Sunday, November 21, 2010

trickled down or skilled up? your choice.

Warren Buffett, one of the richest and smartest money men in America has declared the trickle down theory promoted by conservative Republicans and called "Reaganomics" to be utterly disproved and completely false. He urges the rich to pay a greater share of taxes if the Republicans will allow it.

And so, what in the world does this have to do with hands-on learning? Plenty. When Manual Arts were first widely promoted in America, they were seen as having value in general education, meaning that they were important for all students. Why? What about the kids who never planned to enter the trades and intended to go to college and become executives? Executives of what? I ask.

It was widely understood that manual arts were a means of promoting the dignity and value of all labor, and that those who were exposed to making might see some role for themselves in fostering making and industry as an imperative throughout American culture and economy.

Following WWII, we set our nation on two divergent paths at the high school level... those who were going to college and those perceived as being intellectually inferior, who were suitable only for manual and technical training. If technical training was for dummies, how about craftsmanship and industry?

So the big problem with "trickle down economics" was the question, trickle down to what? If our educated elite knew nothing about skilled labor or the processes and rewards of industrial engagement, they would obviously not invest their energy or their resources in it.

And so, they (our "best and brightest") invested in the financial market, not in manufacturing efficiency and quality. They spent their extra money saved from our low tax rates on luxuries and opulent lifestyles. It was all rationalized by our becoming a "service economy" in which we would serve them. Then when flipping burgers became understood as a dead end, it became more advantageous to call us an "information economy." During the great recession, (which is not really over yet) for those losing jobs and homes it became a "no economy", while the rich continued to grow richer thanks to paying less than their fair share of taxes, and while our national deficit grew out of control.

Warren Buffet and many other American millionaires, believe they should be paying more taxes. Can it be any surprise that Buffett grew up in an era when they had shop classes as a part of general education? Not to me. Make, fix, sew, sow. We can't count on government rationale of trickle down to be of any help to any of us. In other words, DIY.

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