Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is education the answer?

I know this is Minnesota but the belief that just a little more education will solve our economic problems is well-entrenched.  And with an election close at hand, even conservative Republicans are promising full funding for public education.

It makes me cringe because I see very little evidence that more education will make more than a minor dent in the unemployment problem.  And since jobs and education are usually mentioned in the same sentence, an implied promise is being made.  Unfortunately, there is little evidence that more high-priced education will lead to anything more than greater debt and personal frustration.
Globalism Comes Home to Roost
America's Jobs Losses are Permanent
Now that a few Democrats and the remnants of the AFL-CIO are waking up to the destructive impact of jobs offshoring on the US economy and millions of American lives, globalism’s advocates have resurrected Dartmouth economist Matthew Slaughter’s discredited finding of several years ago that jobs offshoring by US corporations increases employment and wages in the US.
At the time I exposed Slaughter’s mistakes, but economists dependent on corporate largess understood that it was more profitable to drink Slaughter’s kool-aid than to tell the truth. Recently the US Chamber of Commerce rolled out Slaughter’s false argument as a weapon against House Democrats Sandy Levin and Tim Ryan, and the Wall Street Journal had Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary, William S. Cohen, regurgitate Slaughter’s claim on its op-ed page on October 12.
I sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal, but the editors were not interested in what a former associate editor and columnist for the paper and President Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy had to say. The facade of lies has to be maintained at all costs. There can be no questioning that globalism is good for us.
Cohen told the Journal’s readers that “the fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities.” I bet Buffalo “and other American cities” would like to know where these jobs are. Maybe Slaughter, Cohen, and the Chamber of Commerce can tell them.
Last May I was in St. Louis and was struck by block after block of deserted and boarded up homes, deserted factories and office buildings, even vacant downtown storefronts.
Detroit is trying to shrink itself by 40 square miles. On October 25, 60 Minutes had a program on unemployment in Silicon Valley, where formerly high-earning professionals have been out of work for two years and today cannot even find part-time $9 an hour jobs at Target. more
New York Fed Chief Says The Economy Is Garbage, And That There Won't Be A Jobs Recovery For Years
National Economic Conditions
To provide context, let me start with a few comments about national economic conditions. As I discussed in a recent speech, the long and deep recession that ended in June 2009 has been followed by a very tepid recovery. Since June 2009, economic activity has grown—but only slowly from levels far below the productive capacity of the economy.
In recent months, the momentum of the recovery has slowed. For example, after rising at a 3.25 percent annual rate during the second half of 2009, there has been a progressive slowing—to a 2.75 percent annual rate during the first half of 2010 and, most likely, to an even slower rate when the third-quarter real gross domestic product (GDP) figures are released at the end of this month.
With demand growth barely keeping pace with firms' ability to increase productivity, job creation has been too weak to significantly reduce unemployment, which stands today at 9.6 percent. And, as is typical in such circumstances of considerable slack, the rate of inflation has declined. more
Of course, one of the big problems is that a lot of what we call an education is little more than expensive brain damage.  There is precious little evidence that the huge investment in USA education has led to wise decisions in the halls of power.
Intelligence Doesn't Equal Competence
Washington: Where Smart People Go to Do Stupid Things
One of the reasons that Barack Obama was elected was that many people thought he was extremely intelligent. And they assumed that meant he would also be competent.
Unfortunately, these two qualities - while not necessarily mutually exclusive - are not necessarily synonymous, either. In fact, we have found ourselves stuck with an highly intelligent president running perhaps the most incompetent Democratic administration of living memory.
But this is far from a problem exclusive to Obama. For the past few decades, Washington has increasingly become a haven for smart people doing stupid things. And because the capital's media has joined the fun, this is not readily apparent to the public. A linqua unfranka has developed to cover up what's really happening.
Thus you will not hear about it in the media or read about it in books. Nonetheless, the overwhelming proportion of damage done to our republic in recent decades has been the work of a dead center extremely proud of its intelligence. We rightfully rail against Palin, Beck and Boenner, but easily forget that, for all their faults, they are but vultures picking at the remains of casualties largely caused by an establishment that smugly prides itself on its intellect, judgment and moderation.
Whether it’s fifty years of failed wars, a disastrous reliance on the myths of the market economy, the costly and damaging drug war, or the loss of constitutional rights and civil liberties, one would be hard pressed to find more than the occasional instance when the likes the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, or the Washington Post were significantly on the right side of a matter of real importance to Americans. more
Unfortunately, this also means a lot of people are making payments on some extremely overpriced and practically worthless educations.
17,000,000 Americans Have College Degrees For No Reason
By KEN LAYNE  3:43 PM OCTOBER 27, 2010
Here is a Paradox, if you like such things: America is a Nation of Semi-Literate Buffoons, but America is also a Nation of Over-Educated (but still dumb) service workers. What? “In all, about 17 million people in this country have completed college only to end up working jobs that require a skill level below that of a bachelors degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” That includes 5,057 janitors with Ph.Ds. What is so wrong with being a “maintenance engineer,” we ask? At least it’s a job, right? There’s nothing wrong with it at all, it’s just that you don’t really need eight years of college and a hundred grand in student loan debt to mop up shit and blood in the emergency room, at night.
AlterNet reports:
Richard Vedder of the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that this is one sign the U.S. has over-invested in higher education. He points to a new National Bureau of Economic Research report written by three acclaimed economists, which concludes, “In general, marginal and average returns to college are not the same.” In layman’s terms, that means that even if our investment in higher education is yielding a decent return on average, efforts to build on that investment might yield a less-good return. Or, even more simply put, there is a point of diminishing returns in higher education. And, according to these indicators at least, we appear to have reached it.
Yes and no. America remains pathetically short on graduates with useful advanced degrees, the kind of people who have marketable knowledge and skill sets, such as computer engineers and scientists — the kind of people Google and Apple and Microsoft have to import from India and China.
But the vague, pointless liberal arts degree and its more expensive but equally worthless cousin — the doctorate degree in such mushy “disciplines” as education, physical education or social work — we’ve obviously got way too many people holding those pricey pieces of paper. Anyone who needs seven years of university to master P.E. is a moron. more

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