Some bad news for America, not on the political front this time, but on what corporate executives call human resources. It's from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's report on adult skills, based on 166,000 interviews in 24 economically advanced countries in 2011 and 2012.
The verdict on the United States: "weak in literacy, very poor in numeracy, but only slightly below average in problem-solving in technology-rich environments."
On literacy, just 12 percent of U.S. adults score at the top two levels, significantly lower than the 22 percent in largely monoethnic and culturally cohesive Japan and Finland. American average scores are below those in our Anglosphere cousins Australia, Canada and England and Northern Ireland.
One-sixth of Americans score at the bottom two levels, compared to 5 percent in Japan and Finland.
On numeracy the United States does even worse — only 8 percent at the top levels and one-third in the lowest.
Americans do better at problem solving in tech-rich environments, which economist Tyler Cowen in his new book "Average Is Over" says will be of great economic value in the future.
One-third of Americans score at the top two levels, while one-third score at the bottom or lack such skills altogether.
That puts us just below the average of the countries tested. Finland, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada are well ahead.
The OECD report finds a wider range of skills in the U.S. than in other countries surveyed. Americans with only high school educations perform worse than their counterparts in all but one other nation.
And the report found that socioeconomic background is more strongly correlated with skills proficiency in this country.
In addition, there is the uncomfortable finding that disproportionate percentages of blacks and Hispanics have low skills.
Fully half of the Americans with the lowest level of literacy are Hispanic (presumably reflecting some immigrants' weak English) and another 20 percent are black.
This is probably true of other groups. In his 2012 book "Coming Apart," Charles Murray showed that the 30 percent of whites with the lowest education and income levels have low rates of family formation, little involvement in voluntary associations and high levels of substance abuse.
Most likely, those of any race or ethnic groups with divorced or single parents, or who are divorced or single parents themselves, tend to lag below national and international averages in literacy and numeracy.
Another disturbing finding of the OECD is that younger age cohorts in the U.S. do not seem to have skills as high as those in the cohort just below age 65.
All of this suggests that America's economic future may not be as bright as its past — or that the current economic doldrums may turn out to be the new normal.
What to do? The OECD sensibly calls for better education and more adult skills training. In fact, many worthy attempts have been made and are being made to improve education around the country, and some have had positive results. Even the Obama administration, despite its political debts to teacher unions, has pitched in to some extent.
In the meantime, the United States can do something about improving skill sets by changing its immigration laws to increase high-skill immigration. Current immigration law has inadvertently resulted in a vast low-skill migration from Latin America and especially from Mexico. Unanticipated large numbers have used the family reunification provisions to come in legally, and large numbers have crossed the border illegally.
Congress can change that by cutting back on extended family reunification, improving border enforcement and requiring use of e-Verify or other status verification technology. More important, Congress can vastly expand high-skill immigration. The Senate bill passed last spring goes some distance toward this, but not far enough.
The U.S. should take a lesson from its Anglosphere cousins Australia and Canada, which both have higher immigration proportionate to population and which both outscored the U.S. in literacy, numeracy and high-tech problem solving in the OECD survey.
Australia and Canada allocate large shares of their immigration flow by point systems, which give credit for educational achievement and marketable skills. They do not necessarily tie high-skill immigrants to a single petitioning employer, as H-1B visas do in the U.S. Both countries are attracting high-skill immigrants, especially from China and India, and both have had better performing economies than the U.S. does.
Making a concerted effort to attract high-skill immigrants should be a no-brainer for America.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 08:47
To The Daily Sun,
Next month the U.S. Navy is going to launch a new aircraft carrier. The USS Gerald R. Ford will join the fleet of ten other super carriers. The USS John F. Kennedy is under construction and is scheduled to be launched in 2020.
The USS Gerald R. Ford cost 12.3 billion dollars to build. Add to that cost 100 or so of the latetest aircraft, the fleet of smaller ships that service, resupply, and protect, and 20,000 or so sailors to run the whole show.
Meanwhile sitting in the Norfolk Virginia Navy Yard sits the USS Enterprise. She was the first of the big nuclear powered supper carriers. She has been recently decommissioned and the plan right now is for her to have the reactors and associated equipment removed then she is to be towed to the Florida Keys and sunk to create a reef for marine life.
Now I am not an naval expert but I have to question the sanity of all this. Could the Enterprise have been overhauled to upgrade her systems? Do we really need 12 aircraft carriers? Is all this tax money being spent just to create jobs in the shipbuilding industry?
I have a better idea for the Enterprise. My background is in the power plant industry and I have been doing some digging. The Enterprise has four reactors that can make enough steam to run a turbine generator built on her deck and produce as much electrical power as Seabrook. The cost of doing this would be a small fraction of what it cost to build that. She could be anchored off the coast where nobody has to have it in their backyard and the power supplied to the northeast grid would do away with the need to build the Northern Pass. As for evacuation in case of an emergency you just tow it out to sea.
Hey you people in Washington can you hear me?
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 09:58
To The Daily Sun,
The Gilmanton Year-Round Library celebrated its fourth year of operation in September, proving to be a vital part of our community. Our library is a gathering place for all members of our community as each month hundreds of patrons visit the library. The library is a source of inspiration and imagination to our children. It is a source of comfort and calm to our senior citizens. It is more than just library cards, books and reading; our library is a cultural space allowing people to experience this community and beyond.
