Theodore N. Lukits (1897 – 1992)

Fuentes: American GalleryTheodore Lukits web

¿Menos pobres y menos educados?

Por Andrés Oppenheimer.

"Hay tres razones fundamentales por las que los países asiáticos han reducido más la pobreza que los latinoamericanos: la educación, la educación y la educación.

Los países asiáticos han estimulado una cultura de la educación de calidad —acentuando el rigor académico y la internacionalización de sus universidades— que les permite producir bienes cada vez más sofisticados que producen empleos cada vez mejor pagos, mientras que la mayoría de los países latinoamericanos se han concentrado en ampliar la cantidad de niños en la escuela, sin mayor preocupación por la excelencia académica.

Yo también soy optimista con respecto a Latinoamérica: la región tiene la mejor oportunidad de los últimos tiempos de despegar en la escena internacional.
Pero me temo que festejar los nuevos datos sin ponerlos en un contexto mundial —y sin embarcarse en la tarea de mejorar los estándares educativos— sólo conducirá a la autocomplacencia, que es la mayor enemiga de la competitividad y el progreso".

Sunday Reflection: The higher ed bubble is bursting, so what comes next?

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds.

A couple of years back, I suggested in these pages that higher education was facing a bubble much like the housing bubble: An overpriced good, propped up by cheap government-subsidized credit, luring borrowers and lenders alike into a potentially disastrous mess.
Subsequent events have proved me right as students have begun to think twice about indebtedness and schools have begun to face pressure over tuition. For higher education, costs have skyrocketed even as the value of their product has been declining, and people are starting to notice.

Just last week, the New York Times, normally a big fan of higher education, ran an article on "The Dwindling Power of a College Degree." In our grandparents' day, a college diploma nearly guaranteed a decent job.

Now, not so much: "One of the greatest changes is that a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from non-elite schools. A bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability."

This is a simple case of inflation: When you artificially pump up the supply of something (whether it's currency or diplomas), the value drops. The reason why a bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability is that the government decided that as many people as possible should have bachelor's degrees.

There's something of a pattern here. The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we'll have more middle class people.

But homeownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits -- self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. -- that let you enter, and stay in, the middle class.

Subsidizing the markers doesn't produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them. One might as well try to promote basketball skills by distributing expensive sneakers.

Professional basketball players have expensive sneakers, but -- TV commercials notwithstanding -- it's not the shoes that make them good at dunking.

If the government really wants to encourage people to achieve, and maintain, middle-class status, it should be encouraging things like self-discipline and the ability to defer gratification. But that's not how politics works.

Passing out goodies generates more votes, even though doing so undermines the character traits upon which prosperity depends. That may change as the global political class, pretty much everywhere, runs out of other people's money, but it hasn't quite changed yet.

For higher education, the solution is more value for less money. Student loans, if they are to continue, should be made dischargeable in bankruptcy after five years -- but with the school that received the money on the hook for all or part of the unpaid balance.

Up until now, the loan guarantees have meant that colleges, like the writers of subprime mortgages a few years ago, got their money up front, with any problems in payment falling on someone else.

Make defaults expensive to colleges, and they'll become much more careful about how much they lend and what kinds of programs they offer. China, which has already faced its own higher education bubble, is simply shutting down programs that produce too many unemployable graduates.

So far, Sinophile pundits like the New York Times' Tom Friedman don't seem to be pushing this idea for America. I wonder why not.

Another response is an increased emphasis on non-college education. As the Wall Street Journal has noted, skilled trades are doing quite well. For the past several decades, America's enthusiasm for college has led to a lack of enthusiasm for vocational education.

That may be changing as philanthropists ranging from Andy Grove of Intel to Home Depot's Bernie Marcus work to encourage the skilled trades. We need people who can make things, and it's harder to outsource a plumbing or welding job to somebody in Bangalore.

Of course, the thing about skilled trades is that they require skill. Even with training, not everyone makes a good welder or machinist any more than just anyone can become a doctor or lawyer.

And there are dangers in focusing too narrowly on a career path that looks good right now: The biggest constant in the global economy of the past several decades has been wrenching change. Jobs that look great today may not look so good in a few years.

The answer to that, I think, is adaptability. Whether their training is liberal arts, engineering or a trade, most people getting out of high school today will probably have to navigate multiple career paths over a lifetime.

How do we teach adaptability? That's a subject for another column, but you might ask yourself: Are tenured professors the best people to do that?

Source: Mark Perry.

NeG Visual y básico: los problemas de los jóvenes

Por Samuel Bentolila.

