Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pearson on Obama's domestic policy challenges

Noel Pearson has this ability to identify the key issues, in this case, the domestic policy issues facing Obama in very challenging times:
Beyond the question of race, there are three domestic policy agendas that confront the US in this time of crisis, to which Obama must forge solutions: the problem of the American underclasses; the problem of the American working poor; and the need for a national gain-sharing deal between those who take the upside and those who wear the downside of globalisation.
- Man with his work cut out
Read the whole thing for Pearson's elaboration of these three domestic policy issues

1 comment:

Mark Miller said...

The fear that conservatives have about liberals is that they will try to socialize the upside, which has had a history of not working too well. The U.S. used to do this. From 1945-1972 there was an understanding between corporate America and the government, that by a cooperative effort between the two full employment could be ensured, as well as rising levels of income. A common saying among Americans about the "American Dream" is that "each generation will be better off than the one that came before." Since 1972 we've found out that this is not necessarily so. Looking at our economy historically the idea of a government-corporate partnership worked for part of the post-WW II era because the rest of the developed world had pretty much gone to hell in a handbasket. There was very little foreign competition. By the 1970s this had changed. There was more foreign competition, and the old partnership was more of a liability for American corporations and their employees. They were less competitive. Secondly the 1970s ushered in an era of increased corporate regulation, which reduced productivity.

The answer that's been tried is to try to subsidize job training, and to encourage people to go to community colleges or get university degrees. From what I understand the university degree subsidies have fallen off under Bush. I've heard of some states instituting their own programs to encourage people to attend community colleges if all they have are high school diplomas.

Subsidizing job training has been a mixed bag. Apparently this has encouraged fraud. I've heard of several cases of students going to private vocational schools, with government vouchers, where they learn skills of hardly any value. The schools just took the money and ran. The tragedy was they also took students who paid their own tuition, and got the same substandard training, and were out the money all the same.

This is something I always thought was a risk with school vouchers for K-12 education. I don't think there should be vouchers without some sort of verification that the students are learning, because there's the same risk of opportunism.

One suggestion for vocational training might be for the government to give out contact information for employer-recommended schools, along with the vouchers, so that if people don't do their own research they can at least go to a school that would teach skills that those employers desire.