The Biggest Threat to the CHIPS Act? The Green Left

The recent passage of the CHIPS act, a $280 billion dollar subsidy, may prove a giant boondoggle. But it also reflects a critical shift in US economic policy away from neoliberal free trade policies to a more nationalistic industrial policy.

This trend may have started with President Trump, but his successor — along with leaders of both parties — have moved in this direction too. The earlier passage of The BuyAmerican.gov Act, the Make PPE in America Act, and the banning of the importation of Chinese products made with forced labour in Xinjiang, reflect this new dynamic.

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Free Trade’s Heavy Cost

Free trade and open markets are great ideals. These principles, over the last few centuries, but especially since World War II, have created tremendous wealth, particularly in the developing world. But free markets were made for human society, not the other way around.

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Green Dreams, Inflationary Realities

Global policy and politics, particularly in the high-income world, have been obsessed with dreams of a green economy. Imposing ever-more rigid methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the way to “save the planet” is almost unchallenged in the media, academia, and corporate boardrooms of the developed world. The results on the ground have been less convincing, as the price of everything—from energy and food to construction costs—rises to unsustainable levels Read more

Google: Whatever Happened to ‘Don’t Be Evil’?

When Google went public in 2004, it epitomised technological and entrepreneurial genius. Two engineers had developed a remarkably powerful, easy-to-use search engine, opening the doors to vast amounts of knowledge.

The founders proclaimed their motto as ‘Don’t be evil’, which was typical of Silicon Valley’s decades-old techno-optimism. Stewart Brand, writing in Rolling Stone in 1972, claimed that once access to information became universal, it would turn us all into ‘computer bums, all more empowered as individuals and as cooperators’. It would be a new era, Brand continued, of enhanced ‘spontaneous creation and of human interaction’. The ‘early digital idealists’, noted computer scientist and writer Jaron Lanier in 2014, envisioned a ‘sharing’ web that functioned ‘free from the constraints of the commercial order’.

This idyll is no more. Google and the other Big Tech firms are no longer grassroots creators. They’re now oligarchs and monopolists, exerting undue influence on the market and on politics.

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Gavin Newsom Won’t Save the Democrats

Burdened with a decomposing President and a clearly overmatched Vice President, the Democrats are on the hunt for a saviour. For many in the party, Gavin Newsom, the 54-year-old perfectly coiffed Governor of California, seems like the perfect solution. No doubt, given his recent trolling of Florida’s Republican frontrunner Ron DeSantis, he feels the same.

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Why Millennials Are Dropping Out

With inflation soaring, trust in governments plummeting, and the global economy teetering on the brink of collapse, one might expect to see the masses out in the streets, calling for the heads of their rulers. But instead of rage and rebellion, we mostly see apathy. Rather than getting radicalised, people are dropping out.

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Heartland Manufacturing Renaissance

Out in the rolling country just east of Columbus, Ohio, a new—and potentially brighter—American future is emerging. New factories are springing up, and, amid a severe labor shortage, companies are recruiting in the inner city and among communities of new immigrants and high schoolers to keep their plants running. Read more

Class is Back

The growing likelihood of recession, at best sharply lower growth and maybe 1970s-style stagflation, seems likely to further accentuate the class and political divisions already rubbed raw by the pandemic and a global supply crisis. A majority of Americans feel we may be headed for a depression, while Britain is already experiencing negative growth.

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Forget College. Skilled Trades are the Future of the U.S. Economy

America is suffering from a worker shortage, but a more persistent and perhaps even urgent problem is the profound lack of skills among younger Americans. American elite universities may still be still regarded as the world’s best, but for most young people, the educational system—from grade school to graduate school—is something of a failure, a critical engine of persistent inequality and diminished competition on the international stage.

This crisis in competence predates the pandemic. So does the very related labor shortage. The percentage of firms reporting shortages of labor more than doubled between 2015 and 2020, to 70 percent. Low birthrates among millennials has created what the forecasting firm EMSI describes as a “demographic drought,” as U.S. population growth between 16 and 64 has dropped from 20 percent in the eighties to less than 5 percent last decade. By 2028, Korn Ferry projects there will be a deficit of at least six million workers.

But the bigger problem is not just numbers; consider that our competitors, notably China, face even more challenging demographics. The big issue is the lack of skills throughout the workforce. From grade to graduate schools, our education is deteriorating.

Our education system, with its hyper-focus on four-year colleges, has failed its students. This about one staggering statistic: Over the past 20 years, we have created twice as many bachelor’s degrees as jobs to employ those who have earned them. Over 40 percent of recent graduates are underemployed, meaning that they’re working in jobs that don’t require their degree. Many graduate programs produce fancy degrees that never return the investment for an estimated 40 percent of master’s students, particularly those earning degrees outside the sciences, business, medicine and education

Students are getting the message: A survey taken in 2020 found that only a third of undergraduates see their educations as advancing their career goals, and barely one in five think the BA is worth the cost. The basic reality is this: The upfront investment is high (tuition fees for four-year public colleges have increased by an average of 213 percent in real terms between 1988 and 2017) but the return on investment seems to be failing.

It is likely universities may have reached their apogee and are trending down from their high point. A survey from in 2020 found that only a third of undergraduates saw their education as advancing their career goals, and barely one in five think that a bachelor’s degree is worth the cost. The vast majority of young people prioritize such things as finding a good paying job over the social uplift and hefty tuitions associated with four-year colleges. Not surprisingly, overall college enrollment is not simply dropping; it’s fallen a full 11 percent in the past decade.

Increasingly employers recognize the education industry’s failures. Companies like Google and Apple no longer require a college degree and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk treat universities with a skepticism that borders on disdain, calling it “not for learning” and favoring dropouts who “did something.”

Read the rest of this piece at Newsweek.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Washington State DoT via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Green Rope-a-Dope: China Watches as America Greens

The color green has long been associated with envy, but increasingly it’s becoming a pigment of mass delusion. Amid near-hysterical reporting about the climate, the U.S., and much of the West, is embracing willy-nilly policies likely to weaken our economy and boost China’s ascendancy at the expense of democracy and market economies.

In essence, China is adopting a version of the great Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” boxing strategy, which had the opponent wear himself out by launching harmless punches as Ali lounged on the ropes. Then, as the rival began to weaken, Ali would seize the moment and pummel him.

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