Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tom Friedman Is Still Earning A Great Living By Retelling The Same False Story

Rather than telling us what he learned from his latest trip, Tom Friedman took advantage of US test results in math and science to retell his flat earth story.  The flat earth story is that every nation is engaged in a competition for the high paying jobs that require math and science skills.  Therefore, the only way that the US can remain competitive with the rest of the world is to win the education race. The results from the international PISA tests indicate that the US education is underperfoming in turning out math and science achievers.  This has been happening for a long time so he gets to warn us about this problem annually.

Friedman tells us that it is no longer possible for workers with average cognitive skills to earn middle class wages.  The only high wage jobs in the future will be high cognitive skill jobs that also require imagination.  We need to turn out more Bill Gates and Steve Jobs so that they can create the jobs of the future.  Apparently, he believes that Bill Gates who dropped out of Harvard, and Steve Jobs who did not spend much time in college, are the kind of people that our education system needs to produce. That does not square very well with his flat earth story, and his critique of our education system.  Moreover, it is not clear that any education system could produce more Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  Our top colleges do produce graduates that are highly skilled in math and science.  Unfortunately, an increasing share of them look for higher paying jobs on Wall Street.  They don't help to create many new jobs.

Friedman also demonstrates his objectivity and his superior knowledge of the flat earth by criticizing Republican and Democratic politicians.  Democrats, for example, don't seem to be interested in turning out the geniuses that we need to compete with the rest of the world.  They prefer to redistribute income from achievers to non-achievers.  They should be more interested in increasing the size of the economic pie.  That is we need more job creators like Mitt Romney has suggested.

Since everyone does not have Tom Friedman's opportunity to earn a high income by telling the same story about globalization over and over again, we need a better understanding of where the jobs will be 10 years from now.  The chart in this link, produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Friedman has a poor understanding of the labor market.  Most of high growth job markets are in lower paying service jobs.  There is not enough demand in high tech fields to restore the middle class jobs that have been lost by the globalization of manufacturing.

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