Una imagen vale más que mil palabras. Esta es la evolución del empleo, normalizado al valor 100 en el tercer trimestre de 2007 (punto máximo del empleo en la pasada expansión), para el empleo indefinido, el empleo temporal y el empleo temporal de jóvenes (entre 16 y 24 años):

En relación con ese punto de referencia, el empleo indefinido ha caído un 2% y el temporal un 30%, mientras que el empleo temporal de los jóvenes ha caído a la mitad.

El gráfico pone de relieve que la incidencia de la crisis sobre los asalariados indefinidos ha sido relativamente menor, recayendo la inmensa mayoría del ajuste sobre los asalariados temporales (aunque no hay que olvidar a los autónomos, cuyo empleo ha caído un 18%). Esta evolución refuerza la visión de los indefinidos como insiders, protegidos incluso en las crisis más fuertes (al menos hasta ahora). Dentro de los temporales, los más brutalmente afectados por la crisis han sido los jóvenes. La incidencia de la línea roja del gráfico es grande, pues en 2007:3 la tasa de temporalidad en ese grupo de edad era del 65%; en concreto son 610 mil trabajadores.

Seguir leyendo en Nada es Gratis.


Muy interesante este enlace: Empleo Empleo temporal temporal ee inserción inserción laboral laboral de los jóvenes. Lo más destacado es el increíble crecimiento de Corea del Sur en estos últimos 30 años.

A galloping bridge across the Volga river in Volgograd, Russia

How Terrible: Walmart Plans to "Dump" Six Stores, 1,600 Jobs and $21 Million in Charity on Wash. D.C.

By Mark Perry.

Washington, D.C.'s unemployment rate has been rising over the last year, and at 11.1% in September was more than two percent above the 9% jobless rate for the country (which has been falling, see chart above).  Further, more people in the District are now unemployed - 37,034 - than at any other time in the city's history.  So you would think that if an employer promised to bring 1,600 permanent jobs and 600 construction jobs to the city, and also pledged $21 million in charitable donations over the next seven years, that District residents would be thankful, grateful and appreciative, and would welcome that employer with open arms.  

Well, think again if that employer is Walmart, and if the District resident is Washington Examiner columnist Jonetta Rose Barras who editorialized yesterday in a column titled "Occupied by Walmart":

"It was bad enough that District elected officials, particularly Mayor Vincent C. Gray, stood by as Walmart announced its intention to dump six stores into neighborhood commercial corridors, creating an environment ripe for the retail behemoth to bully small businesses. The executive exacerbated that short-sighted economic development strategy by signing the "Community Partnership Initiative."
Despite the peacocking by Gray and others after the agreement was signed, the District is receiving mostly crumbs. Walmart has committed to providing $21 million in charitable donations over the next seven years, an average of $3 million a year. That's a pittance."

MP: So instead of gratitude for the thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars of charity Walmart will bring to the District, Ms. Barras ungratefully describes that as "mostly crumbs" and is outraged because Walmart is "dumping six stores" into the District and giving "only" $21 million in charity to the city??  

I'm pretty sure that most District residents view this differently, and are grateful that Walmart is "dumping" six stores, 1,600 permanent jobs, 600 construction jobs and $21 million on the District.  Especially the 37,000 residents who are unemployed.

Update in response to some of the comments:

A few years ago, when Walmart opened a store on Chicago's west side it created more than 400 good-paying jobs, made the neighborhood safer and helped to revitalize and stabilize the area, which then attracted new stores including a Menards, a CVS pharmacy, two new banks and an Aldi Grocery Store. Local Chicago alderwomen Emma Mitts credited Walmart for attracting many new stores to the neighborhood, and says that "traffic is so heavy on the weekends that it's hard to get up and down the strip, and that's a good thing and I'm so grateful for it."

Although Walmart frequently gets blamed for putting local merchants out of business when it opens a new store, this story provides some evidence to the contrary - by stabilizing a rough area on Chicago's West Side and attracting thousand of customers for "everyday low prices," Walmart actually helped to attract new businesses to this Chicago neighborhood, including direct competitors like Menards, CVS and Aldi. 

In other words, Walmart provides many significantly "positive externalities" and "spillover benefits" to the communities in which it operates, even though it frequently gets more attention for some of the "negative externalities" and "spillover costs" it might impose. For neighborhoods like the west side of Chicago, it sure looks like the positive externalities (jobs, tax revenues, great safety, more commercial activity, etc.) far outweigh any negative externalities.

