Enough money

How much money is “enough”???

Significant accomplishments in our American past by young people who had talent, energy, enthusiasm, and total commitment but who were without formal academic credentials are simply too numerous to record. We are so much under the spell of the new scholasticism that we often forget that the building of this country down nearly to the close of the last century was to a large extent accomplished without benefit of degrees and diplomas.
There is a mistaken notion that schooling and education are the same thing. They are not. Schooling is, or should be, only a minor and specialized part of the larger educational process.
This is neither to reject formal academic training nor to deny its worth within limits, but to insist that it is not the only way; that it is not for everyone all the time.
It should hardly be necessary to say that the educational needs of different individuals are different and differ at different periods of their lives. Some are never comfortable or fully productive in a classroom setting. Some are not ready for it at the appointed time. Others outgrow it quickly.
And some need to expend physical energy and to manipulate the physical environment, thinking with their hands and the muscles of their backs, as it were, as well as their heads, and reaping enormous satisfaction when they get tangible results as successful craftsmen and builders.
John Gardner — founder of Mystic Seaport Museum, speaking at the National Small Craft Conference, spring 1978

Economic Stimulus

Apparently, the Biden administration has chosen to kick the political football of a $15 minimum wage a little further down the road, in favor of a $1400 stimulus check for qualifying households. We need both. The stimulus check is intended as a jump-start for an economy that has failed dramatically during a year of layoffs and shut-downs. This has been particularly hard on lower-income workers. Those without jobs need the unemployment benefits, and a minimum wage is a moot point when you don’t even have a job.

With a $15/hr. minimum wage … an average worker would earn $30k/yr. gross (40 hours/week x 50 weeks/year = 2000 hours x $15/hour = $30k). Let’s assume that every worker has the potential to work for at least forty years, between high school graduation and age 62 (earliest qualifier for social security). Multiplying that out, a worker fully employed at minimum wage for forty years would generate $1.2 million over a working lifetime (adjusted for inflation) most of which goes directly into the economy. That’s a floor, not a ceiling. Many people, given the opportunity, will do much better.

If we allowed everyone a five-year grace period between high school graduation and beginning their work career, the clock would start at age 22, thus 40 years until retirement. The way a young person chooses to spend those five years is critical to their earning potential. There’s an old axiom that a young man either goes “to college, to jail, or to the army.”

Our society has pretty much succumbed to the shibboleth that a college degree is the best way to improve one’s chances of employment. There may have been times and places where that was unequivocally true, but it simply isn’t anymore. A bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee a job, and anyone who chooses to pursue a masters degree or a PHD, has to factor in the 200 or more applicants competing for many of those jobs.

I live amongst career academics, most of whom have become deeply cynical about higher education: “Bulls**t …Mores**t … Piled Higher&Deeper!” or “…knowing more and more about less and less, until you know practically everything about nothing at all!” Integrity and academic rigor have been sacrificed for money.

Other Directions

An old friend spent a couple of years in state prison for a marijuana conviction.He refers to that setting as “graduate school”, an opportunity to review one’s mistakes, make valuable connections, and learn how to be a more successful criminal. He has a point. Some prisons allow inmates to pursue GED’s or college-level courses, or work in a woodshop.

Depending on one’s ambitions and the abilities of a recruiter, it is possible to get a good education in the military, while getting paid and not racking up debt. The Swiss have long since perfected their system, in which every able-bodied young person is required to spend at least two years in the military. In exchange, they get education and health care, social connections and many other benefits. Of course, OMFG, that is Socialism!

Green New Deal

Now, President Biden has signed an executive order on climate policy, which includes an initiative to create a Climate Conservation Corps, part of a larger policy called the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is modeled on the Roosevelt-era New Deal, which effectively bootstrapped rural Americans out of the devastation of the Great Depression.

“Anything we can do, We can afford!” John Maynard Keynes

The Green New Deal, like Roosevelt’s New Deal, intends to use public debt rather than private debt, a model conceived by John Maynard Keynes. His ideas were rejected by the architects of the post-World War One Treaty of Versailles, but adopted by Roosevelt after he was elected to the presidency in 1932. Based on our history, we know that Keynes economic theories actually work.

By the same metric, we know that the economic theories of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School do not work. Friedman was the architect of Ronald Reagan’s infamous “trickle down” economics, and of the Bush-era axiom that “a rising tide floats all boats.” Didn’t work then … still doesn’t.

Alan Greenspan was a disciple of Friedman (Greenspan was also a disciple of Ayn Rand). Greenspan sat on his hands while the sub-prime fiasco spun out of control, then argued in favor of bailing out the “too big to fail” banks who were responsible for creating the problem. Guess they learned their lesson, huh?

3 Million Jobs

So, the Green New Deal is primed to create 3 million jobs in environmental and energy conservation. If those 3 million workers are paid $15/hr. that’s $90 billion a year that flows through them back into the economy.

The workers will have benefits (workers compensation, health care, FICA, etc.), and there will be administrative costs. Another 25–50%, so let’s assume that the entire debt for employing and educating 3 million young people might cost us as taxpayers $120–150 billion a year. To improve the environment, take some positive steps toward renewable energy, and educate an entire generation. That’s less than 1/10th of $1.9 trillion.

It won’t stop at 3 million.

Developing human capital, at that scale, will inevitably have a ripple effect. If we can support this effort, this Climate Consevation Corps, we will see a Renaissance. And that, my fellow Americans, is long overdue. I’m in, are you?




Carpenter: woodcarver with a bent for typography, music, poetry, good design & living well in peace and harmony. Un-apologetically Southern; literate…

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michael langford

michael langford

Carpenter: woodcarver with a bent for typography, music, poetry, good design & living well in peace and harmony. Un-apologetically Southern; literate…

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