Tie this to the remarks last week of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan at a financial conference at Boston College. An Associated Press story in the Detroit Free Press (not carried in local papers) quoted Greenspan’s report that while wages for high-skill workers have risen, real wages for low-skill workers have been stagnant — for 20 years. He said that suggests that the country is producing a shortage of high-skill workers and a surplus of low-skill workers.
Greenspan was quoted as saying, “Some have a gnawing sense that our problems may be more than temporary and that the roots of the problem may extend back through our education system.” One of those hollering those very facts has been U.S. Sen. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, who has consistently in each term pushed for more math and science education funding. Were his fellows to listen, Ehlers could add a fact to the argument on a subject of growing interest: According to VAI’s study, the life sciences industry, which includes 22 major occupations, pays an average of $16,000 more a year than the U.S. mean annual wage.
Ehlers might quote Greenspan, whose most profound statement as reported emphasized, “Time and again throughout our history, we have discovered that attempting merely to preserve the comfortable features of the present, rather than reaching for new levels of prosperity, is a sure path to stagnation.” Would either of the presidential candidates listen to Greenspan (and we would bet on Bush) there might be a real turn of perception and understanding among voters. That either of them would allow blame for the current circumstance of change only spins the circle wider to be forever unending, even while business in America continues on the road to prosperity.
It will not happen easily, however, unless Ehlers is heard. At a time of pending labor shortages in this country, one worries that the educational talent of U.S. students will not match that of their counterparts from around the world. What work will then be left to a labor force of any size?