building nothing out of something? or...
July 12, 2009 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Rebuilding Something Better by Barack Obama: "this week, I'll be talking about how we give our workers the skills they need to compete... Part of this goal will be met by helping Americans better afford a college education. But part of it will also be strengthening our network of community colleges..."

BONUS
-Zakaria: A Capitalist Manifesto
-Cowen: Vaticanomics
-The X-shaped recovery
-Debt, Class Warfare and Entrepreneurship
-America's Fiscal Train Wreck and Cassandra's Curse
-Skidelsky: Economists clash on shifting sands
-Skidelsky: The World Finance Crisis & the American Mission
-Skidelsky: The Lost Continent
-Obama: A New Moment of Promise in Africa
-Sullivan: Barack Obama keeps his cool
posted by kliuless (62 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't think the second link is going to the right place.
posted by zixyer at 3:33 PM on July 12, 2009


The writer is president of the United States.

Thanks, Washington Post!
posted by Sfving at 3:39 PM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


They have to put something there, don't they?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:44 PM on July 12, 2009


Counterpoint
posted by Flunkie at 3:46 PM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


This post sucks. The Op-Ed might be a good FPP on it's own, although it's pretty dull... just a summary of what the white house has been working on for the past few months, rather then a declaration of anything new. Highlighting the community college bit is kind of pointless, and the related links aren't really related at all, beyond being related to Obama or the economy.

Still, I was irritated by posts like this (pictures of Obama!) or this (Obama swats a fly!) or this (OMG OBAMA GETS A HAMBURGER!!!).
posted by delmoi at 3:47 PM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Open bookmarks. Copy, paste all. Dump.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 3:47 PM on July 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Still, I was irritated by posts

(er, therefore this is at least an improvement)
posted by delmoi at 3:50 PM on July 12, 2009


If this presidency is going to amount to little more than borrowing ideas from Deval Patrick to the same extent that Obama's campaign was, I'm cool with that. Just don't take Deval's disinterest in actually doing a good job.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:57 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this post a shitty unfunny video about an irritating couple raising their babby like a dog?
No?
Is that one still up?
Yes?
Then this is worthy of an FPP by curve-grading alone.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:59 PM on July 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Open bookmarks. Copy, paste all. Dump.

Considering that the current financial crisis could be the greatest difficulty this generation's ever felt, perhaps you could actually read the links before passing judgment.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 4:01 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "Still, I was irritated by posts like this (pictures of Obama!) or this (Obama swats a fly!) or this (OMG OBAMA GETS A HAMBURGER!!!)."

OMGBAMA?
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Open bookmarks. Copy, paste all. Dump.

Considering that the current financial crisis could be the greatest difficulty this generation's ever felt, perhaps you could actually read the links before passing judgment.


Pubert: Teacher, I don't understand this homework...
Mr. Rumple: What do you mean? It's a simple connect-the-dots puzzle!
Pubert: But it just looks like someone took a crap on the page, and they didn't number any of the dots.
Mr. Rumple: God damnit, Pubert, don't you care about the environment?!
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 4:21 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Open bookmarks. Copy, paste all. Dump.

Ugh, we didn't need to know you were posting that on the toilet.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:22 PM on July 12, 2009


Opening up community college workshops to TechShop/FabLab-style participation could give us a wave of inventors and entrepreneurs, the benefits of which are obvious. CCs already have the equipment and the know-how to handle large groups of n00bs. Charge a nominal fee (like MeFi's $5, only moreso) to keep out the non-serious and limit participation to at or below the available number of machines (times the number of hours, etc).

Even better than community colleges would be high schools. Almost every high school (that I've ever been in anyway) has a woodshop and many have metal shops. The equipment and teachers are almost obsolete and on the way out, sadly, but a little infusion of cash and interest could bring it all back almost overnight. The knowledge and power is in these communities, all they need is organizing.
posted by DU at 4:27 PM on July 12, 2009


Ugh, we didn't need to know you were posting that on the toilet.

