Bill Gross: Bubble in Higher Education As Jobs Still Scarce in U.S.
Hmm! Looks like more and more people in the mainstream are coming around to some of the ‘crackpot’ theories / issues this website has been advancing the past 4 years. PIMCO’s Bill Gross writes a very well crafted piece delving into the issues of the bubble in higher education costs, the lack of employment opportunities (due to structural changes happening via offshoring & technology), and how the proportion of profits going to capital rather than labor has dented the American dream. All of this could be found in a multitude of posts on FMMF, but when someone important says it – maybe it will get more attention. Aside form explaining the problem he actually offer some solutions (some harkening back to days of FDR). However, while many of those solutions would be common in a place like Germany, they would be called “socialism” in the U.S.
A very worthwhile read – a few snippets below.
- The past several decades have witnessed an erosion of our manufacturing base in exchange for a reliance on wealth creation via financial assets.
- Fiscal balance alone will not likely produce 20 million jobs over the next decade. Government must take a leading role in job creation.
- A growing number of skeptics wonder whether college is worth the time or the cost.
A mind is a precious thing to waste, so why are millions of America’s students wasting theirs by going to college? …..College was great as long as the jobs were there. College, in his and the minds of many others, is stultifying and outdated – overpriced and mismanaged – with very little value created despite the bump in earnings power that universities use as their raison d’être in our modern world of money.
Fact: College tuition has increased at a rate 6% higher than the general rate of inflation for the past 25 years, making it four times as expensive relative to other goods and services as it was in 1985. Professorial tenure and outdated curricula focusing on liberal arts instead of a more practical global agenda focusing on math and science are primary culprits.
Fact: The average college graduate now leaves school with $24,000 of debt and total student loans now exceed this nation’s credit card debt at $1.0 trillion and counting (7% of our national debt). Subjective explanation: Universities are run for the benefit of the adult establishment, both politically and financially, not students. To radically change the system and to question the sanctity of a college education would be to jeopardize trillions of misdirected investment dollars and financial obligations.
Fareed Zakaria, as usual, has a well-thought-out solution. “We need,” he writes, “a program as ambitious as the GI Bill,” but one that focuses on retraining existing unemployed workers and redirecting our future students. Instead of liberal arts, he suggests focusing on technical education, technical institutes and polytechnics as well as apprenticeship programs. Our penchant for focusing on high tech value-added jobs should be modified and redirected, he claims, to mimic the German path, which allows people with good technical skills but limited college education to earn a decent living.
It is clear, however, that neither party has an awareness of the why or the wherefores of how to put America back to work again. Few economic advisors from either party ever mention structural long-term disconnects in employment – a recognition that cyclical influences will no longer dominate the U.S. labor market. Manufacturing and goods exports have ceded enormous ground to China and other developing labor markets, as America’s reliance on services and high tech innovation has exposed gaping holes in an historically successful model.
The past several decades have witnessed an erosion of our manufacturing base in exchange for a reliance on wealth creation via financial assets. Now, as that road approaches a dead-end cul-de-sac via interest rates that can go no lower, we are left untrained, underinvested and overindebted relative to our global competitors. The precipitating cause of our structural employment break is both internal neglect and external competition. Blame us. Blame them. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
And how about at least an intelligent discussion on “trade policy” which incorporates more than just a symbolic bashing of Chinese currency relative to the dollar. Who, from either side of the aisle is willing to discuss the use of trade measures in order to help balance our $500 billion trade deficit? This is delicate territory, reawakening fears of Smoot-Hawley in the 1930s, but we are in delicate territory regarding our unemployment rate as well. Warren Buffett in 2003 advocated an idea he called “Import Credits” which he claimed would increase exports in the hundreds of billions and jobs in the hundreds of thousands. Republicans? Democrats? Discussion please.
Those who advocate that job creation rests on corporate tax reform (lower taxes) or a return to deregulation of the private economy always fail to address dominant structural headwinds which cannot be dismissed: 1) Labor is much more attractively priced over there than here, and 2) U.S. employment based on asset price appreciation/finance as opposed to manufacturing can no longer be sustained. The “golden” days are over, and it’s time our school and jobs “daze” comes to an end to be replaced by programs that do more than mimic failed establishment policies favoring Wall as opposed to Main Street.
This is a guest post written by Trader Mark who runs the blog Fund My Mutual Fund.