Economic Problems Won’t Be Solved by Education Stimulus, Either

Mark Calabria does a fine job dismantling Laura Tyson’s argument that we need another stimulus to spur private demand and revive the comatose economy. I would just caution against the one thing he could be construed as implicitly supporting: more federal funding for education.

I don’t dispute that there are mismatches between employers’ needs and potential employees’ skills, but the solution to the problem is not still more money going to education. As I and others have argued – especially the Pope Center’s George Leef, in a deft takedown of a recent workforce study – lobbing sacks of taxpayer dough at education will mainly enrich schools and their employees while making our resource-blowing education system even less efficient. Indeed, we already have far more bachelor’s degree holders than we have jobs for them, and the Labor Department projects that the greatest number of new jobs in the next decade will require only on-the-job training (see Table 2). And skills retraining? There are big problems there, too, with people often training for jobs that for numerous reasons they cannot get.

Putting more taxpayer money into “education” is one of those sweet sounding ideas that few people can ever resist, but which produces continually rotten outcomes. So even when it comes to education – shrill objections about “de-skilling” and being “anti-education” notwithstanding – the best thing to do for the economy is to let money stay with taxpayers and allow them to consume education as they would anything else: according to their individual priorities and abilities, which they know better than anyone else.