Jimmy Carter talks money matters with journalism class

By Leslie King | Emory Report | Dec. 12, 2013

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The former president shared his personal views on money, politics and the media with a journalism class. Emory Photo/Video.

"This is a challenge you will face in the media world. How do you take a complex subject on any matter and present it to your audience, so they can understand what you are trying to tell them? I don't know of any subject more important for consumers of news than money," said former President Jimmy Carter.

Carter spoke to Sheila Tefft's class "Journalism 360: Money," which focuses on business and economics journalism, in early December. Carter said people are much worse off than before because "we don't have much information from media on what's going on with your money or my money."

Carter's remarks ranged from the art of budgeting, both personally and governmentally, and his view of the politics-money connection.

Among the thoughts he shared with the class:

  • "Money has become extraordinarily influential in shaping what our country is, who our elected officials are, how they act." 
  • "Money affects how we feel about our lives, our country, politics and relationships." 
  • "The president, and even the Congress, has relatively little to do with what is happening with the economy. The  Federal Reserve Bank has a major impact. But [the] U.S. business community and Wall Street shapes it more than they do."

Carter said, "Wall Street almost uncontrollably caused a financial crisis in 2007-2008, almost equivalent to what happened in the Great Depression. So far as I know, the news media didn't anticipate what was going to happen."

In response to a question from a student, Carter said complex questions, like Obamacare and food stamps, require some study on the part of the news media and also deserve a simple explanation.

Carter is a University Distinguished Professor at Emory.  What did students think about sharing the classroom with a former U.S. president?

Emory College senior David Stess, who introduced Carter, said, "His thoughts concerning campaign finance reform were the most enlightening. His comments also led me to rethink the role the media should play when approaching complicated economic stories like the Affordable Care Act."

Natalie Duggan, an Emory College senior, said, "I was very interested to hear what he was talking about with income inequality.  As an anthropology student and as someone who is interested in health as well, that really resonated with me. I'd like to see presidents, especially, talk more about that issue because it really exacerbates not only the health issues we have but also economic issues."