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Investing in Education Creates More Than Twice as Many Jobs as Military Spending

"Even on strictly economic terms, on job creation terms, invest in education. ... It's the single best route to creating jobs right now."

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NOOR: Bob, so it's good to hear that in Europe the discussion is at least slightly moving away from austerity. But it seems like, as you said, in the U.S. on a federal level and at a local level, you take a look at what's happening in public schools around the country, the idea is still you have to close these schools down, let go of teachers. Why is that--this discussion, this revision of our justifications for austerity, why hasn't it come over to the U.S. yet on a local or federal level?

POLLIN: Well, you know, the case in Europe is still hovering. It's not like the official government positions are, oh, we've given up on austerity, now we're going to promote expansion and target employment. What we've seen, though, is a turning of the corner in that the European Commission has said, we are going to temporarily relax the austerity conditions. So that's just a turning of the corner.

Where are we in the U.S.? I think we might be more or less in the same place, though we haven't seen enough evidence. Yes. So what we're still seeing in the U.S., as you mentioned: we're still seeing cuts in public education. Now, this is bad on its own terms. Public education is a foundation of any democratic society. And it's also bad in terms of jobs. Spending on education is one of the best ways to create jobs, and it's maybe the best way insofar as we already have an infrastructure in place called the system of public education at the state level, at the level local level. And when you spend $1 million on education, you're going to create 27 jobs. Compare that with spending on the military. You spend $1 million in the military, you create 11 jobs. So you create two and a half times more jobs per dollar of expenditure by investing in education. And the most extensive system of education we have, obviously, is public education, to say nothing of the good it does for the community and for young people to have a decent public school in the community.

So we must reverse this thinking that somehow public education is a drag on economic well-being, that they need austerity in public education. Quite the opposite. Even on strictly economic terms, on job creation terms, invest in education, invest in public education. It's the single best route to creating jobs right now.

NOOR: Now, how much of the blame for this can we lay at the feet of the Republicans, when in many cases you have the Obama administration pushing these same policies on a federal level and places like in Chicago where you have a Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, doing the same exact thing, closing 50 public schools this year?

POLLIN: Yeah, I place the blame at least equally with the Democrats, because, maybe naively, I would think the Democrats would know better. Democrats historically have been the party of public education, have been the party of Social Security, so they should be much less inclined to support these kind of cuts as a matter of principle.

Now we have evidence. The Social Security Trust Fund has come up with its own evidence that the notion of a crisis in the Social Security financing system is greatly diminished, if it ever existed at all. This is from the Social Security Trust Fund.

With respect to public education, I mean, the fiscal deficit is coming down--too fast in my view. But in any case, if we want to create jobs in the economy, you invest in education. Education, as I said, creates 29 jobs or 28 jobs per $1 million of expenditure. Military creates 11. So two and a half times more jobs per dollar of expenditure. So why would we be cutting education now when we're trying to fight unemployment? The answer is: we shouldn't. And the Democrats should be the ones standing up fighting for that. In fact, as you said, for example, in Chicago we're still talking about closing schools. We shouldn't be closing schools. We should be expanding schools. We should be improving schools. It should be a cornerstone of the recovery.

 
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