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
Again, thank you for the excellent quality of writing and
thinking in Metroland!
Upstate Director, Hunger Action Network of NYS
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
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
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
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