Trump’s Financial Capability Proclamation Signals Support, if not Direction
By Dan Kadlec
April 10, 2017
WASHINGTON D.C.—In a little noticed move at the end of March, President Donald Trump proclaimed April 2017 National Financial Capability month. The presidential proclamation is the first clear signal that the new administration intends to embrace and promote greater financial literacy.
April has been celebrated for a decade in the U.S. and some other countries as a time for promoting financial education. So this may not seem like a big deal. Meanwhile, Trump is not giving the month over to financial know-how exclusively. He also proclaimed April National Donate Life month, National Sexual Assault and Awareness month, National Child Abuse Prevention month, and Cancer Control month.
But the financial capability proclamation is an important gesture in that he had only vaguely shown his hand on this important issue. In his statement, he referred to a Feb. 3 executive order on “Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System,” which nodded at the issue. The first point in that document was to “empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth.”
In the proclamation, Trump wrote:
“My Administration will work with committed organizations in all sectors to improve financial education and share best practices so that all Americans—no matter their income, education, or background—have the capability to make sound financial decisions. Together, we will empower Americans to take advantage of the many opportunities they have to attain more financially secure and prosperous futures for themselves and their families.”
These words give no hint as to any change in direction, subtle or otherwise. Republican administrations have generally viewed financial education through the lens of investment, ownership and personal responsibility while Democrats have centered on programs, guidance and access for underserved communities.
There has been plenty speculation about Trump’s view. He appears to lean toward the traditional Republican view. In an interview with Forbes six years ago, Trump’s son Donald Jr., spoke of his Dad’s core values. “I was in my early teens,” he said. “[My dad] stayed in the office 23 or 24 hours a day and I learned very quickly that you have to work, you can’t just sit back and hope that everything works out.”
But by opting for the term “capability” over “literacy” in his proclamation he also seems to signal that inclusion is high on his list. Capability is the term that came into favor under the Obama administration.