We can report good news and tell you that as a result of generous support from patrons and friends of the library, the GYRL will stay open through March 2014. But the reality is, to stay open past March 2014 we need your help. It is imperative that the library be recognized as a town-supported community resource. The Board of Directors hopes the library will be a sustainable resource for many years to come. This can only be achieved with your continued efforts, and ultimately, with your vote.
There are many ways to help make this happen over the next several months. Let the Selectboard and Budget Committee members know why the library is important to you and your family. Attend the Public Hearing and Deliberative Session and let your voice be heard. Most importantly, vote YES for town-supported funding on March 11, 2014.
As always, donations are aggressively pursued. You can make yours today by going to www.gyrla.org and clicking on the "Donate" button. You can contribute using your Paypal account or most credit cards. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, any donation is tax deductible. We are grateful to all our supporters for their generosity and look forward to continuing to serve our community.
As we look forward to the future of our town and its growth, the library will continue to serve as a vital resource for all residents. As our community evolves the library will be there to support us. With your support the Gilmanton Year-Round Library will be an integral part of our community for years to come.
Anne Kirby, President
Gilmanton Year-Round Library Association
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 09:46
To The Daily Sun,
A recent letter from Bernadette Loesch tries to claim that the criticism of Obamacare is unfounded and unsubstantiated. In this letter she tells of the Walt Disney Company offering full-time employment to 427 part-time employees and how this proves that the claims of Obamacare hurting jobs is "not borne out by reality". She then states how a recent survey of chief financial officers shows that full-time jobs are going to increase by 2 percent over the next year proves how these claims are false.
Bernadette's claims are the easiest to disprove with some simple research. In fact Members of Congress, who have been exempted from the law by the president and Secretary Sebilius, wrote the law that specifically exempts all congressional staff so they can receive taxpayer subsidies to pay for their private health insurance. Congressional members and their staff responded in a survey that they don't want Obamacare.
James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union; Joseph Hansen, president of the UFCW; and D. Taylor, president of Unite-Here recently sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid complaining about Obamacare where they said the unintended consequences of the ACA are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios:
"First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees' work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers' hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.
Second, millions of Americans are covered by non-profit health insurance plans like the ones in which most of our members participate. Under the ACA ..., our employees will be treated differently and not be eligible for subsidies afforded other citizens. As such, many employees will be relegated to second-class status and shut out of the help the law offers to for-profit insurance plans. Even though non-profit plans like ours won't receive the same subsidies as for-profit plans, they'll be taxed to pay for those subsidies. Taken together, these restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies. They finish the letter by stating "Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it."
Add to this that there are over 300 employers that have reported that they have eliminated jobs, moved employees from full-time to part-time or have simply cut hours because of Obamacare. Most of the employers are public entities such as Houston County, Alabama government; Arizona State University; Community College System of N.H.; Akron, Ohio city government; Youngstown and Upper Arlington School Districts in Ohio; Boone Community School District in Illinois; and the West Perry School District in Pennsylvania. This list includes many other types of employers such as Walmart Stores, Inc.; the Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in Connecticut; the Cleveland Clinic; Sea World Entertainment, Inc.; Waldblum's Supermarket; Circle K; North Shore University Health System; and Pillar Hotels and Resorts.
In fact, Reuters and the Washington Free Beacon recently had stories explaining how the program that expands health insurance to over 25 million people doesn't mean these people will receive health care. According to their stories there are over a dozen hospitals that are cutting jobs and reducing patient care and/or services offered because of Obamacare.
According to reports from the U.S. Department of Labor there are statistics that show the number of new unemployment claims each month are mostly from full-time jobs the reported unemployment percentage continues to drop. This is because of an increase in part-time jobs, approximately 400,000 per month, and moving people from the unemployed category to the not-in-the-labor-force category. Labor statistics show that the Labor Participation Rate, which is the percentage of eligible workers actually working, is 63.2 percent. This is the lowest rate since Jimmy Carter was president. Labor Department surveys to employers show that the high cost of Obamacare is the driving factor for these statistics.
Bernadette states that "the American public need to look behind the headlines and learn what's really happening for the American workforce". Unfortunately she doesn't follow her own advice.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 09:40
To The Daily Sun,
On August 4, a benefit supper was held for my husband, Bill Randall. We would like to thank all of you who attended, donated, or were there with us in spirit. The very large crowd of friends and relatives who greeted Bill at the door is testament to the kind of caring support we experienced from the onset of his cancer ordeal. You, who sat with him through the afternoon discussing everything from construction talk to the latest happenings at Skelley's and Dunkin' Donuts, normalized his day for him at a time when nothing was normal. Thank you so much for that emotional support. And your very generous donations carried us through as we traveled a road no one wants to take.
We would especially like to thank Keith Taylor who put together this event, and his wonderfully generous family who worked so hard to help him carry it through.
Once again we offer our thanks to a community of very caring people. May you all be blessed in your own lives.
Celia, Becky, Gina & Beth Randall
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 09:32