A lesson from Mary Poppins

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to take my niece to see Mary Poppins at the Boston Opera House.  It was a lot of fun, and in the middle of it, I made an unexpected connection to the debates that have been happening around our federal budget and to the world of workforce development.

This was the brief scene from Act I:

A businessman gave each of the two children a coin and asks them what they think is the value. The young boy proudly states that he knows the coin is worth six-pence.  The businessman’s response is the powerful statement. He stated (and I am paraphrasing), “You’re right that the coin is worth six-pence, but the value of money is determined by how you spend it.”

I am not sure that I heard anything after that statement for the next few minutes as I thought about the connection to the debates we’ve been having in the public sphere about cuts and spending at the local, state and federal levels.

I’ve heard many times in a personal finance context that one of the best ways to evaluate one’s priorities is to take a look at one’s household or personal budget.  What then does our nation’s budget say about our collective priorities?  Specifically, what does it say when many of the spending cuts being proposed disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged among us, including those who are trying to get back on their feet through education and training?

I don’t envy our legislators the difficult job of trying to balance many priorities, meet many needs, and reduce our federal deficit in a responsible way.  Still I can’t help but think we and they need to occasionally step back and think about the bigger question of what we value and then step up to take a stand for those things.

Each dollar is worth 100 pennies. Yet, how different we may feel about the value of that dollar based on how we have spent it and how it has had an impact on others.


Author: SkillWorks

SkillWorks is a nationally recognized workforce funder collaborative, launched by the Boston Foundation in 2003 to improve workforce development in Boston and across Massachusetts. SkillWorks brings together philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers to address the twin goals of: 1) Helping low-skill, low-income individuals attain family-supporting jobs; and 2) Helping employers find and retain skilled employees.

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