Boston.com - Biden Promotes Financial Literacy, Health Care Plan

News Article

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: Oct. 26, 2007
Location: Manchester, NH


Boston.com - Biden Promotes Financial Literacy, Health Care Plan

By Holly Ramer, Associated Press Writer

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said Friday that high school students should learn the basics of economics and finance so they don't show up to college -- like he did -- not quite sure what a mortgage was.

The Delaware senator was the latest candidate to speak to New Hampshire members of Divided We Fail, an AARP campaign to push candidates to address affordable health care and long-term financial security for all Americans.

Asked how he would boost the nation's financial literacy, Biden said college shouldn't provide a student's first exposure to economics.

"When I went into college I didn't know what a bond was or a stock or an investment. My dad didn't know, we never discussed it," he said. "I wasn't even sure what a mortgage was, and I'm not a slow fella."

One of the elements of the nation's primary education system should be teaching children how the economy functions, he said.

Biden also described his plan to require all businesses with more than 20 employees to set up retirement accounts that automatically deduct up to 3 percent of a worker's salary, unless the worker specifically asks to be excluded.

"When it is automatic, overwhelmingly people participate," he said. "That's particularly important as companies walk away from dedicated pension plans."

On the group's other main issue -- health care-- Biden described the plan he released earlier this week to expand coverage for children and have the federal government pay for catastrophic illnesses. The plan, which would cost between $80 billion and $110 billion each year, would not provide universal coverage, but Biden argued if Americans are given better health care options they will get coverage.

"Americans will not accept mandates," he said. "America is not prepared for that to happen. You will never get it passed. We are different and independent in a way that other countries aren't."

Biden used his own experiences -- the near-fatal aneurisms he suffered in 1988 and the 1972 car crash that killed his first wife and daughter and injured his sons -- to illustrate how having the federal government cover 75 percent of catastrophic costs over $50,000 would lower premiums for businesses and individuals.

"You don't want someone like me in your health care plan," he said. "I'm not proud to be one of those guys, but a lot of people are subject to catastrophic illnesses."

Biden would also let people as young as 55 sign up for Medicare and would allow others to buy into the health care plan offered to members of Congress.

"In order to be able to get the American people to make gigantic change ... you have to be able to demonstrate two things. One, you have to be able to reach across the aisle, Democrat or Republican, and pick up 15 percent of the opposition," he said. "Second, you have to make it understandable and reasonable for intelligent Americans to say, 'this is possible, this is pragmatic.' "