Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Marco Rubio Accidentally Stumbles On an Important Truth about the American Economy

During last night's Republican debate Senator Marco Rubio said,
For the life of me I don't know why we stigmatize vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders than philosophers.
Matt Yglesias, a former philosophy major, decided to check, and he found that this is not true at all. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary of a welder in America is $37,240, whereas the mean annual salary of a philosophy professor is $71,350.

Broadening the question to include all college philosophy majors produces the graph above; as a rough estimate you could call the peak salary of the average philosophy major something like $58,000, whereas that of a high school graduate is under $35,000.

These numbers underscore the dramatic decline of the skilled working man in American life over the past 40 years. We are so used to thinking that skilled workers can earn good wages that even a smart, well-informed man like Marco Rubio will unthinkingly assert that welders earn more than philosophers. But they don't. It may be true that we need more welders than philosophers, and that welders are more important to our economy than philosophers, but we certainly don't pay them like they are.

America has decided that skilled working men are expendable. Corporate executives routinely lay off welders, move welders' jobs to China, cut welders' pay, close whole factories at the twitch of a number in one of their spreadsheets, but they never lay themselves off or cut their own pay. And that, Senator Rubio, is why we stigmatize vocational education.

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