Huggies. So you can always post FPPs on the go.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 4:28 PM on July 12, 2009


The future:
1. if a blue collar job: China
2. if a white collar job: India
3. if hands-on job: American worker--copy, surgeon, cab driver etc

Large corporations owe no loyalty to the US but rather to their stock holders. They are all international and globalize work for cheapest labor.
posted by Postroad at 4:41 PM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's a simple connect-the-dots puzzle!

No, it's not. Which is why this post is lost on you. The fact that you need spoon-feeding could be part of the problem.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 4:42 PM on July 12, 2009


Large corporations owe no loyalty to the US but rather to their stock holders.

Just to leap in before the inevitable "and that's the way God intended humans to live!"...

If corporations have no loyalty to the US, then they should certainly not enjoy sweetheart military contracts and access to congresspeople via campaign contributions. Treat them as foreign entities, including the possibility of death (war in the case of nations, revokation of charter in the case of corps).
posted by DU at 4:50 PM on July 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


good post. I learned something. and I laughed at the dog baby bit too.
posted by philip-random at 5:12 PM on July 12, 2009


The current Time Magazine has an article - Can Community Colleges Save the U.S. Economy? - which actually talks about the network of community colleges.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:26 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tyler Cowen, writer of the above-linked Vaticanomics, has a great DC-centered ethnic-food guide, which he's been running for at least 10 years.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:58 PM on July 12, 2009


This "we need to educate/train workers so they can compete" is largely horseshit. A lot of the "competition" is of our own making. We're competing with countries and workers who are doing OUR jobs.

I have a college degree and 25 years of experience, most at a management level. I haven't had a job since December.

Why? It's a buyer's market, and younger people are cheaper. Why is it a buyer's market? Because there are too few jobs. Why are there too few jobs? Because our economy can only support so many paper pushers and burger flippers.

Non-educated people can't get good jobs anymore, because we don't have unions and we don't manufacture much anymore. Educated people can't get jobs because the corporate fucks can offshore intellectual jobs to people with just as good an education for pennies on the dollar.

We need JOBS. DECENT JOBS. HERE. If corporations wanna work against that, then they need to be treated like foreign companies.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:58 PM on July 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


We're competing with countries and workers who are doing OUR jobs.

I've never understood that concept. The "American Jobs". What kind of jobs do we own, and why do we own them?
posted by lazaruslong at 6:04 PM on July 12, 2009


Counterpoint
posted by Flunkie


They forgot Katrina.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:09 PM on July 12, 2009


Community colleges are great, so long as they're ran correctly. The one I went to (washtenaw community college) was superb enough that I see myself spending no more than 2.5 to 3 years at UMich.

That said: WCC needs to promote itself a bit more, seeing a good chunk of my high school classmates didn't go to college or even WCC as a first step (others headed straight for the local universities). Prolly the same for other CCs as well.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:18 PM on July 12, 2009


The "American Jobs". What kind of jobs do we own, and why do we own them?

I've also never understood that. "We're outsourcing jobs to India!" Good! India needs jobs, it saves us money to do other things, and I don't want 1 billion smart people with time on their hands to be eating their neighbors' children and to be pissed off at me about it.

Keep manufacturing jobs here. For heaven's sakes, why? It's not like we'd ever forget how to make high-quality cars. Well, hold it, forget I said that. But seriously, we don't need to be a nation of pipe-fitters.

Invest in education. Then we can be the guys designing the pipes, not fitting them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:23 PM on July 12, 2009


This is music to my ears. I'm out of work and want to pursue a degree in my field to broaden my job prospects. I'll probably be able to afford a community college.
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:25 PM on July 12, 2009


I've never understood that concept. The "American Jobs". What kind of jobs do we own, and why do we own them?

If an American corporation manufactures a product in America with American workers, and then shutters their domestic plants and opens manufacturing in another country because the labor force is cheaper, but stays in business as an American company with all the rights and (tax) benefits, then I think you can call that losing American jobs.

This also drives the number and quality of remaining jobs down, as well pushes wages down.

I am not a xenophobe or a protectionist. I just think there should be some disincentives for gaming the system.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:26 PM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Benny: Do you espouse the protectionist position, or do you think that your work is actually providing more per dollar than an intellectual worker from overseas?

Anyone else who believes that more reliance educational institutions are the way to go - is there a positive or negative correlation between the increase in percentage of GNP to educational institutions and the standard of living in the U.S. over the past 30 years? Unfortunately, educational institutions are no better at creating an educated populace than hospitals at creating a healthy one. The desire for learning and the desire for health are what does it.
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 6:32 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Keep manufacturing jobs here. For heaven's sakes, why? It's not like we'd ever forget how to make high-quality cars. Well, hold it, forget I said that. But seriously, we don't need to be a nation of pipe-fitters.

Invest in education. Then we can be the guys designing the pipes, not fitting them.


You're kidding, right?

A balanced economy needs both. Not everyone can be a pipe designer or a boss. Manufacturing has historically been a source of decent paying employment for the less educated worker. Not to mention that when you export your manufacturing needs, you hand over alot of economic power to someone else- you can't just jump in and out of manufacturing - tooling up is expensive and time consuming.

Also, how long before the country you sent the pipe-making jobs to starts training their own pipe designers? Then you're S.O.L. all the way around.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:40 PM on July 12, 2009


I don't know that investing in education leads to higher standard of living overall. (Though I suspect it does.) But one thing it'd do for sure is raise the level of education of the "average American", and I could go for that regardless of any other effects. If Sarah Palin and/or George W.Bush reflect the education level of the average American, then the average American needs more education. And one must recoil in horror at the idea that they are *above* average, but if so, that just reinforces my point.
posted by jamstigator at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2009


Benny: Do you espouse the protectionist position, or do you think that your work is actually providing more per dollar than an intellectual worker from overseas?

No, on both counts.

I am a huge believer in education. I also believe an Indian, or Chinese, or Mexican, or worker with the same education can supply the same quality.

But I also think that when you pay a foreign worker less money to do the same work, you hurt the morale of workers here, and more importantly, you depress their wages.

posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:45 PM on July 12, 2009


They have to put something there, don't they?

Yeah, so many times I've set up a form and forgotten to make a field optional. "What am I supposed to do to get this form to submit." "Just put something in there, I'll remove it manually from the database." The result, "The writer is the president of the United States". Could've been a lot worse.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:46 PM on July 12, 2009


Invest in education. Then we can be the guys designing the pipes, not fitting them.

Isn't it pretty to think so? We've spent the last 40 years trying this and mostly to show for it we've got a shitload of low-paid workers in the retail and other service industries where there used to be well-paying manufacturing jobs. Considering alternatives hardly seems premature at this point. This idea that there are at some point going to be enough decently-paying so-called "knowledge worker" jobs to employ the entire workforce of the United States — and, moreover, that these are simply going to magically appear if we funnel more people through the universities — is a pipe dream. Retraining doesn't work without job creation.
posted by enn at 6:48 PM on July 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Large corporations owe no loyalty to the US but rather to their stock holders

Perhaps that could get changed. Would a reversal of Dodge VS Ford be change we could believe in?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:49 PM on July 12, 2009


We've spent the last 40 years trying this...

We've talked a lot about investing in education. But when kindergarten, let alone college or higher, isn't free everywhere it's just talk.
posted by DU at 6:53 PM on July 12, 2009


"Our community colleges can serve as 21st-century job training centers, working with local businesses to help workers learn the skills they need to fill the jobs of the future."

I work for a community college. Let me tell you one of the strange ways I've seen local businesses interact with us. The college runs a Medical Transcriptionist Certificate program. A two year program focused on practicing transcription and medical jargon. The final required class for the course is an official internship with a local transcription agency. So guess who teaches these courses? The owner of a local medical transcription company.

I've yet to ask this person what their corporate turnover is, but I'd love to interview the program's graduates at their 10 year reunion.
posted by pwnguin at 6:57 PM on July 12, 2009


Here's an interesting study I stumbled upon while thinking about education in the US. The WSJ article that covered it summed it up:

Closing the educational-achievement gap between the U.S. and higher-performing nations such as Finland and South Korea could boost U.S. gross domestic product by as much as $2.3 trillion, or about 16%, according to a new study by McKinsey & Co., the international consulting concern.

The report, which used a formula McKinsey helped develop to link educational achievement to economic output, also estimated closing the gap in the U.S. between white students and their black and Latino peers could increase annual GDP by as much as an additional $525 billion, or about 4%.

posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:05 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


We've talked a lot about investing in education. But when kindergarten, let alone college or higher, isn't free everywhere it's just talk.

Fair enough. I'd like to see free college tuition for many reasons, but it's worth pointing out that in none of the countries where higher education is free has it made manufacturing obsolete or brought about the sort of universal vaguely-white-collar employment we keep hearing is just around the corner. (Indeed, the countries that send their citizens to college for free tend to be the ones that have real industrial policy and that fight hardest to hold on to their manufacturing jobs.)
posted by enn at 7:09 PM on July 12, 2009


Closing the educational-achievement gap between the U.S. and higher-performing nations such as Finland and South Korea could boost U.S. gross domestic product by as much as $2.3 trillion, or about 16%, according to a new study by McKinsey & Co., the international consulting concern.

After a quick search, here's what I've found ( too many sources to cite, but easy to find on the web):

South Korea - Manufacturing is 30% of GDP (and employs 25% of the workforce)
Finland- Manufacturing is 31% of GDP
USA- Manufacturing is 15% of GDP (Actually, a little less. in 1955, it was 55%)

Education may be part of the difference, but....
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:18 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Invest in education. Then we can be the guys designing the pipes, not fitting them.

I can hire 10 Indians or Chinese people for the cost of one American pipe designer. And you don't have the cost of shipping raw material all over the world. Now what jobs can we do here?
posted by dirigibleman at 7:22 PM on July 12, 2009


re: free everywhere

A Public Plan - "Suppose that education is only available from private sector schools, and that education within this system is very expensive. Because of the expense, millions of people do not have access to education."

re: job creation

Denver's Secret - "Why so many green jobs are sprouting in Colorado."

see -- health care, energy, education -- it all fits together :P

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 7:26 PM on July 12, 2009


I dunno. I kinda admired the elegant logic of the Republican plan:

Keep young Americans uneducated, unqualified, and desperate for work so they'd happily enlist during the coming Resource Wars.
posted by sourwookie at 7:33 PM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


re - Finland

It's worthwhile to note that the wealth disparity in Finland is also far less.

People don't expect to be millionnaires

So if the US can get their head around that, just once looking beyond cost and physical acquisition of goods as the centerpiece for existence., maybe it's worth a shot.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:02 PM on July 12, 2009


Benny Andajetz - you don't purposely shunt the opportunities of some people just to fill menial jobs.

And one day, we will automate that shit and create more professional jobs so humans can do what they should - exercise their brain.
posted by kldickson at 8:35 PM on July 12, 2009


Also, one day, robots will do all our work for us, allowing us to live lives of leisure!
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:46 PM on July 12, 2009


dirigibleman:Now what jobs can we do here?

Movies, music, microcoding, and high-speed pizza delivery.
posted by dr_dank at 8:53 PM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Invest in education. Then we can be the guys designing the pipes, not fitting them.

You can outsource pipe design, but not pipe fitting. (Random fact: Hu Jintao, the current president of China is a hydrological engineer)

Anyway, the problem with this country is our obsession with work. It would be a lot easier to make sure everyone has a decent quality of life then a job they may or may not hate.
posted by delmoi at 1:50 AM on July 13, 2009


I hate, hate, hate that the solution to education is always "create access to college." All that is accomplished is that colleges will be filled with people who suck at writing, can't wrap their heads around algebra, and lack common sense. Then a Bachelor's degree will be useless, and anyone who wants to stand out will be required to have a Master's, just to get a job.

Instead of allowing high schools to pass the buck onto college with "universal access to college," we really ought to reform public education. It needs to be done from the bottom up, as educational failures cascade, and quality high-school education can't happen if they're playing catch-up for a lousy middle-school education, etc. However, if kids get exceptional elementary school education, they're prepared to excel in middle school, and so forth.