Will China Stumble? Don’t Bet on It

By Steven Rattner, a contributing writer for Op-Ed and a counselor to the Treasury secretary and lead auto adviser. He is a longtime Wall Street executive.

Hardly a day goes by without news of yet another economic problem facing China. A frothy real estate market. Quickly rising wages. A weakening manufacturing sector. Tightening lending standards. The list can seem endless and frightening.

But after a recent visit to China, I remain staunchly optimistic that it will continue to be the world’s greatest machine for economic expansion. While developed countries bump along with little growth, China’s gross domestic product is expected to increase by 9.2 percent in 2011 and an equally astonishing 8.5 percent next year.

The country pulses with energy and success, a caldron of economic ambition larded with understandable self-confidence. Visit the General Motors plant on the outskirts of Shanghai and watch Buicks churned out by steadily moving assembly lines almost indistinguishable from those in plants in Michigan.

That shouldn’t surprise, as G.M. strives for uniformity across its Chinese facilities. Perhaps more startling is that G.M. achieves American levels of productivity, quality and worker safety — with pay that is a small fraction of levels in the United States.

This illustrates China’s great strength: its ability to relentlessly grind down costs by combining high labor efficiency with wages that remain extraordinarily low. At Foxconn’s largest plant, in Shenzhen, 420,000 Chinese earning about $188 per month assemble electronic components for megacustomers like Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

Often criticized for just being a nation of “assemblers,” China has been increasing the value it adds to exports as more components are produced there. G.M., for example, uses 350 local suppliers.
China’s economic success is colored by its opaque political system, repressive and riddled with corruption. But the unusual mix of authoritarianism and free enterprise should continue to work because of its ability to deliver rising incomes, satisfying a populace that appears more interested in economic advancement than in democracy.

China has a plethora of tasks on its economic to do list, but none are impossibly daunting. Just as in the United States a century ago, jobs are needed for vast numbers of rural migrants moving into cities. Inefficient state-owned companies must be restructured (as they were in recent decades in many European countries). The other evident stresses, like the indisputable property bubble, are manageable and far short of what brought down the American economy.

Meanwhile, an opportunity lurks in China’s seeming inability to create innovative products with international identities. In an era of global corporations, a country that reveres brands, especially luxury ones like BMW and Louis Vuitton but also Starbucks and Häagen Dazs, has yet to give birth to its first.
Lenovo, one of the best-known Chinese companies, has achieved limited success with its 2005 acquisition of IBM’s personal computer business. Astonishingly, Chinese auto companies have the lowest share of their home market of any major country. So China has emphasized building products like ships, where brands don’t matter.

Not unlike the United States in the 19th century, China’s early stage of industrialization has brought with it an unsavory wild West flavor, from cronyism to fraudulent accounting, that justifiably worries investors. But behind those distractions is a country that is investing substantially in its future — about 46 percent of its gross domestic product, compared with 12 percent in the United States.

And while total government debt in China is high — by some estimates, higher than in the United States — much of the Chinese debt was incurred for investment rather than consumption, far better for longer-term growth. Notwithstanding accounts of “roads to nowhere,” China has vastly improved its core infrastructure. Its government arguably does better than ours at allocating capital.

The antipathy of Chinese households toward personal debt (a quarter of homes are bought with cash) has resulted in a savings rate of nearly 40 percent of income, compared with less than 5 percent for Americans.

Underpinned by a reverence for entrepreneurship, China has made starting new businesses easier, paving the way for the accumulation of vast fortunes; there are more billionaires in China than in any country except the United States. (China’s income inequality also rivals that of the United States.)
A gradual move toward reform appears evident. Controls over interest rates, foreign exchange, cooking oil and gasoline, to name a few, are being liberalized. There is even attention to the environment, with tax subsidies for fuel-efficient autos and limits on new-car purchases in the largest cities.

The frustrating mercantilist approach taken by China — it manipulates its currency and trade rules with abandon — has served it well. It has accumulated vast foreign currency reserves ($3.2 trillion and rising) while blocking access to its market and gaining competitive advantages internationally in everything from solar panels to toys. Congressional saber rattling notwithstanding, China is likely to continue to get away with reforming only slowly.

While China hardly lacks challenges, I am betting on its continued success.

Defiant Assad Denies Ordering Bloody Syrian Crackdown

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defiantly denied any suggestion that he has ordered a bloody crackdown against protesters who are demanding that he resign, and claims instead that most of the people who died in the unrest were his supporters and troops.

Assad, whose regime has been condemned by the West, the Arab League and former allies, dismissed suggestions that he step down and scoffed at sanctions being imposed on Syria.

