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My Sense on Cents Solution for America

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 15, 2012 11:31 AM |

Although many outlets and institutions within our society deem discussion of traditional family structures to now be off-limits or politically incorrect, the simple fact is our society is suffering tremendously from the breakdown of the two parent family.

The Obama administration and others continually try to score political points by railing on the income gap in America. The real issue in our nation is the education gap.

A lack of education is very often a precursor to a life of poverty. What is increasingly the missing ingredient for many suffering the pains and anguish of poverty? An active and engaged Dad in the context of a traditional two parent family.

Go ahead and call me old fashioned. While you do that, read and review the details and projections provided in this New York Times article, Two Classes in America, Divided by ‘I Do’.

… a friendship that evokes parity by day becomes a study of inequality at night and a testament to the way family structure deepens class divides. Ms. Faulkner is married and living on two paychecks, while Ms. Schairer is raising her children by herself. That gives the Faulkner family a profound advantage in income and nurturing time, and makes their children statistically more likely to finish college, find good jobs and form stable marriages.

I give enormous credit to both mothers profiled in this story. They are both determined to provide the best for their children. Yet as the ranks of single parent families skyrockets in America (overall 40% of newborns in America enter the world in single parent families; the numbers for selected ethnic groups are far higher), let’s make no mistake what that means for the future of our country. If the past is prologue to our future, then we will be faced with even more high school dropouts, higher levels of childhood obesity,  increased levels of crime, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy. Do I need to go on?

How do we break this cycle which will clearly continue to weigh heavy on our nation? Desperate times and desperate circumstances require desperate measures. For those who do not think we are living in desperate times and through desperate circumstances, wake up. The delusion encompassing our nation is a function of a large measure of our political system and the general media keeping the issues highlighted in the previously referenced article conveniently swept under the rug. Time to pull the rug back.

The only way we will break the cycle of poverty and its accompanying ills is education. Thus, I propose the following “NO MORE FREE LUNCH” program:

A prerequisite for receiving any form or substance of government assistance is for an individual to have completed and received a high school diploma, graduate equivalency degree, or trade certification. This program can and should be scaled in over an agreed upon time period, perhaps 5 -10 years, so as not to overwhelm our educational system nor to unnecessarily burden those without degrees who are currently gainfully employed. Additionally, I would propose granting an exemption to those who are already retired.  I am sure there will be other individual circumstances and situations needing to be addressed. Rather than focusing on the exceptions, perhaps we can redirect our focus on the masses.

How often have we heard those supporting Obamacare promote that there are 30 million people uninsured in our nation? Very often.

How often have we heard that there are 25 million high school dropouts over the age of 25 in our nation? Not often enough.

I do not know the percentage of high school dropouts who are also uninsured but I do know that less than 40% of those over the age of 25 are employed. (WSJ, February 21, 2012, As Job Market Mends, Dropouts Fall Behind). That fact means we have at least 15 million unemployed dropouts over the age of 25 in America. Think there is probably a decent chance the overwhelming majority of these 15 million are uninsured? You think?

Take your shots at me if you’d like. In the process, please let us know what you would propose to address our social ills.

I love this proposal as it will draw attention to the fact that we have an approximate 50% urban graduation rate. I also believe it will draw attention to the impact on our nation of the chronic issues associated with high school dropouts. Beyond that my proposal provides the carrot, that is government benefits, and the stick, get educated and graduate.

Remember, the greatest social program known to mankind is the two parent family. The path to prosperity connected with solid family structures starts with education.

What do you think? Comments, questions, and constructive criticisms encouraged and appreciated.

Related Sense on Cents Commentary
Questions for President Obama: Who Is Dropping Out Along Our Economic Landscape and Why?

Larry Doyle 

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

  • Arthur Johnson

    Its about time you came up with a serious issue that is fixable, namely highschool dropouts.

    Take me for example. I went first to Miami Dade Juniour College and then I went on to a Florida State university and became an accountant when I was 38 years old.

    Without the higher education, I would have become a very poor person.

    Forget the banks for a while and pound that thought into the politicians that a better educated population pays more taxes and requires less food stamps and other expensive welfare benefits. If you really want to reduce the deficit have incentives so that more people graduate high sohool and go onto higher education or technical schools in radiology and nurses.

    If the policitians don’t see the light that education is the key to Americas greatness then they shouldn’t run for political office.

    • LD

      Arthur,

      Thanks for sharing your story and your thoughts.

      I personally believe that all of the issues I present here are fixable BUT a prerequisite to fixing them is 1. acknowledging them 2. promoting the transparency and the truth.

