Feature

Has the U.S. simply gone too soft?

Are we still an industrious people? Or have we become too soft to dirty ourselves making and selling things? asked David Brooks in The New York Times?

David BrooksThe New York Times

America has too many mortgage brokers and office workers, and too few machinists, said David Brooks. About two out of three Americans believe the country is in economic decline, and that is largely true: “Today’s economic problems are structural, not cyclical.” What’s the primary problem? After decades of affluence and rising educational levels, the U.S. has become a nation of lawyers, financiers, consultants, and white-collar office workers—people who move wealth and information around, but do not create things that Americans or those in other nations want to buy. We’ve “drifted away from the hard-headed practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place.”

Hardly any ambitious young person leaves college to manage a factory or a small business anymore. But as they line up for more prestigious jobs as information workers and investment bankers, “manufacturing firms can’t find skilled machinists.” If manufacturers and other employers could find Americans with the practical skills they needed, one economist has estimated, the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent, not 9.6 percent.

Are we still an industrious people? Or have we become too soft to dirty ourselves making and selling things?

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