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The Atlantic: "Can the Middle Class Be Saved?"

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Dick Whitman, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    This is a long, sometimes dry (with numbers, for example) look at the state of how our economy and society is structured right now. I think it is well-worth the read:


    It seems to be written from a very unbiased point of view, though some might stumble over, for example, a brief suggestion that corporate tax rates are too high.

    Anyway, some things that struck me:

    * Rate of birth out of wedlock for h.s. dropouts: 54 percent; Rate of births out of wedlock for h.s. graduates (without a college degree): 44 percent; Rate of birth out of wedlock for college graduates: 6 percent.

    * Men continue to, almost inexplicably, flock to manual labor jobs in factories and construction, even though those jobs are disappearing. At one point, I think the author notes that about 10 years ago, manufacturing jobs and jobs in health and educational services both numbered about 16 million. Today, manufacturing jobs have shed 4 million positions while health and educational services have added 4 million positions - mostly females.

    * Unemployment rate for people with professional degrees (meaning, I assume, JD, MBA, MD): 2 percent.

    * The author suggests that emerging industries based in the U.S. be de-regulated to a large degree to allow them a chance to get their legs as the economy tries to settle on a base for the next century and beyond.

    * Protectionist measures like tariffs, which I think Mizzou suggested on a thread yesterday, are "self-defeating."

    Lots more that is interesting in the piece, mostly about how the educated classes are doing terrific while the middle and lower classes keep losing ground.

    I still believe that the best investment you can make is in your education. I think the next step is to shift people out of law and business schools, to some degree, and into chemistry, physics, and, especially, engineering, PhD programs.
  2. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    I'm becoming more convinced that our unemployment is to a significant degree structural and the primary remedy for it has to be education.

    My wife works in a medical administrative field. Her job requires the equivalent of an associate's degree of job-specific training. There are way more jobs available in her field than there are people to fill them. But all of these displaced construction workers and retail workers can't just send their resume over to the hospital to fill one of these openings. Even if they've built houses or sold mall clothes for 20 years, they simply do not qualify without the two years of education in medical coding procedures. Now, is what she does accessible to a construction worker type? Probably to many. It's not rocket science, it just requires a level of job-specific education.

    And my sister-in-law just got her RN and she can literally name where she wants to live and expect a great salary because RNs remain very much in demand. But again, the homebuilder who can't find work can't simply hop over to the hospital and say "train me how to be an RN." An RN requires more training that what my wife does, so it's even more inaccessible to most unemployed people.

    When we shed manufacturing jobs in the 90s, a lot of those folks found a lifeline in the form of the construction boom. The construction sector soaked up a lot of them and the economic boom that resulted took many of the rest in retail. If you didn't have an education, you could still make a good, middle class living.

    Right now, there is demand for some jobs, but there aren't qualifed people to fill those jobs.

    Here's the problem we have now: I'm shocked at how much college -- even inexpensive community colleges and commuter colleges -- costs now. It's a detriment to enrollment. I flip on Suzie Orman (my wife makes me watch) and every other person on the show is dealing with student loan debt. Costs have become a clear barrier to a level of education that has become increasingly necessary.
  3. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Please don't take this as a shot at your wife, because it's not, but isn't medical coding exactly the kind of job that's next on the firing line for outsourcing to India? Maybe I don't have quite the understanding of what it is, so if I'm wrong, please correct me. But it strikes me as the kind of thing that can be both automated and outsourced. And that's the problem: More and more things are falling into that category.
  4. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    Deskslave, that's a good question. My understanding is while many of the "home coders" will lose jobs to outsourcing (unless they are willing to work for $3-$4 an hour), there will remain a need for in-house staffs that are more resilient to constant changes in the field. Where my wife works, the home coders are still largely local and aren't expected to be in the front line of changes. The office staff, however, is.

    But I shouldn't speak for my wife on this any more than she can speak on the issues with our field.
  5. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    I saw an NBC News piece in which Siemens was bemoaning the fact it couldn't fill 3,400 jobs in the U.S. because so many potential employees couldn't pass its aptitude test. On the other hand, the "job creators" and corporations are usually standing silent, or promoting on-the-edges concepts like charter schools, while the public education system gets cut to ribbons by less funding and/or culture-war crapola.

    By the way, at no point did Siemens say, "Well, we'll just take these jobs to India and China." Presumably, there is a reason they are needed in the United States. But what the ruling class is just figuring out (assume they see a connection) is that disinvestment in education and families (as noted, kids are getting poorer) is resulting in an education system that corporations no longer can count on. It makes me wonder whether Siemens and other large employers should invest money in their own training. Take people who didn't pass the test, and train them up. If the public education system isn't going to it for you, get bootstrappy, corporations, and do it yourself.
  6. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    job creators" and corporations are usually standing silent, or promoting on-the-edges concepts like charter schools, while the public education system gets cut to ribbons by less funding and/or culture-war crapola.

    What is 'culture-war crapola'?

    Not being a smartass, I don't know.
  7. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    The insistence on teaching "intelligent design"? Endless hours of wasted energy on prayer in schools? Pretty much any Texas textbook discussion in the past 10 years?
  8. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Fixed that for you.

    Although I would say that the dearth of higher-end people, particularly in math and science, is on the school systems more than parents. We had a loooooong, contentious thread about this a few months ago. LongTimeListener and I came about as close to blows on the Internet as two people can.
  9. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    Got it.

    Not arguing the idiocy of religious right at all. But when looking at the disaster that much of our public schooling is turning out to be, that is a complete molehill compared to the mountain that is kids who are ill-prepared, unwilling and flat unable to participate in the education process. The gawd-awful horrible parenting/environment we have in this country where whole classes of kids don't give a shit about education.

    Just my opinion.
  10. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    The Atlantic article starts out making the point that, from a CitiGroup study a few years ago, it is getting to the point where those classes don't even matter to the national economy any more. They contribute almost nothing. Do yourselves a favor and go find Crimsonace's excellent post about trying to get kids he teaches to give a shit about education. I can't remember what thread it was on, but I'll try to find it, too. Sounds like the most frustrating job in the world.
  11. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    I agree with you, in that schools are woefully underfunded and unprepared to teach a class of children that is increasingly coming out of broken, poverty-stricken homes, and needs a lot more work and attention. Especially if the parents are absent, don't care, etc. There are lousy schools and teachers, to be sure, but for the most part, standardized tests most successfully measure how wealthy and stable the overall school community is.

    Problem is, these people exist, they grow up, and as a country we need to figure out what to do with them. Throwing them in the garbage isn't an option. Not merely because it just seems cruel, but there are too many of them.

    As an aside, I heard some interesting reasoning from a Chicago teacher as to why Rahm Emanual shouldn't lengthen the school day. She said she has students who are the main breadwinners in their families, and need the hours to work. If true, that's just sad for so many reasons.
  12. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    This is merely anecdotal, but I think The Atlantic piece really hits on something when it talks about how difficult it has been to change the culture of males who want to work manual labor. For example, as stated, certain white-collar fields are growing or stable. Service industry jobs are growing or stable. But men want to work in manual labor like construction, where there are no jobs. At least the ones I've known. I suspect a lot of it is how they are raised. That's what it means to be a "man."

    A lot of, "It was good enough for me! It's good enough for you! That's what a man does!"

    In my area, the aging portion of the population gets hacked off - including letters to the editor - about the "yuppies" who commute into the city for their white-collar jobs that, you know, actually pay. They fight tooth and nail against train line extensions, for example. Because, well, "I walked into the steel mill the day after I graduated high school and worked there for forty years. Guess that's not good enough for you!"
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