18 June 2012

We're All Running Backs Now

It is widely understood that NFL running backs have a very short worklife one source says, 2.57 years. After that, worthless and off to the scrap heap. One part of the Right Wingnuts' meme is that if only folks had appropriate skills (from for-profit "schools", of course!), they'll get rich. Well, sort of. While I can't recall specific cites, there've been studies done since about 1980 debunking the American Dream, upward mobility for all, myth.

Recently, Joseph Stiglitz (smarter than Krugman and with more bite) published this book. Have a look at the Table of Contents, and you'll see that the last 100 pages is notes, including data sources. There have been a host of reviews. Try this one on for size.

What all this has to do with NFL running backs? First, running backs are very well paid, but are a vanishingly small percent of the population; dedicating an education regime to "empower" ghetto kids to be running backs doesn't make much sense; nor for any low count job. Education, which isn't the same as vocational training, is said to be the solution to the mess, but consider that all too many 40-plus professionals have found their careers ended by cheap, young Indians. Why would an 18 year old not see that handwriting on the wall? Society will fracture even further if the army of the unemployed is better educated, and done so on the promise of upper-middle class prosperity. In fact, the number of math and science majors (proportional to population) has declined. Here's a story dealing with part of the issue. And this is a Time magazine piece.

Second, age discrimination is rampant. In the late 19th century, shops had signs, "No Irish Need Apply". Now, it's "No Adults Need Apply". We're all running backs; you have to make a lifetime's worth of income before you're 30. I wish they told me that when I was 20.

Even that Right Wingnut bastion, "The Wall Street Journal" adds some fuel to the fire. "Although the number of college graduates increased about 29% between 2001 and 2009... The number with computer and information-sciences degrees decreased 14%." It shouldn't come as any surprise; IT jobs are among the most off-shored. One Kiddie Koder of my acquaintance noted that his age-mates were bailing from IT, or not entering at all, back in 2005. We worked at a Fortune 100 company that was shedding Americans for Indians at breakneck pace. Kids notice; they aren't quite as stupid as some think. Another quote: "'If you're a high math student in America, from a purely economic point of view, it's crazy to go into STEM,' says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown center."

These articles also touch on something I've noticed, again, in quant texts: rather than take an apprenticeship tack (here's how to do X, then how to do Y, and so on), there is this need to build a "foundation" of disconnected principles, which may or may not be connected (among themselves or even to the vocation being studied) sometime much later. After a couple of classes of this, they bail. If they want to get rich, they become banksters. I've mentioned a few times that my historical profession, economics, was overrun by failed PhD mathsters starting as far back as the 1970's. Not sure that being an associate econ professor is the road to riches, but an unfinished math PhD is worth much less.

So, we get to the nub. I read this article when it came out, but didn't get around to writing about it. In fact, I've been worried about just such attacks for sometime. The "Don't Bother Me with Reality" forces are evil. Now's the time. The Cheney "we don't need no reality" meme will get implemented if Mitt is It. The only way to shut up guys like Stiglitz is to shut off the data. The Right Wingnuts will do it. With no data, the argument devolves to propaganda, and the Wingnuts have shown that they're better at it than Democrats.

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