Education is THE Economic Issue of Our Time

cool hand lukeApplying Input-Output Logic Heuristically to Detail a Program Responsive to President Obama’s Assertion—“Education is THE Economic Issue of Our Time”—and to Develop Public Enthusiasm for Implementing Such a Program

In the few weeks since President Obama so emphatically linked his education program to his effort to revive the US political economy, the President has not been pressed to detail either the substance of his education program or his procedure for winning support from a public that is increasingly cynical, skeptical, frightened, and angry. More importantly, Mr. Obama’s opponents have not yet cornered him with the politically sensitive question, “And what do you propose to do when the most recent unemployment compensation program expires?”, ready to trump any temporizing reply from the President with the politically damaging reply: “Surely you have something more substantive than just renewing that program again!”

This article borrows from the logic of economic sectors already used in National Income Accounting, and especially in the intermediate product portion of Input-Output analysis, to identify a logically consistent set of educational opportunities that is sufficiently coherent, comprehensive, expansive, visionary, and sound both to restore the economy itself and to revitalize public confidence in President Obama’s ability to turn the economy around. It should be emphasized that the proposed approach draws on these two economic practices heuristically; that is, for their internal logic, rather than for any mathematical operations often associated with them. In other words, these categories are used in ways that are accessible to common citizens.

The basic idea proposed here is relatively straightforward, once you know it is there. It begins with the categories used in National Income Accounting, which are treated as having been constructed to be both all-encompassing of economic activity. They are also treated as having been constructed to be mutually exclusive. (Because their usage is limited to heuristics, these conditions need not be met precisely here.)

With these preliminaries, then, the idea is to use the intermediate product cells (basically, value added elements) of Input-Output Table to identify “teach the teacher” opportunities available in the short run and “up-educating” opportunities for teachers teaching workers in the longer run. Additionally, researchers familiar with particular cells would observe efforts undertaken in their “cells of expertise”, and a team of non-specialists would work with a “cell experts”, in an attempt to resist discipline-grounded cooptation.

If funding is short or timing becomes crucial, the President could prioritize some categories higher than others, deflecting challenges advanced under the banner of “Free-Market Anti-Industrial Policy” on fundamental grounds: to twist Cool Hand Luke: What we have here is already a market failure to communicate.

Robert A. Letcher, PhD

Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D describes himself as “an academic with a disability instead of a portfolio, a writer, and a Qigong practitioner who tries to help people learn”.

Published by the LA Progressive on September 13, 2010
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About Robert Letcher

Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D. is a political economist who describes himself as "an academic without portfolio, writer, political activist, and Qigong practitioner who tries to help people learn".