Globalization’s ailments were supposed to have a ready cure. Education would prepare American workers to take advantage of the dynamic and well-paying careers of the future, even as many jobs that once supported families and communities headed overseas. American firms, employing this increasingly skilled workforce, would outcompete foreign rivals and expand into new markets.
When these things did not happen — when wages stagnated, cheap imports flooded domestic markets, and American exporters struggled to gain footholds abroad — many assumed the problem must be with education too. Employers lamented “skills gaps” that left them unable to find the talent they needed.
Colleges, already receiving more than $200 billion in public funding each year, demanded greater resources. Economists and pundits devised creative euphemisms to sound original as they repeated ad nauseum their prescription of education and training and, when those didn’t work, more of the same.