning and re-evaluating whether what we are doing is the best thing to do. What would make the most impact? For instance, when placing yard signs on public roads, you could tell some are being placed by paid operatives because they didn’t care about visibility. The sign would be blocked by a telephone pole, or blocked by a shrub. They did their job, but they didn’t do it well. I would try to get maximum visibility, even placing them at stop signs on interstate off-ramps which is definitely unlawful, but the way I would always look at it is that we’re up against an opponent (Rep. Michael Waltz) with a bazooka of cash who won’t play by the rules anyway. It’s asymmetric warfare. The ability to be nimble and get things done quickly is so important. We had a few volunteers who didn’t work out, because they just wouldn’t buy into this sort of culture. I guess you could call it startup culture. I didn’t learn this during the campaign, but it was my first chance to apply it at a large scale, having consumed a ton of books, articles, podcasts, et cetera on entrepreneurship, productivity, and team management.

What is your favorite position to work in within this style of campaign management (including candidate)?

I really enjoy being the candidate. I wanted to have big events but didn’t because of coronavirus. Being the candidate gives you a bully pulpit of sorts where people take you seriously and will really listen. Our platform wasn’t original (it was pretty similar to Bernie Sanders), but it didn’t need to be. I had a lot of analogies I could use to explain why the status quo in our society is ridiculous, and it isn’t even quite the same as it used to be, having gotten progressively worse under Donald Trump. I wasn’t even very good at being a candidate, but I think I got better toward the end. A major downside is that everyone’s a critic, and a lot of the advice you get is contradictory and just plain wrong. There are also a lot of people who are just looking for a punching bag and take it out on you. Even running for Congress, which you think people would know about, you spend a lot of time just explaining the district boundaries and what a member of Congress does, and then the rest of the time is taken up by people saying you’re too young, or complaining about the Democrats destroying our country, and so forth. That gets frustrating.

What are your goals for the future?

Kristy and I are spending more time together and with our son. He’s 18 months, and for about half of that I was working on a doctoral dissertation and the other half I was running for Congress, so I missed more than I should have even being at home with him most of the time. In the longer term, I’m at a crossroads and I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I had started the Education PhD program at UCF in 2016 thinking I wanted to be a professor, but I soured on that and would need a few years of K–12 teaching experience (although I’ve taught university students for 3 years). We are in the fortunate position of being able to take a break and to think this through carefully. Although it’s a gauntlet, we will probably end up running for office again at some point. It’s really something you get better at with practice, and we’ll win next time. We also want to play a role in the Democratic party and the future of the United States of America and our planet.

Sincerely,
Richard Thripp, PhD
Former Democratic Candidate for United States Representative
Florida’s 6th Congressional District