Comparison you didn’t notice (1) …

Ro Khanna
The average cost of tuition of public universities around the world:

Denmark: $0
Estonia: $0
Finland: $0
Germany: $0
Norway: $0
Poland: $0
Slovakia: $0
Slovenia: $0
Sweden : $0
United States: $10,486

It’s no wonder we have a student debt crisis. Let’s cancel student debt, pass College for All, and finally move forward as a nation.

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…unless you wander through TWITTER

The new generation gap

Something interesting has emerged in voting patterns on both sides of the Atlantic: Young people are voting in ways that are markedly different from their elders. A great divide appears to have opened up, based not so much on income, education, or gender as on the voters’ generation.

There are good reasons for this divide. The lives of both old and young, as they are now lived, are different. Their pasts are different, and so are their prospects.

The Cold War, for example, was over even before some were born and while others were still children. Words like socialism do not convey the meaning they once did. If socialism means creating a society where shared concerns are not given short shrift – where people care about other people and the environment in which they live – so be it…

Older upper-middle-class Americans and Europeans have had a good life. When they entered the labor force, well-compensated jobs were waiting for them. The question they asked was what they wanted to do, not how long they would have to live with their parents before they got a job that enabled them to move out…

Today, the expectations of young people, wherever they are in the income distribution, are the opposite. They face job insecurity throughout their lives. On average, many college graduates will search for months before they find a job – often only after having taken one or two unpaid internships. And they count themselves lucky, because they know that their poorer counterparts, some of whom did better in school, cannot afford to spend a year or two without income, and do not have the connections to get an internship in the first place.

Today’s young university graduates are burdened with debt – the poorer they are, the more they owe. So they do not ask what job they would like; they simply ask what job will enable them to pay their college loans, which often will burden them for 20 years or more. Likewise, buying a home is a distant dream…

In short, today’s young people view the world through the lens of intergenerational fairness. The children of the upper middle class may do well in the end, because they will inherit wealth from their parents. While they may not like this kind of dependence, they dislike even more the alternative: a “fresh start” in which the cards are stacked against their attainment of anything approaching what was once viewed as a basic middle-class lifestyle.

RTFA to see where Joe Stiglitz goes with his analysis, what and who he thinks may offer some solutions to the questions asked by today’s new generation. Whether those answers are complete or not? Whether solutions forthcoming from political formations any of us accept anymore – is a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.

US workers continue to fall behind in key skills

Good news: young workers the world over are getting more and more skilled. But US workers don’t appear to be keeping up with their peers overseas.

One Harvard Business School professor’s analysis of OECD adult assessment data has found a striking trend: younger adults in the US are more competent than their older American peers, but the trend is even more pronounced in other countries, with younger workers elsewhere now outstripping young US workers.

These results don’t just show up in literacy. Math and problem-solving skills look similar to the literacy picture.

Source: Jan Rivkin

One caveat here: this data looks at all adults, working and not. But if these trends are true for workers alone, and if US workers continue to have lower skill levels than their foreign peers throughout their working lives, it could be a reason for concern. Rivkin’s assessment is that this is a “serious challenge” to US competitiveness in the global economy. The causes here are likely complicated, but Rivkin for his part believes subpar outcomes among US children in the classroom (despite high public spending) play a part…

Source: Jan Rivkin

…If the US were creating more skilled workers and all other countries were declining, that would be troubling — skilled workers are key to economic growth, and trade can bring the economic gains from skilled workers elsewhere to US shores. So if workers in Japan or Germany are getting better and better educated and creating better and better products, it can to a certain extent boost economic activity in the US and elsewhere.

But if it is true that American workers are falling behind, that creates its own concerns. There is something to be said for American workers remaining competitive with their foreign counterparts and, for example, creating better products rather than simply selling the better products that are created overseas.

Americans – especially those who are silly enough to believe conservative and populist politicians – are likely to continue to shift the blame onto furriners – and American companies doing business abroad. The classic rationale being something like iPhones “made in China”. However, analysis of that manufacture concludes that 80% of the components in that smartphone are manufactured outside China, as nearby as Mexico. The cost of labor in that phone is 4% – which means the difference between US assembly and China assembly is less than $5-10. The critical difference between production of a range of products at a Foxconn plant and, say, an American plant in Texas or Tennessee is that Foxconn has 1500 capable process engineers in-house at each plant who can lead a complete manufacturing line changeover in 2 days or less.

No – our education system sucks and has IMHO for fifty years. Diminishing returns are the chickens that are coming home to roost and setting standards for the sake of standards is only part of the solution. It’s what the standards are – that is key. Listening to teachers who believe the myth of laissez faire choice for the kiddies – or 19th Century political minds who believe we can catch up to the world through Arithmetic 101 and school prayer – is going to achieve exactly what we’ve gotten to through a half-century of paying more attention to subsidizing Pentagon contractors than looking at what works in the countries preparing to run right past us within the global economy.