Bridging a Great Divergence

Alana Semuels at The Atlantic posted a somewhat gloomy assessment of American life, entitled “America’s Great Divergence.” America is separating into different spheres denominated not by race or ethnicity, but by education, and so implicitly, by rural v. urban. In one sense it’s the old problem of how do you keep the kids on the farm?

Jason Ellis wonders if this only one more skewing to the four-year college.

The problem with these statistics is that “college degree” includes Physicians and Nuclear Engineers just as much as the 24 year old with $70,000 in debt and a degree in Literature from a private college who is working at Starbucks. In other words, it’s skewed and a 4 year degree isn’t for everyone regardless what the Higher Ed lobby wants you to think.

That skew is the problem. Post secondary education, whether as a two-year associates or in its variety of certifications is an option that is underplayed (and under-funded).  What Semuels misses  is that the nature of start-up culture is actually distributed, an archipelago of tech, not unlike the way industrialization was spread throughout the midwest. James Fallows at The American Futures project has a lot to say on this.

Technical education, iow, is the key for a longer term  development.
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A culture of work?

Meanwhile at Get Religion, George Conger picks up Mitt Romney’s comments in Israel the other day.

The Romney campaign appears to have been unhelpful and their man comes off badly from their actions. Yet what is also missing is an inquiry by the Post into Prof. David Landes and his book — which would go a long way toward answering the question of “what is culture?”.
And it is here was have the ethical and religious ghosts to this story for Landes’ book places great stress on the role of religion in economic development.

To be fair, Conger is also quite explicit that he’s not trying to diminish the role of the Israeli security state with respect to the Palestinians. Still…

Certainly part of the difficulty about the culture critique would be its implicit assumption that both sides are starting at roughly the same point. The problem of Israel’s security efforts (and settlement building) basically precludes making that assumption.

As a test case, one might ask how Christian refugees from the region have fared. Apparently, in a land of freedom they do quite well, becoming political leaders, industrial leaders and the like. If they succeed here, then the assumption that the differences in outcomes between Israelis and Palestinians derives from culture would not particularly stand. (A more cynical mind might even think that the turn to culture is more a function of American political rhetoric than deriving from analysis of the actual situation on the ground).

Additional Note

Marc Tracy at The New Republic anchors Romney’s remarks in richer, ongoing political context.

This has all been beneath the surface—until now. With Israeli “culture” out in the open, Romney has laid the groundwork to use Israel as merely the beachhead for a full frontal attack on Obama’s values and even Americanness. While Israel remains relatively parochial as a political issue, this link between culture and economics is anything but. And, as James Fallows reminds us, it’s been nearly 50 years since Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out, “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.” Moynihan was a Democrat, but through the early neoconservatives this “conservative truth” became a Republican talking point, one that evolved into such a winner that the only Democratic president to win re-election since its advent first had to sign a welfare reform law that was in many ways the fullest realization of that conservative truth.

 

Peter, Peter . . .

Peter Hoekstra came out with a doozy of an ad at Super Bowl, one that has unfortunately for him gone viral.

Meanwhile at MLive Commentator Bottomtime1 can’t see the problem

 Forget the ad, the Bottom line is Stabenow has to go, just like Obama has to go. Liberalism, Socialism aren’t working. It’s time for someone new, a Conservative to come in and clean up the Mess made by Liberals all over this Country.

An ad like this betrays a fundamental lack of smarts: if it’s satire, it’s mighty weak stuff. If it is about the Chinese (or East Asian) trade imbalance, it’s off target. We don’t have the trade imbalance because we spend too much on rice. bluntly, had she been on an assembly line, or inside a factory it would have had more edge. As has been pointed out by others, the reason for the trade deficit in part lies from our preference to pay for the war with debt. The fiscal policies that then-Representative Hoekstra passed are the ones that helped drive the very imbalance he apparently decries.

(And there is the odd, Viet Nam vibe to the whole this something of a dog whistle to the old guard right.)