Paul Krugman: One of Michael Kinsley's Problem Is That He Is Not Living in the Real 1970s
Ryan Avent: "Mr Cowen's posts, and many other like them by other authors, sometimes look like elaborate efforts to avoid concluding that German inflation-phobia, while totally understandable and rational, looks like a grave moral error in the current econ

Department of "WTF?!?!": Education Gap Weblogging

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

For at least half a generation, liberals--at least liberals that I know--have been hammering on the fact that the stepping-away from the commitment to universal free or nearly-free education has been a long-run disaster for America. With Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz's The Race Between Education and Technology serving as its analytical spearhead, the liberals I know spend lots of time talking about how the pace of technological progress requires a more-educated and thus more-skilled workforce, and about how the rise in college costs starting around 1970 stopped the normal American pattern by which each generation gets much more education in its tracks--with rising income inequality between the 80th and the 20th percentile being a big consequences:

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Solutions proposed vary from having your college costs be an income-contingent grant recaptured from those who earn much in life by a surcharge on your form 1040 to a mammoth federal commitment to universal access to broadband and to free provision of the highest-quality education online.

Some liberals (e.g., Larry Mishel of EPI) go further, and say that rising 80/20 inequality is the result not just of our losing the race between education and technology but also the collapse of labor unions. The Goldin-Katz alliance (or which I am a part) tends to see the collapse of the union movement as a consequence of the loss of the race.

Now comes Timothy Noah to tell me that none of this focus that I see among the liberals I talk to ever happened:

The 1 Percent Are Only Half the Problem: Most recent discussion about economic inequality in the United States has focused on the top 1 percent… that if we would just put a tight enough choke chain on the 1 percent, then we’d solve the problem of income inequality. But alas, that isn’t true, because it wouldn’t address the other half of the story: the rise of the educated class. Since 1979 the income gap between people with college or graduate degrees and people whose education ended in high school has grown….

Conservatives don’t typically like to talk about income inequality. It stirs up uncomfortable questions about economic fairness….

Liberals resist talking about the skills-based gap because they don’t want to tell the working classes that they’re losing ground because they didn’t study hard enough. Liberals prefer to focus on the 1 percent-based gap. Conceiving of inequality as something caused by the very richest people has obvious political appeal…

And it is at this point that I say: "WTF?!?!"

Now let me say that Timothy Noah is one of the very best of mainstream American journalists--he isn't an opinions-of-shape-of-earth-differ-both-liberals-and-conservatives-have-a-point clown uninterested in policy substance who covers our nation from a celebrity-gossip perspective.

But here we have, I think, another example of the Michael Kinsley-Clive Crook disorder: Noah provides no links to and no quotes from "liberals" who "resist talking about the skills-based gap because they don’t want to tell the working classes that they’re losing ground because they didn’t study hard enough". So he winds up just making stuff up--and the New York Times editorial process is sufficiently jelly-like that nobody asks him "who are you talking about?". This produces bad thought.

Indeed, read further down in the article and you find, near the end, links to Larry Mishel definitely not being resistant to talking about the decline of unions, to Josh Bivens not being resistant to talking about workers' reduced bargaining power and the 80/20 wage gap, Barack Obama and his staff worrying about the rising costs of college--in a story reported by Timothy Noah himself.

Are these people not liberals?