Education = Employment

While the overall national unemployment rate is 8.1%, there is a wide disparity based on education levels.

College graduates have a rate of 4.1%, those with two year of college are at 6.6%, high school graduates are at 8.8%, and high school dropouts are at 12%.

Anybody can end up unemployed, but if you have a college degree you have one-third the risk of a high school dropout.

Mitt Mum on Immigration in Hispanic Speech

Mitt spoke to a Hispanic business group today.  You’re probably wondering what he said about immigration.  Actually, he didn’t even mention the word.  Maybe he thought they wouldn’t notice.

Instead he spoke about education.  He said American children are getting a “third-world” education.  That’s what happens when you elect a president from Kenya.

A False Choice

In his NYT column today, “The Structural Revolution,” David Brooks sets up a false choice between those whom he calls “cyclicalists” (he means you, Paul Krugman) and those whom he calls “structuralists” (hi, Paul Ryan, hi Mitt):

“The main argument you hear from these cyclicalists is that the economy is operating well below capacity.  To get it moving at full speed, the government should borrow and spend more.

“The diverse people in this camp — and I’m one of them — believe the core problems are structural, not cyclical.

“There are several overlapping structural problems.  First, there are those surrounding globalization and technological change. … Then there are the structural issues surrounding the decline in human capital.  The United States, once the world’s educational leader, is falling back in the pack.

“Then there is political sclerosis.  Over the decades, companies and other entities have implanted  a growing number of special-interest deals into the tax and regulatory codes, making it harder for politically unconnected, new competitors, making the economy less dynamic.

Unlike the cyclicalists, we structuralists do not believe that the level of government spending is the main factor in determining how fast an economy grows.”

Brooks’ false choice is highlighted in that last sentence.  I consider myself both a cyclicalist and a structuralist.  We need to focus on this cyclical downturn in the short term and on our undoubted structural problems in the short, medium, and long term.  I don’t see government spending as a force to make our economy grow under normal circumstances.  I see it as a temporary spur to counter the lack of demand in the private sector from the Great Recession.  Once we get the private sector kick-started, government should pull back.  This is classic Keynesian economics, which Republicans used to accept and believe in.

We can address some of our structural problems at the same time as we do our cyclical ones.  They are not mutually exclusive.  Brooks bemoans our decline in education.  So let’s hire back or replace some of the hundreds of thousands of teachers who have been fired in the last few years.  Some of those teachers weren’t very good?  Fine, there are plenty of unemployed people to choose from.  Same with his complaint about special deals in the tax code.  Let’s close the loopholes.  That raises more revenue that can be used to stimulate the economy and makes the playing  field more even.  Scrubbing regulatory codes of provisions that favor one company over another is irrelevant to government stimulus spending.  You can do both simultaneously.

Brooks says the problem is that “different people are having entirely different debates.”  The real problem, the sad and shameful problem, is that we’re having an election.  Some people, whose initials are GOP, don’t want the economy to get better.



That Was Then, This Is Now

Rick Savonarola Santorum is now attacking President Obama for — wait for it — wanting Americans to go to college:

“President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college.  What a snob!

“There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor.  That’s why [President Obama] wants you to go to college.  He want to remake you in his image.”

But back in 2006, Santorum’s web site said this* under “Commitment to Higher Education”:

“In addition to Rick’s support of ensuring that primary and secondary schools in Pennsylvania are equipped for success, he is equally committed to ensuring that every Pennsylvanian has access to higher education.”

So Santorum was for higher education before he was against it because President Obama is for it.

This anti-intellectual strain in the GOP is as obnoxious and off-putting as their anti-women strain.  Santorum is leading the charge on both.

*”Flashback:  In 2006, Rick Santorum Wanted To Send All Pennsylvanians To College,” Evan McMorris-Santoro, Talking Points Memo

Republican Debate

Mitt clearly packed the hall tonight.  He had a strong performance, as did Newt, but it doesn’t really matter so much for Newt.  It was a missed opportunity — maybe his last — for Santorum.  Santorum had some strong moments, but overall he was defensive and often meandering.  If I’m Mitt, I’m breathing a big sigh of relief tonight.  He looked and sounded presidential.

I was troubled by Mitt’s answer on Syria when he said that we should reach out to the Alawites and tell them that if they dump Assad, we will help them.  Realistically, how much could we do for them?  They are a hated, Shia-related minority that’s been running the country for decades and taking the best jobs and most of the wealth, and there is huge pent-up resentment against them.  Even if we tried, could we stop them from being massacred or at least stripped of much of their wealth and power and influence in a new Syria, not ruled by a member of the Assad family?  I don’t think so.  So his answer seemed incredibly naive to me.

Mitt then went on to say that if we could pull Syria and Lebanon away from Iran, there would be more of a chance for sanctions to work.  I think Iran would be more determined than ever to get nuclear weapons.  I don’t see a solution to Iran going nuclear other than a military one, unfortunately.   There is no reasoning or negotiating with this Iranian regime.  President Obama has given them every chance.

So tonight’s debate didn’t give me any comfort that Mitt has a realistic grasp of how to deal with Iran.