      Then we can go about generating and presenting solutions.

      • fred

        LD,

        Check your premise. Your proposal assumes there is an unlimited supply of good jobs just waiting to be filled by a high school/college educated workforce, is that really the case?

        What if all persons without a high school diploma instead possessed a graduate degree, would we then achieve full employment and would all those educated persons then get good jobs? Maybe not. Instead, we might have an under employed workforce with mountains of student loan debt to be repaid, sound familiar?

        Make no mistake, I am a strong believer in lifelong learning, an education can never be taken away and an education IS necessary to get a good job.

        I’d like to suggest the greatest disincentive to full employment in this country is not primarily a lack of education but our inflated cost of living and the level of pay and benefits required to support the American lifestyle both in work and in retirement.

        As Dalia suggests, we are in an extended period of necessary deleveraging, if the private sector can’t support full employment, I suppose we could hire all the educated unemployed as social workers and create more bureaucracy to justify their purpose, but then don’t we just become Greece?

        Try explaining to a public ‘unionized’ employee why, in fairness, they should NOT be entitled to a defined benefit pension or an annual cost of living adjustments to pay, good luck!

        • fred

          LD,

          I think your idea does have merit, but sorry gals, to be even more effective, we need to target males.

          The problem, as I see it, is that almost all single parent households that rely on government entitlements are headed by women. If you promote education by withholding entitlements, many mothers will get educated but they probably will still not marry an unemployed father who drinks, does drugs, or is involved in criminal activity.

          Like I said, a better solution would be to target males. Sadly, within your ‘withhold entitlements’ idea, the only place to do this currently is within the prison system.

          Working with your idea…what if incarceration were to be considered an entitlement? Credits earned for getting a diploma could be exchanged for TV time, a steak dinner instead of hamburger for supper, or how about a gym membership rather than free access to the weight room?

          All things considered, if men have good jobs women will marry them otherwise its ‘wam, bam, thank you man’, just a one night stand.

          • LD

            Fred,

            I appreciate the points you raise in both comments. The cost of living is clearly tied to the leveraging up that occurred throughout our economy. I think that may be self-correcting BUT at a VERY SLOW process. In any event, I would like to promote market based principles so that labor follows opportunity which often stems from effective and meaningful cost/benefit analysis by those starting and running businesses.

            In regard to the male/female question, I view this as a non-starter at this point in our nation’s history.

  • DLM

    Just a brief note to say, “thank you” for this column. I have been waiting a long time for a credible journalist to address this critical issue. It encompasses so many moral (in terms of the longer term best interests of the children in question AND their generally youthful parents) and financial elements that could have been addressed long ago with both compassion and common sense.

    Unfortunately, seems no politician is willing to look at the way such “entitlement” programs almost guarantee ongoing dependency on a system that does NOT work in the best interests of those it is assumed to assist.

    • fred

      DLM,

      I appreciate your comments, I am also a believer in a market based approach, but the more the government gets involved the more difficult it becomes for the private sector to solve our problems.

      Here’s another twist on LD’s idea which may be a non-starter but I’ve always been interested in results rather than political correctness.

      What if single mothers were only allowed to collect entitlements if they are married and fathers are only allowed to collect entitlements if they have a high school diploma.

      OK, OK, I’m starting to feel the heat, I don’t want to sleep on the couch tonight; women 1/2 entitlement for education 1/2 for marriage.

      I here wedding bells a ringing, ‘behind every successful man is a good, supportive, albeit at times, nagging women’.

  • coe

    Hard to find commentary that dares to address social and religious sacred cows in the context of economic implications..it’s more fashionable to speak in code or duck the statistics altogether…and it is even easier to engage in meaningless rationalizations of cause and effect – or try to compartmentalize the facts…you engage in no such subterfuge, LD, but come right at it – yet in a thoughtful, and dare I say humanistic way…maintain your courage and as you say, keep punching…I bet there are plenty of people out there who fundamentally agree with your views…family, education , leadership vis a vis unemployment, entitlements, health, crime, deficits, dollar, position on the global stage – all translated into economic costs and implications for future generational pain. This is the right stuff – we all need to listen and act.

  • Frank

    Not a bad idea. We’ve heard these thoughts before. Some modifications could be made to make it more attractive. With more thought, it might work, it’s somewhat more difficult however, but doable.

    One wouldn’t expect to get the larger number of drop outs, but every success is helpful.

  • LD

    Larry Summers extends my theme, that we do not have an income gap but rather an education gap in America, into the realm of higher education.

