January 27, 2012
“Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.”
Glenn Reynolds explains why taxpayer-subsidized college education (and home ownership) for all is not a good use of our money.
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
Megan Mcardle expresses a similar sentiment.
“it’s all too common for well-meaning middle class people to think that if the poor just had the same stuff we do, they wouldn’t be poor any more (where ‘stuff’ includes anything from a college education to a marriage license to a home). But this is not true. . . . If poor people did the stuff that middle class people do, it’s possible–maybe probable–that they wouldn’t be poor. But this is much harder than it sounds.”
In a previous post I noted that it is not the college degree in and of itself that causes college-educated women to marry at higher rates.
August 15, 2011
Thomas Friedman’s “theory of everything” explains the reasons for today’s global turmoil.
The merger of globalization and I.T. is driving huge productivity gains, especially in recessionary times, where employers are finding it easier, cheaper and more necessary than ever to replace labor with machines, computers, robots and talented foreign workers. It used to be that only cheap foreign manual labor was easily available; now cheap foreign genius is easily available. This explains why corporations are getting richer and middle-skilled workers poorer. Good jobs do exist, but they require more education or technical skills. Unemployment today still remains relatively low for people with college degrees. But to get one of those degrees and to leverage it for a good job requires everyone to raise their game. It’s hard….
Not only does it take more skill to get a good job, but for those who are unable to raise their games, governments no longer can afford generous welfare support or cheap credit to be used to buy a home for nothing down — which created a lot of manual labor in construction and retail. Alas, for the 50 years after World War II, to be a president, mayor, governor or university president meant, more often than not, giving things away to people. Today, it means taking things away from people.…
So let’s review: We are increasingly taking easy credit, routine work and government jobs and entitlements away from the middle class — at a time when it takes more skill to get and hold a decent job, at a time when citizens have more access to media to organize, protest and challenge authority and at a time when this same merger of globalization and I.T. is creating huge wages for people with global skills (or for those who learn to game the system and get access to money, monopolies or government contracts by being close to those in power) — thus widening income gaps and fueling resentments even more.
Should we despair, or try to find a silver lining in the positive aspects of creative destruction?
On a related note, 48% Think Spending Cuts Could Trigger Violence.
July 7, 2011
If you’re hoping your college degree will earn you a spot on the track to middle management, read what Harvard economist Larry Katz said.
“A lot of traditional middle-class, upper-middle-class jobs have been disappearing. If you look at general managers and middle-management jobs, those are ones that have been in decline and will decline further,” he said.
While the article suggests that these types of jobs do not require a college degree, a quick scan of job listings indicates otherwise.
Medical diagnostic work such as radiology is another job category that will experience decline in the U.S.
Also: Disappearing Middle-Class Jobs