The student crisis is not like any crisis this country has seen. It’s not a natural disaster like a hurricane, a medical pandemic like MRSA, or even an inability to stay competitive in the global economy. This is, in fact, man-made. To explain, a national innovation system has three parts, basically schools, companies, and customers. In a functioning system, customers tell companies what they want and companies ask schools to educate students to produce what customers demand. The companies are merely a go-between, and when they decide they don’t want to do that anymore, you get what we have today in the United States.

Too many Wall Street asset managers and finance professionals with similar experience have become directors and even CEOs of large nonfinancial corporations. They aren’t just at banks and insurance companies but places that are supposed to produce actual tangible items and also provide services. However, they know that they are beholden to Wall Street via their fiduciary duty to constantly raise earnings per share. As such, each line item on the income statement, to them, no longer represents a real product, an actual person getting paid a salary or getting fired, a tax that actually pays for something like roads and bridges and healthcare and so on, but just an input that either raises or lowers EPS. This abrupt divorce from reality, coupled with all the money in the world to set the rules however they want, has caused the national innovation in this system to fall apart.

We now have educated students who can’t find jobs because providing a job is not really a priority of that asset manager-turned CEO. The priority is earnings per share, no matter how it gets done. In short, the CEO may be blind or may be a jerk, but either way, it’s all about not spending money, even when that money could create ten times more money in the future. That initial dip in earnings per share is seen as a violation of the most basic rule of business–don’t piss off Wall Street–and since they’re longest time horizon is two years and is often shorter than six months, it’s not important to invest in anything with a payback period longer than year. Without getting into much detail, employee training programs have that kind of payback period. So, yeah, you get it. We suck because, as humans, we take too long to turn a profit because, ya know, robots don’t have to sleep or eat, and we do.

14 comments

  1. Great article shedding light on these economic issues. Outstanding student loan debt is like a house of cards that will eventually collapse. A key phrase in your article is “fiduciary duty to constantly raise earnings per share”, which will always create great wealth and great poverty, as one cannot exist without the other in a credit-based economy that strives for infinite growth.

  2. I have a slightly different take on this.

    (1) Executives at companies with more than 1,000 employees have little control over what their companies do, other than buying and selling components. Ask them what R&D in any of their divisions is doing on a particular day — no clue. One of my assignments in trying to turn around a troubled company was to find out what projects were underway and which ones might have so real value in the future (value as in the ability to create revenue). Management didn’t know.

    (2) Technology has changed the relationship between workers and product. We simply don’t need all of the workers to produce the same amount of stuff. Instead, we need creativity to help find new stuff to make.

    (3) Unfortunately, there’s a lag in communications between markets, companies, schools and students. Part of our problem is having too many people lacking skills or with obsolete skills (e.g., COBOL programmers). Finishing high school should not be optional for anyone. Nor should at least a two-year college degree. However, we need to strengthen adult learning and teach people that stopping learning is economic suicide.

    (4) Hand-in-hand with item (3), basic college education should be free, as it is in much of the rest of the world (Europe, the Middle East, China, etc.). That reform takes care of the debt issue.

    Unfortunately, US politics is dominated by a small cadre of rich and greedy who place themselves above law and country, and make the rules in Congress. That’s why a thinking person has to consider seriously the idea of living someplace else. Upwards of 3% of US citizens now live in another country (that excludes military/government workers stationed offshore). Free healthcare (in many cases, better healthcare), free education, lower food and housing costs are powerful incentives.

  3. Reblogged this on sportyoldude and commented:
    I worked up to three jobs as a student just to feed myself and put a roof over my head, and that was in 70″s when tuition was a lot cheaper. part of the reason for the inflated tuitions is the NCAA a pernicious parasite that sucks the money out of schools and universities and gives little in return. they are listed as a non profit an insult to anyones intelligence.

  4. I would like to thank you for following my blog. Although our beliefs may not overlap at times, it is people like you, with an open mind and accepting heart, that give me hope in the other sides of the political spectrum.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you’re here. I certainly want to learn about everybody, and when there’s something that doesn’t seem to add up, I don’t run away from it. I ask about it.

      Please share your thoughts about any of my posts and any additional information you may have. You’re welcome here.

  5. I’m still waiting on a national politician willing to push hard on exactly the points you make here. Someone to make it their central issue. Elizabeth Warren is the closest it seems.

    I mean, these are huge problems that can damage a society long term. But most politicians either openly dismiss or at a minimum pay lip service. It’s frustrating.

    1. Thank you, Jon. I support Senator Warren’s opinion on a number of issues. Another is wage theft, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

      It may be a complex issue, the more likely scenario is the one that you’ve presented. I don’t know that no one cares, but I think they still have this bygone ethos that “everything will work out in the end.” The younger generations can’t justify that outlook.

      Despite what baby boomers say about us, we’re actually MORE responsible than them, and we want some assurances. We’re tired of analogies to “bootstraps” and “grindstones,” and I don’t want to ever hear the word “sticktuitiveness” again. We want data. We want action. We want something real. Who’s going to give that to us is anyone’s guess, but Elizabeth Warren is on my short list of nominees for the ticket in 2020.

    1. Thank you for your comment. That’s a good plan. It’s expensive.

      Debt is inevitable for so many and you may never work in the field you study. Might as well study what makes you happy. That may be the only silver lining.

      I recommend studying in an expensive city to maximize salary potential at nearby employers.

    2. Actually the cost of living in AZ is reasonable and we’ve just approved a $12/hour minimum wage. ASU is also improving its education model.

    3. If she’s staying there, she’s set. ASU merged with Thunderbird, a gradschool I looked at out there. Several of my high school classmates went to ASU or UofA. One even went to NAU.

      I’m happy about the AZ minimum wage increase. I talk about that in last week’s post about Wage Theft. That’s the best solution. We know what we need: give us a living wage, and we’ll take care of the rest.

      I’d be interested to know how much local coverage Arpaio is getting. There’s a national spotlight there, and I’ve certainly written about immigration in general at least four times on TrumpDiaries alone, but sometimes people in distant states are more concerned about certain issues than are the locals.

    4. Thanks for letting me know. From what I’ve read, issuing a pardon is determining that someone is guilty so it doesn’t matter whether the defendant pleads guilty or not. However, given that pardons don’t require any reason and that they are irreversible, no one’s really cares about the details.

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