We should make it so that completing 12 or 13 years of public school is sufficient for entering the workforce and living a successful life. This would, of course, require things like mandatory home economics (including not only sewing and baking, but real home economics like budgeting and finance). Social advancement should be abolished; if someone needs to be left back, it sucks for them, but thrusting them forward doesn't really help their education, and they might otherwise be a disruptive or slowing force in classes. So what if someone doesn't finish high school until 19 or 20 if we make a high school diploma sufficient for working and living?
posted by explosion at 4:27 AM on July 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


What explosion said.

The relentless focus on college for all has done nothing good for the standard of living, and increasing that focus will only make things worse.

The worst part of it is the "supply creates its own demand" aspect -- the (tens of?) millions of jobs that simply do not require the level of textual and quantitative analysis that a (good) college degree certifies for which a college degree is now an imposed minimum credential.

One thing I find interesting is the hold-outs from this suffocating trend. God help you if you are not a college graduate but you want to be the medical billing systems manager at a hospital -- but it's no problem for you to hold life and death in your hands a pretty highly-ranked fire fighter or police supervisor, or as a senior NCO in the military.
posted by MattD at 9:40 AM on July 13, 2009


I hate, hate, hate that the solution to education is always "create access to college." All that is accomplished is that colleges will be filled with people who suck at writing, can't wrap their heads around algebra, and lack common sense.

I don't know if you're familiar with colleges now, but it's pretty much like that already. I was in college in the late 90s, and even then my first year English Comp teachers thought I was some kind of wunderkind because I could fucking write my native language at a competent level. A guy in my sociology class did an oral presentation about "music culture", the gist of which was that all music was worthless before Nirvana's "Nevermind". It's got to be even worse now.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:56 AM on July 13, 2009


I don't know if you're familiar with colleges now, but it's pretty much like that already.

Yet another reason I dropped out of college. HIGH SCHOOL 2: NO PARENTS!11!1
posted by symbollocks at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2009


Social advancement should be abolished

Yesyesyesyesyes.

Via this blog (emphasis mine): "in most cultures, people have well-defined roles that they can easily fill and make life meaningful. But in western civilization, and especially in the American middle class, your role is not to do a certain kind of useful activity -- your role is to succeed, to gain ever-higher material wealth and status. If "success" is defined relative to other people, then every winner requires losers. And if it's defined relative to yourself in the past, then almost everyone will be a loser when energy consumption declines. And if you reject the whole game, then you have no social role at all, which might be even more depressing than having a role that you fail at."
posted by symbollocks at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


man, that was the main reason to stay IN college.
posted by shmegegge at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2009


I suppose it depends on your parents...
posted by symbollocks at 12:54 PM on July 13, 2009


i suppose. did your parents let you get drunk all the time and do drugs and fuck other people like crazy?
posted by shmegegge at 1:13 PM on July 13, 2009


If Sarah Palin and/or George W.Bush reflect the education level of the average American, then the average American needs more education. And one must recoil in horror at the idea that they are *above* average, but if so, that just reinforces my point.

As a teacher, I would rate GWB as above average and Palin as probably right at average (maybe a smidge above) in terms of education, but stupid isn't their biggest shortcoming in my view. Their biggest shortcoming is incuriousness, which is worse because it's infectious.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:03 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, what explosion said, definitely. I'd add that universities need to reverse the trend of becoming vocational training programs with some well-rounded selection of courses wrapped around it to pay lip service to the "liberal arts tradition".
posted by LooseFilter at 2:08 PM on July 13, 2009


Invest in education. Then we can be the guys designing the pipes, not fitting them.

Yeah, but just how many pipe designers do you really need? See, that's the problem. So, if we accept that you cannot possibly support an entire nation on pipe designers, then this raises a problem, which is: what do we do with the people who could be pipe designers, but aren't pipe-designing? Maybe some of them could get a job fitting those pipes they're more than qualified to understand. If those jobs weren't already overseas.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:00 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


raises a question, that is.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:00 PM on July 13, 2009


just an update :P

Obama Has Community-College Plan: Obama announced a $12 billion community-college initiative designed to boost graduation rates, improve facilities and develop new technology.
posted by kliuless at 4:32 AM on July 22, 2009


oh hey!

Investing in Education: The American Graduation Initiative
posted by kliuless at 4:33 AM on July 22, 2009


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