Higher education in particular is almost universally championed as the key to "winning the future"I have long asked to see some evidence that all our spending on higher education in this state is of value to the taxpayer and not just to the student who gets heavily subsidized college. It's not that I'm against higher education or believe that California's 50-year-old master plan for higher education is a bad idea, but when faced with its cost, I wonder if we can afford it anymore. Merely asking the question brings a barrage of commentary about the public benefit of our "investment" in higher education, but I've never seen evidence.
— a buzz phrase the president borrowed from Newt Gingrich awhile back. New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt calls education the "lifeblood of economic growth."
Often channeling such writers as Thomas Friedman, whose fondness for the Chinese economic model borders on the perverse, Obama routinely elevates education to a national security issue. "There's an educational arms race taking place around the world right now — from China to Germany, to India to South Korea," Obama said in 2010. "Cutting back on education would amount to unilateral disarmament. We can't afford to do that."
Now, obviously, education is important and necessary for a host of reasons (and nobody is calling for "disarmament," whatever that means). But there's little evidence it drives growth.
Goldberg suggests I shouldn't hold my breath anticipating such evidence. Go read the whole thing.