My recent A&Q on middle-class stagnation questioned these proposed solutions to the problem: build more housing to bring down the cost of real estate, raise taxes on the rich, reduce the size of the social safety net, bring back unions, repeal NAFTA, and use the Fed to keep interest rates extremely low. The following reader proposes another solution, followed by my reply:
The problem isn't that workers aren't being paid fairly; it's that they don't have the skills needed to get paid more. We need a national apprenticeship program starting in high school so that people will be valued workers even without a college or technical degree.
Is America’s skills gap for real?
On the one hand, you would think so, with tales of star computer programmers pulling down vertiginous salaries in the Bay Area. This is exactly what one would expect from a skills shortage in any occupation. That job's wages would gallop ahead of the rest of the country, as business demand for a skill outpaces supply of workers who can do it.
But nationwide, programmer salaries haven't grown much more than average, even when you zoom into Boston, Dallas, or Austin. More computer scientist majors are graduating than the labor market is placing in jobs. In short, there just isn't much clear evidence of a skills shortage that would be easily repaired by forcing lots of marginal liberal-arts graduates into a vocational program for coding.