If one can embrace the notion that an educated workforce is preferred to the alternative, it is hard to oppose President Obama’s recently announced ambition to provide community college access to millions more.
Unfortunately, politics can strain the boundaries of reason on this topic of national economic security. And to be clear, the state of higher education in this country, including access, affordability, standards and priorities, is a matter of national security.
To correlate an educated workforce with economic benefit, consider the revenue share by country in the sale of an iPhone (as posted in the documentary Inequality for All): 34% goes to Japan; 17% to Germany; 13% South Korea; 6%, United States; and 3.6% to China.
Then consider the following: the U.S. now ranks 21st in reading, 24th in science, and 31st in math – below the average of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations in each category, and below the countries listed in the iPhone example.
As our national academic credentials slide, so too will our economic prospects at home and abroad. Why is this so hard to understand and rally behind?
Some people (and legislators) are only too willing to commit billions of dollars to “protecting” our borders from illegal immigration or a scary virus that had four (4) confirmed cases and one (1) fatality last year – the fervor over which mysteriously abated after the mid-term elections. Kind of like when the price of gas was such a big priority in the 2012 presidential election … not so much now.
In fact … immigrants are a net economic stimulus (not drain) to the U.S. economy and shark attacks, lightening strikes, and slippery bathroom floors all pose greater risks to Americans. Yet there was no $5.4 billion dollar budget to combat these hazards in the recently passed cromnibus budget, as there was for Ebola.
With crippling student debt now over $1.2 trillion dollars, there is a diminishing aggregate incentive for our best and brightest to continue their education and add to their skills in a way that will improve our nation’s global competitiveness. And this becomes the foundation for a vicious downward spiral of diminishing academic outcomes, declining economic clout and a worsening economic inequality that will feed greater division and acrimony within a country most of us purport to love.
If the fact that President Obama suggested this great idea makes it unpleasant or even a non-starter for the new Republican majority to stomach, I would say, as I have whilst giving medicine to children, “I am sorry it tastes bad, sweetie, but it will make you better.” After all, the true measure of leadership is not in how well you indulge your own impulses, it is how well you serve the interests of those (all) in your charge. So do your job, do the right thing, and fund this program.
For ideas on what to spend the money on – see www.elimindset.com