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To the Editor:

I want to compliment Miriam Axel-Lute and Metroland’s editors for the consistently thought-provoking and insightful commentaries and analyses in her column. Miriam Axel-Lute continues to distinguish herself as one of this region’s sharpest journalists, and it is a privilege to be able to read her work in this alternative weekly.

The piece [“Over Promising,” Looking Up, May 13] on distinguishing between education and jobs is very relevant and helpful for thinking about our current jobs crisis.

I only wish that state leaders in Albany showed a similarly keen insight into the urgency and complexity of job creation strategies, with over 800,000 people in our state still out of work. Hunger Action Network, for whom I work, has an ongoing “Good Jobs Now!” campaign seeking $100 million of stimulus funding for jobs in the welfare budget.

We strongly support the recommendations Ms. Axel-Lute laid out, and will highlight her piece as we try to enlighten federal and state officials on economic recovery strategies moving forward.

Again, thank you for the excellent quality of writing and thinking in Metroland!

Andreas Kriefall,

Upstate Director, Hunger Action Network of NYS



To the Editor:

I read, with interest, [Miriam Axel-Lute’s] column in this week’s Metroland, and I felt compelled to send you a note. I was intrigued by your hypothesis that education does not lead to jobs, and I wanted to challenge you to rethink the definition of education. Because, I believe that a certain education does lead to job growth, improved prosperity, and increased well-being for the community.

The drivel that is spooned out as education today is not education. It is merely training. People are trained to execute a specific set of skills within a certain environment. True education equips a person to learn rapidly, adapt to new circumstances, identify opportunities, and to build success. Now you may think that I am another snake oil salesman. But I speak from experience. I have worked in a number of industries, both as an employee and and as a self-employed consultant, transitioned through multiple roles, and have overcome significant obstacles to maintain support for my family.

My education has allowed me to do this. Not university training, not company training, but my education—my self acquired education. I did not receive the bulk of my education in an institutional setting. I received most of my education by identifying weaknesses within myself and then obtaining resources to overcome those weaknesses. A few years ago, I was on protracted assignment away from my family. I spent every weekend at the local bookstore reading a list of books that I had found through an Internet search. And when I couldn’t find the answer to a question, I would call somebody—and usually I would get a great answer.

I would like to suggest that the ideal education for today’s community is based on a broad foundation of technical skill, business development and management, marketing, and communications. Fundamentally, a person needs something to sell, their product, whether it’s a widget or their time. People need to find opportunity. Looking through the job ads is not enough. People need to network, get out of their zone. And for people who find this difficult, they need to find ways to overcome their fear. People need to identify opportunities. They need to identify problems and think of solutions that will attract attention. And people need to communicate their ideas to a receptive audience.

But the responsibility does not fall entirely upon the shoulders of the entrepreneur or entrepreneur wannabe. Government policy needs to be significantly altered with respect to small business and new business ventures if we are ever going to rise out of the current morass.

Noted business guru Peter Drucker once claimed that new businesses should be treated like small children. Small children are not required to file income tax returns, apply for business licenses, and endure other burdensome government regulation. Neither should small business. Small business should be given the opportunity to grow, to survive their first five years of operation, without expending significant energy and resource on red tape. Simple procedures could be employed to establish a small business’ existence, and then the small company should be left to its own development. And along with this reduction in government interference would be a guarantee for small business financing and loans. If a small business didn’t have to spend so much money on government intervention, it wouldn’t need so much capital to develop and market its product basket. Seems pretty simple to me

Walter Rawle



To the Editor:

Miriam Axel-Lute’s May 13 column takes a jaundiced view of efforts to combat poverty through education. Baldly she declares, “more education will not reduce the total amount of poverty”—because America lacks jobs for all its educated citizens. Her own program instead is (1) create jobs (mostly ones that government would fund); (2) improve our jobs’ pay and benefits and (3) a better safety net for the unemployed.

What’s conspicuously missing here is what’s always missing from lefty economics: an understanding of where societal wealth comes from. It comes from people being productive in creating goods and services for which others are willing to pay. That is the ultimate funding source for all the good things Axel-Lute wants: government jobs repairing infrastructure, etc., better pay and benefits, and a social safety net. And the principal vehicles for generating those resources, to fund those things, are businesses. So before we can even consider items 1, 2 and 3 on Axel-Lute’s wish list, we’ve got to beef up productive businesses in America.

Hers is a spread-the-wealth program, but we’re actually deeply in hock. We must narrow the gap between our production and our consumption—which includes the cost of Axel-Lute’s social goodies. We can either cut that back, or produce more. If we want people to have good jobs—and that includes government jobs—we must have dynamic profitable businesses, to generate the wealth she wants to spread.

As for Axel-Lute’s poopooing education vis-a-vis poverty, the fact is that collectively, U.S. college graduates earn vastly more than high school drop-outs. Ignoring this basic reality voids her entire analysis. But the bigger point, beyond the implications for any individual, is that a more educated workforce is a more productive workforce, enlarging the size of the overall economic pie. Again, that’s what funds Axel-Lute’s whole goody list.

We hear much lamentation about the impact of globalization and foreign competition— yet scant recognition that ultimately, American workers are going to be paid what they are worth on the global market, and have no entitlement somehow to earn more. We are not really threatened by Chinese sweatshop peons toiling for peanuts but, rather, by the foreigners swiftly developing top-notch, high-tech skills. In order to remain competitive, globally, we too must raise our game. And education is crucial.

Frank S. Robinson

Author of The Case for Rational Optimism


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