by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[Y]ou can bet that if the economy continues to contract, Obama will propose the same remedy he always has: more “investments” in education, infrastructure, and various industries of the future. It seems that whatever the ailment, Dr. Obama always writes the same prescription.
This is hardly shocking: Building roads and schools is a big reason why God created Democrats in the first place. And identifying the Next Big Thing — and taking credit for it — is something of a vocation for many liberal policymakers.
But are these really the drivers of economic growth?
Higher education in particular is almost universally championed as the key to “winning the future” — a buzz phrase the president borrowed from Newt Gingrich a while 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.