    He writes today in the Financial Times, Land of Opportunity Can Fight Inequality,

    . . . the focus needs to shift from inequality in outcomes, where attitudes divide sharply and there are limits to what can be done, to inequalities in opportunity. It is hard to see who could disagree with the aspiration to equalise opportunity or fail to recognise the manifest inequalities in opportunity today.

    The most important step that can be taken to enhance opportunity is to strengthen public education. For the past decade we have focused on ensuring no child is left behind, and this must continue. But if we are to ensure everyone has a real chance of great success, we must also ensure every child in the public system can learn as much and go as far as their talent permits.

    How do we get this done?

    I am a strong proponent of quality charter schools.

  • David T

    And speaking of a life of poverty, watch a documentary called “IOUSA.” A very disturbing view of the national debt and our lack of responsible attention to it; it will (not “could”, but will!) bankrupt our children and grandchildren if we dont do something about it. DT

    • LD

      David,

      Thanks very much for sharing this documentary.

      Here is the link, I.O.U.S.A: The Movie

      Our children deserve so MUCH better.

  • Ron Larson

    I like the idea. But I think our future would be better secured by getting higher education costs under control. That those who WANT to improve themselves can get a good education without going bankrupt or having to take on debt burdons that are insane.

    It now costs more to go to UC Berkley than Harvard. UC is a public university. My niece worked very hard and got admitted. But the cost, and the annual price hikes, are killing my sister’s family. Now her #2 kid can’t afford to go to UC. It is just too much. #3 kid graduates in 2 years. His options are even more limited.

    I work with some people that have $100k+ in tuition debts hanging on their shoulders. That means these people aren’t going to be buying homes, which our economy needs.

    When I walk around the UC campus, I see and hear hundreds of Asian students. I wonder why so many slots of a California tax payer university are being sold to overseas students. How many California students are being denied a chance because UC sold their slot to the kid of corrupt Chinese parents?

    • LD

      Ron,

      Add this to the list. How will the costs of higher education come under control? Aggressively revise the manner in which the government runs the student loan biz. Regrettably all too many aspects of higher education spell R-A-C-K-E-T.

      I think students will look for other paths to future prosperity than the traditional paths we have seen over the last number of decades. Plenty of institutions of higher education will be forced to rework their business plans. This prospect does not do much for those in college or getting ready to go but 5 years out I think the landscape will be decidedly different.

  • Vic

    You are on target, the Two Parent Family, Education and Religion will return us to the values we need.

  • Ron Larson

    The amount of money we waste on Afghanistan can more than fix our education system in the US. Why we waste one more life or dollar on that god-forsaken excuse of a country I have no idea.

  • Huckleberry

    Do we have the correct diagnosis here? Not sure we can go about administering the correct medicine without an accurate diagnosis…

    How (and when, and why) did this country let its school system get into its present state?

    I’ve heard the following explanations advanced:

    Political elites wanting a stupid populace of drones
    Teacher unions
    Poor teacher pay, lack of respect
    Desegrgation/White Flight
    Allowing rich children to opt out of public education
    Absence of school prayer
    Co-educational classrooms

    Are any of these credible? Are all of these credible?

  • LD

    Methinks you have left the reservation here…

    You put forth some very real issues but I think what this SoC Solution is trying to change is the “enabling” mindset that has enveloped our social safety net for high school dropouts…

    Again…30 million uninsured …25 million dropouts over the age of 25 with less than 40% of them employed….think we could make a strong case that half our uninsured are dropouts…go get a trade certificate if you think you’re getting a handout…

  • Thank you for posting this entry. No one would argue about the importance of an education; however, the cost of a college education today has skyrocketed from what it was when I went to college.

    Back in the late 1960s, tuition at the University of Connecticut was $100/semester. For California in-state students at the state colleges, it was free. So the opportunity for education was readily available to all.

    Not so today, unfortunately. And as was observed above, the jobs are not available either, unless you are willing to move to India, China, or the Philippines, where the hourly rate is as low as cents on the dollar.

    The last 30 years has witnessed the greatest transfer of wealth from the many to the few as a result of dramatic changes in the tax code, the outsourcing of jobs overseas, the disappearance of unions in the private sector, and the demise of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act as well as the Glass-Steagall Act.

    It’s easy for children of hedge fund managers, who earn as much as billions annually but pay only a 15% carried interest tax rate, half of what the average middle class family pays, to attend the elite colleges and get those few remaining, well-paying jobs on Wall Street.

    Yes, college education is a necessity if one can afford it.






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