How to build a nation of Ignoramuses

Yes, I checked the spelling there – it wouldn’t bode well to misspell ignoramuses because I was an ignoramus myself.

On my drive in this morning I heard that the State of California has backed out of their “promise” to high-school students that if they took advanced courses and got good grades, they’d be accepted at a state school.  All I could think was, “what the fuck are these morons thinking!?”

It’s yet another example of short-sighted political bullshit.  Education is probably the most important asset we can build as a country and over the past few years education budgets have been getting slashed at the federal, state and local levels to make ends meet.  College tuition is skyrocketing in most areas, and it seems there’s no end in sight with the current administration’s crazy ass Lafferian decrease-taxes-to-increase-revenues “plan”.

People love to whine about the loss of manufacturing jobs, and now that it’s biting into white-collar jobs with “offshoring” you’re seeing even more knee-jerk reactions.  The reality is this – if someone somewhere in the world is willing to build a widget at a rate of a bag of rice a day, there’s just no way you can get a manufacturer to instead choose the worker that wants 50 bags for the same work.  Capitalism just doesn’t work that way.  Sure, if you’re the guy losing your job, that sucks, but hey – if you were running a business and you could cut the costs of doing business by 90% what would you do?  Bet your ass you competitor will make the choice, so you can “offshore” the job or close your doors.

So what does that mean for the US?  Well we have a higher cost of living and a higher standard of living.  We’ll never be able to get those low-skill jobs back, so it’s pointless to try or to even bitch about it.  The solution is educating the work force to perform the *skilled* labor that isn’t available in some third-world sweat shop. 

The way to keep our economy at the top of the game is to always ensure we can deliver what others cannot.  It’s no different than economics at a business level.  Why beat yourself up trying to produce a commodity (low-skill labor) when there are higher margins in high-skilled work?  Well you can’t provide skilled labor when you refuse to educate your workers, and expecting them to foot the bill is bullshit.  You want to strengthen the economy?  How about an education program to give everyone who wants it a 2-year degree and heavily subsidise 4-year and graduate degrees.

“But that’s too expensive” many will say.  Well sure it’s expensive, there’s no free lunch here jackasses!  Expensive sure seems arbitrary in today’s global climate.  $87 billion for 3 months of “work” that doesn’t help our economy a bit (unless you think paying Bechtel, Halliburton and others is really boosting our economy), but do you realize that for the same price we could give every single teacher – kindergarten through high-school – a 10% raise each year for the next three years (doubt it? do the numbers yourself)?  Let’s see – give the money to those entrusted to educate our children, those who spend more waking time with our children than many of the kid’s parents, or give it to build things like new prisons to replace the ones we have to tear down because we torture people in them?  “Ooh, ooh, I’ll take the latter!” Morons!

So why won’t someone stand up, write a bill, push it and pass it?  Because there’s no political capital in it.  Major improvements to educational funding would be expensive on the front-end, so it makes a politican look bad to the legions of other ignoramuses voting for them.  It *will* pay off in the long-term, but in order to do any good, it’s going to take a minimum of 4 years – since that’s how long a 4-year degree is supposed to take, but the reality is that it’s probably more like 6 or 8 years before you see a return.  That’s beyond the term of a president, representative or senator, so not only would they have to run for re-election before any results are seen.  Add to that the fact that their successor, who is probably going to be in the opposing party since such high expenditures would likely get you voted out, is going to be in office when the gains begin to appear. 

So the equation looks like this: Propose a bill that spends probably more than any program before, short of defense.  Fight for it to get through both houses, confirmed in committe without being amended to the point of uselessness.  Get the president to sign it.  Alienate voters for the rest of your term because of the higher taxes and/or reduced services.  Get voted out at the end of your term.  The opposition takes over and takes credit for your work.  Any idea why no-one’s jumping to try it?  And where does it leave us?  Slowing atrophying into ignorance, with the middle-class shrinking and the poverty level rising.

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