  From ABC news.

Cuatro grandes ejemplos de periodismo desde Siria

Por Jordi Pérez Colomé.

En El Cairo hablé con dos activistas sirios. Cada día mueren docenas de personas allí; se ha vuelto una rutina y pocos hacen ya caso. En el próximo post explicaré qué me dijeron y qué es probable que ocurra.

Mientras, dejo aquí cuatro grandes reportajes rodados dentro de Siria. El régimen deja entrar de vez en cuando a algún periodista extranjero. Pero van acompañados por “escoltas” del gobierno y no pueden ir a las ciudades más asediadas: Homs, Hama, Idlib, Deraa o los suburbios de Damasco.

Además de las imágenes que los activistas graban con sus móviles y cuelgan en internet, algunos periodistas han entrado clandestinamente o como turistas a Siria y han logrado rodar en esas ciudades ayudados por activistas.

El resultado son vídeos de estas últimas semanas que yo veo, pero que no estoy seguro de que hayan circulado por aquí. Por eso he optado por reunirlos aquí. No sé si alguno se habrá emitido en alguna televisión española. Los tres primeros -los mejores- son británicos. El último es norteamericano.

Hoy la británica Sky News ha publicado este reportaje magnífico grabado durante cuatro días en Homs. Los segundos iniciales son increíbles: escenas de vida normal interrumpida por tiros; un niño corre, se le cae el pan y se juega la vida para recogerlo. Buena parte de las imágenes son de Baba Amr, el barrio de Homs controlado por la oposición y rodeado por el ejército.


Seguir leyendo y ver todos los vídeos en Obamaworld.

Comisión cubana de derechos humanos y reconciliación nacional

Algunos actos de represión política registrados en cuba durante noviembre de 2011

(SD: Detenciones de corta duración   AR: Actos de repudio)

Durante el mes de noviembre de 2011 documentamos por lo menos 257 detenciones por motivos políticos a lo largo del país, una cifra semejante al mes anterior y demostrativa de la pésima situación de derechos civiles y políticos que sigue prevaleciendo en Cuba y que habrá de empeorar a corto plazo a menos que el régimen imperante introduzca reformas creíbles en un sistema de leyes que continúa criminalizando el ejercicio de los derechos fundamentales.

Salvo que ocurra un cambio inesperado, pronosticamos mayor represión política durante el mes de diciembre con motivo de celebrarse, el  diez de ese mes, el Día Mundial de los Derechos Humanos, fecha en cuyo entorno el gobierno de Cuba suele desplegar su casi ilimitada capacidad represiva.

Sigue siendo poco conocida por la opinión pública la creciente represión contra toda la sociedad, como resultado de la sistemática violación de todos los derechos civiles y políticos, así como económicos y culturales de la inmensa mayoría de la población.

La violación institucionalizada de la libertad de movimiento de los ciudadanos, ya sea dentro del país o para viajar al extranjero, así como el derecho inalienable de todos los cubanos a regresar libremente a nuestro Hogar Nacional, sin cortapisas totalitarias, constituye uno de los abusos más ultrajantes que sigue cometiendo el régimen de los hermanos Castro, quienes han convertido a Cuba en una especie de isla-prisión.

Como dato positivo mencionamos que disminuyó relativamente el número de presos o condenados por motivos políticos pues el gobierno ha excarcelado, a lo largo del año, a numerosos prisioneros antes de someterlos a juicio.  Solamente en noviembre último excarceló (ya que no se puede hablar de libertad en Cuba), a siete opositores.  A finales de dicho mes habíamos documentado por lo menos 70 casos de condenados o procesados por los llamados “delitos contra el Estado”.

Leer informe completo.

La expedición femenina española

Por Antón Uriarte.

Se puede consultar en internet la lista de los tropecientos y variopintos participantes del concilio de Durban, en Sudáfrica. Qué poderío de lista. Abrumadora. Y abrumante: ¿ qué mentiras y exageraciones contarán para justificar tan inútil y público dispendio ?

Curiosa la expedición española, todo mujeres, y no pocas, catorce. (Les esperarán allí, en Sudáfrica, sin moverse, el embajador, el cónsul, el consejero y un secretario de la embajada, que también están en la lista de participantes).

Casi todas las viajeras, once, pertenecen a la rimbombante Oficina Española del Cambio Climático, que creó Zapatero en unos de esos días de euforia que tenía a veces.

Premio de despedida, un viaje al calorcito de Sudáfrica.

referencia, lista de participantes, vía EcoTretas