Also, I can’t stand it when Mitt takes credit for Massachusetts’ top-rated schools.  Massachusetts has had outstanding public schools since the mid-seventeenth century.  His single term as governor had nothing to  do with it.  He’s the rooster taking credit for the sun rise.

In Rick Santorum’s America

In Rick Santorum’s America, birth control is illegal.  He believes that sex should be between married couples and only for procreative purposes.  Of course, Americans still want birth control, so a black market develops, and local, state, and federal governments must expend enormous amounts of law enforcement resources to fight it.  People go to jail because they were caught with a pack of condoms.

In Rick Santorum’s America, abortion is of course illegal.  Back-alley abortions flourish once again (especially now that it’s so difficult to get birth control), and if you have a botched one, you have to decide if you want to go to the emergency room and “turn yourself in.”  Because if the hospital is able to save you (and many women will die despite their best efforts), they will then turn you into the authorities, and you’ll be prosecuted.

In Rick Santorum’s America, prenatal testing is illegal because it might lead you to seek an illegal abortion.

In Rick Santorum’s America, there are no public schools, and everybody home schools their children, whether they want to or not, whether they are qualified to do so or not.

In Rick Santorum’s America, women are free to work outside the home.  If you can care for your 8 or 10 or 12 kids and home school them, and you want to be a surgeon or attorney in your spare time, knock yourself out.

In Rick Santorum’s America, the poor don’t get any government help and must rely on private charity as their safety net.  If other Americans follow Rick Santorum’s lead in giving only 1.8% of their adjusted gross incomes to charity, there won’t be much for the poor to rely on.

In Rick Santorum’s America, there are no environmental policies or protections, so many of us get sick from foul air and water and contaminated soil.

Rick Santorum’s America — what a wonderful place to live!  And he calls President Obama radical and extremist.

Santorum Wants Everybody to Home School

Rick Savonarola Santorum  home schools his children, and he thinks you should too.  He is questioning the involvement of not just the federal government, but state governments in schools.  He’s asking, “Where did they come up that public education and bigger education bureaucracies was the rule in America?  Parents educated their children, because it’s their responsibility to educate their children.”

Where did they come up with that idea?  In Boston, in 1635, when the Puritans established the school that is still functioning as Boston Latin School.  I am a graduate of that school, and because of Boston’s public schools, I was able to get a scholarship to Wellesley and then Yale when it accepted women in 1969, and move from the lower-middle-class to the upper-middle-class.  I grew up in one of America’s poorest neighborhoods and now live in one of the most affluent.

As Americans moved West and established new communities, parents raised new schools — literally — for their children and hired teachers to come from back East.  Parents took seriously their responsibility to have their children educated by professionals, not to do it themselves.

Our free public schools and public libraries are what made this country great and gave us an educated and informed citizenry capable of self-government.

When I worked on the 2008 presidential campaign, I met a lot of home schoolers.  I was very naive about this movement.  I thought these people just liked having their kids at home and enjoyed teaching them.  What I learned was that home schoolers really hate and mistrust our government and think they have to teach their children at home so their minds don’t get corrupted and poisoned.  I was stunned and dismayed by what I learned.

President Obama Cannot Give a Trivial Speech in a Towering Setting

A speech before a Joint Session of Congress, like the one President Obama will give on Thursday, is a huge deal.  Sometimes, as after 9/11, it is a command performance, when the American people expect to hear from their president after a major shock.  But when the president asks both for our attention and for that particular stage, he’d better live up to it.

If President Obama offers a laundry-list of minor job proposals, if the speech is not both instructive as to why we are in trouble and inspiring as to how we will triumph, he will be dwarfed by his setting and appear small and foolish, as unworthy of his office.

This is a truly awful moment to be president.  President Bush had the brilliant idea of cutting taxes while adding a new health care entitlement, the prescription drug part of Medicare, and fighting two wars.  Warnings about a Wall Street that had become Las Vegas with more tasteful decor, about an unregulated “shadow economy” of derivatives, were ignored.  The financial crisis we suffered is different from a generic recession, and takes much longer to recover from, especially with respect to job creation.

But there are larger forces at work here, aside from the domestic mess President Obama inherited.  Americans prospered because much of the rest of the world consisted of illiterate peasants.  Today, India and China are filled with young people who know math and science and know them better than many of our young people.  We prospered because we educated more of our people than other developed countries.  We didn’t force the bulk of our young people off the college track at a tender age, the way they did in Europe.

Our prosperity was based on our people, our unique American combination of a willingness to work hard and limitless opportunity for those who did.  Today, all over the world, other people are competing effectively with us.  President Obama needs to explain how these people, this rising global middle class, can become our customers rather than our competitors.

We have gone from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy to a service economy.  Where do we go now?  We are ready to hop in our covered wagons, metaphorically speaking, and go on to the next frontier.  But what is it, where is it, and how do we get there?

Ten years after 9/11, the president does not have to deal with our towers falling literally.  But they are falling figuratively.  We really need a national unity government to address the big picture of our current crisis and our uncertain future.  But a Republican Party obsessed with kicking President Obama out of the Oval Office will never sit down with him in that office to listen to experts and govern accordingly.  They aren’t interested in wisdom, only in winning, which is a loss for the American people, especially our unemployed.