Some thoughts here.
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I don’t like the notion of equating skills with education level. I think it’s confusing correlation with causation. Dropping out of high school in today’s world is typically a symptom of one or more pathologies on the part of a particular individual that need to be addressed. Too many college graduates at this point are pretty much skill-less, AND are burdened with substantial amounts of debt that seriously hampers their options.
I’m not sure I like the notion that we should somehow increase incentives for “low-skilled” workers to just move, as if that will solve their problems. That certainly won’t help the depressed regions they leave behind. Upstate New York doesn’t have to be a depopulated wasteland with a few casinos. There must be more proactive answers.
Certainly the tax code needs a massive overhaul. Even Dems recognize this, though they don’t seem to do it consistently. The problem is how to reform the system in ways that aren’t rigged in favor of the already powerful (tax breaks that are sold as being pro-business by means of encouraging building development are of course really just–wait for it–encouraging building development and enriching said developers).
I think the GOP needs to work hard to educate people on how little they are taking home relative to how much they cost their employer. When you add in the cost of health insurance and other benefits plus all the taxes paid, you only take home a small fraction of what you are costing your employer. This is especially true for lower-end workers, since health insurance premiums don’t scale up with income. I don’t think people appreciate this reality at all.
Brian, you are totally right in your first point. The common use of educational attainment as a proxy for skills is problematic, but I haven’t figured out a better way to talk about it.
Whatever the pathologies of the less-than-high school graduation population, policies that further depress the wages of the jobs available to them seem like a bad idea.
I don’t see why relocation vouchers are not, in themselves, a good idea. They might not address why demand for a category of workers might be declining in a locale, but they can help workers find new work. States and regions can still look into whatever is causing their economic decline (and they will vary).
Agree with the last paragraph.
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