Krugman on degrees

Degrees and Dollars, an op ed by Paul Krugman, questions whether college degrees for all are the key to a middle-class life.  From the essay:
The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.
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So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.
What we can’t do is get where we need to go just by giving workers college degrees, which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don’t exist or don’t pay middle-class wages.
It seems to me that the huge move within the past 30 years for everyone to get a college degree actually contributed to this situation.  The oversupply and abundance of BAs created the required BA for many jobs that did not previously need them.  This in turn boosts requirements all across the board as American tried to out-compete themselves.

Boosting the wages and quality of all jobs is vital. The blogosphere seems to only recognize unions as the way forward to good wages.  Unions are fine and needed in many places.  But there is more we can do: how about more co-ownership, stock sharing and everyone-in plans not unlike what some Silicon Valley companies have done.  In addition, a social safety net that put a floor on poverty would allow us to actually upgrade all jobs in incremental ways such as vacations, time off, and green methods that make jobs safer.  We need all jobs to be good jobs. Job sharing and flex-time all over with more time off would help the economy and people.

Mass schooling (not to be confused with learning) creates the credentialism that is actively harming most kids as they try to get what it takes for a job even as debt loads explode.  People are attending community colleges that teach remedial classes designed to overcome the poor classes previously taken.  Mass schooling creates good jobs in administering mass schools.  Credential manufacturing also inflates the worth of the credentialed and it is a game for the elite.
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