Chinese president Hu Jintao has almost completed his 4-day hang in DC with President Barack Obama. The two of them inked a snazzy little $45 billion trade agreement that won’t do much for working Americans, but will help both leaders improve their image with US consumers and job seekers.

Here’s a great post by former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, that explains exactly why this big deal isn’t a very big deal. Read the whole thing when you get a chance, but here is the part that resonated most with me.

China has a national economic strategy designed to make it, and its people, the economic powerhouse of the future. They’re intent on learning as much as they can from us and then going beyond us (as they already are in solar and electric-battery technologies). They’re pouring money into basic research and education at all levels. In the last 12 years they’ve built twenty universities, each designed to be the equivalent of MIT.

Their goal is to make China Number one in power and prestige, and in high-wage jobs.

The United States doesn’t have a national economic strategy. Instead, we have global corporations that happen to be headquartered here. Their goal is to maximize profits, wherever they can make the most money. They’ll make things in America for export to China when that’s most profitable; they’ll make it in China and give the Chinese their know-how when that’s the best way to boost the bottom line. They’ll utilize research and development wherever around the world it will deliver the biggest bang for the dollar.

Meanwhile, Republicans and deficit hawks are cutting publicly-supported R&D. And cash-starved states are cutting K-12 education, and slashing the budgets of their great public research universities, such as the one I teach at.

The bottom line? China has a national economic strategy that is based in the understanding that education will make them the economic powerhouse of the present and future. The US has no national economic strategy, and is cutting investments in education to the detriment of its middle and working classes.

When are we going to learn that investment in education is our best ticket out of this economic quagmire? Never if we keep closing schools and cutting higher ed spending.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *