If the United States is really serious about competing with the work-centered countries of Asia, the key lies not in more government programs, but in restoring America’s own work-centered culture. The first step toward accomplishing this is to end the over-subsidization of higher education, which creates incentives for many to postpone work.
As the Occupy Wall Street protests have exposed, the United States already has vast numbers of underemployed, indebted young people who have college degrees, but few marketable skills. If we want to correct this problem we need to make the period after high school more focused on work and not an unnecessary extension of adolescence.
That’s not to say that we don’t need higher education—the current system works well for many young people. But the relentless push for more graduates, with all the attendant over-selling and over-subsidizing, needs to end. We can no longer afford it.
Since World War II, higher education has steadily drawn people away from the workforce.