Ask a Neoliberal why trickle down economics is not working in America and there are a few standard excuses offered. The excuses range from the fringier “inner city people are lazy” to the boilerplate “government is distorting markets” to the more establishment friendly “it’s a lack of education.” Let’s put racial dog whistles and reactionary ideology aside for a second and focus on the last excuse, education.
The 1% and their toadies love to claim America has an “education crisis” that the country is losing some subterranean academic competition with other countries for the best transnational corporate jobs and that’s the reason the economy is faltering. The problem being, of course, that’s bunk. America has no education crisis, especially in so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). It’s a myth propagated by those trying to distract from the failures of Neoliberalism (and their useful idiots).
The reason America has been losing jobs is not because Americans are not adequately educated, it is because of the the lower wages that can be found outsourcing jobs which increases profits. Yes, capitalists care about capital. This is apparently a surprise to many intellectuals, many of whom (coincidentally of course) profit by consulting with Big Business.
Education is blamed for the so-called “skills gap.” The idea that unemployment is high not from rapacious corporations moving jobs overseas for their bottom line, but a lack of talent in the American workforce. Not surprisingly that is also bunk as Paul Krugman points out.
[T]he belief that America suffers from a severe “skills gap” is one of those things that everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it’s true. It’s a prime example of a zombie idea — an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die...
Yes, workers with a lot of formal education have lower unemployment than those with less, but that’s always true, in good times and bad. The crucial point is that unemployment remains much higher among workers at all education levels than it was before the financial crisis. The same is true across occupations: workers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007.
Wall Street can try to blame the uneducated all it likes but everyone has suffered from the financial crisis they and the Neoliberals created by recklessly deregulating finance not just those without “skills.” They wrecked the economy and now want to blame the unemployed for not having jobs.
Krugman notes that in reports by MIT and the Boston Consulting Group the skills gap crisis is considered to be overblown. The Boston Consulting Group reported “The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing today is more limited than many people believe and is unlikely to prevent a projected resurgence in U.S. manufacturing by the end of this decade.”
So who is pushing the skills gap myth? Corporate CEOs and their media outlets. But why?
Moreover, by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate. Of course, that may be another reason corporate executives like the myth so much.
And as long as some of that loot makes its way into US Congressional campaign accounts all is well. Just keep talking about the “education crisis” and “skills gap” and hope no one who isn’t being paid not to look sees you robbing the US Treasury with tax dodging and bailouts.
The notion that America’s economy is in decline because of a lack of education is, ironically, one of the most ignorant views around.
Photo by Library of Congress under public domain.