Free Markets, Free People


Markets at work: College and jobs (and what that may mean to Obama)

The Wall Street Journal provides an interesting infographic which fairly well outlines what the market for college graduates is looking for.  Or said another way, employers determine what majors they’ll hire, not college students.




So we have college recruiting picking up – a good sign – and we have a buyers market.  Bottom left tells us all what they’re interested in and, more importantly, what they’re not interested in.   Of course that’s of the 160 employers surveyed.  That obviously doesn’t mean that the bottom five can’t and won’t find employment.  It’s just likely they won’t find it with those 160 surveyed.  They indicated, however, a trend we’ve talked about quite often.  Hard skills or business related skills. 

Bottom right shows us how the market for college graduates has changed in the last few years.  Only 25% are hired while still in college, most, one would suppose, in those top 5 categories.  The huge difference, however, comes in the last number for 2009-2011 graduates.  45% still have no “first full-time job”.  That means some are going on 3 years.  That adds more credence to the last chart on this post

As for this year’s college grads, they face even tougher prospects when it comes to finding a job.  They not only have to compete against their peers, but against the graduates from from previous years still seeking their “first full-time job”.

Which brings us to the politics of this situation.  In 2008, Obama charmed the college age crowd who treated him like a combination of a rock-star and the second coming.

With the sort of situation the chart depicts now being the reality and with the youngest demographic (which includes these college age job seekers) the worst hit by the still staggering economy, one has to wonder whether or not he can pull them back into his orbit again in any significant numbers with the promise of saving them $7 a month on college loans. 

I’m guessing the answer is “no”.


Twitter: @McQandO

Economic reality welcomes new college grads

And it isn’t what they expected or hoped it would be:

A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

We continue to hear that we’re in a recovery, that we’re seeing better times, that all is now well.

Of course, it’s not.  In fact, as we mentioned in the podcast last night, we’re not seeing anywhere near the growth necessary to shake this recession.  Instead, we’ve found and are bouncing along the bottom (or at least what is the bottom for now – believe it or not, it could again get worse).

Unemployment numbers for the last two months have “unexpectedly” worse.  And while the official rate is 8.2%, most realize the real unemployment rate is much higher and in double digits.

That is the world today’s college grads are facing.  It is a buyers market, for those that are actually hiring college grads and so they are able to select among the best.  Guess what majors are faring best?

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder.

Majors with immediate applicability in still growing fields of course.  Meanwhile, there’s not much demand for the softer and less applicable fields.   And even in the majors where demand is still high, entry level jobs are of a lower type:

Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

This is one of those teachable moments.  A sheepskin is no longer a guarantee to a high paying job.  And that’s certainly true of those who indulge themselves in a humanities or art degree, etc. 

College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely.

While perhaps the brightest and best in those areas will indeed find good paying jobs coming out of the chute, the vast majority are going to be taking jobs, if they can find them, well outside their major field of study.

By the way, I use the term “indulge” above purposefully.  It would be nice to indulge yourself in something you might enjoy in college and major in it.  But then don’t whine when you find out that all of the companies you feel should have the benefit of your august presence aren’t as excited about your degree in gender studies as you are.

That gets down to the purpose of college to each person.  Is it a means of achieving a job and a life style to which one aspires and a willingness to do what is necessary to accomplish that?  Or is it a place one indulges themselves giving little or no thought to the reality that awaits them at graduation?

What we are seeing is the market for college grads making a very definitive statement.  It is sending signals.  It is telling everyone what type of degrees are being sought and which aren’t.  And because of the tightness of the market, it is making decisions on merit, with the brightest and best capturing jobs and the also ran’s waiting tables.

"I don’t even know what I’m looking for," says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Imagine that … creative writing degree.  Wonderful stuff, but not to the market for those with college degrees.  One would think that a person pursuing that sort of degree would have probably researched that and have a plan which might not include someone else hiring them first (i.e. selling their work on a freelance basis, etc. and knowing how to do that).

Had Mr. Bldsoe had a degree in physics or accounting or engineering, he’d stand a much better chance of being employed in his field of study.  Then he could indulge himself in his creative writing passion.  In fact, it would likely give him the means to do that.

Instead … “you want a tall or a grande?”

I still haven’t yet figured out why supposedly bright people can’t figure that little thing out.  Markets are talking.  Markets are sending signals.  When you choose something as your major that these markets have no interest in, what do you suppose is going to happen unless you have a plan to go out on your own immediately?

They’re not going to hire you just because you feel your major is important.  You’re going to hire someone if they feel the major is important and  you have demonstrated competence in that field at a level they require.

This is the reality that, for the first time, many recent college grads are coming to grips with.

One thing this recession may finally do is drive home the idea that indulging yourself is a useless degree is not very bright or productive.

Want to study creative writing?  Fine.  They have minors as well in colleges.  Make it your minor.  But for heaven sake, take a clue and look at what is being demanded out there before declaring a major.  Certainly it may not be your passion, but then unless you want to spend your days immediately after college waiting tables or hoping for a labor sellers market, where jobs are plentiful, you had better commit to a useful major.

I know, I know, that supply and demand thingy again.  Gender studies majors aren’t into “markets” and “supply and demand” stuff. What’s wrong with me?  They have a college degree, the world should be beating a pathway to their door, no?


Welcome to reality … and reality includes the immutable laws of economics whether one likes them or not.  And right now, those with useless degrees find themselves on the wrong side of the demand curve.

Don’t like economics?

Then content yourself with making frappes.

Otherwise, it’s time to wise up, use that superior brain for what it was designed and “indulge” yourself in something the job market finds useful and valuable.  Refusal to do that means a guaranteed rough transition into the real world, especially now.


Twitter: @McQandO

Higher Education: Here’s a surprise

OK, I’m being facetious in the title.  Well, at least for those who’ve been paying attention.  For the rest, this may actually come as a surprise:

Political activism has drawn the University of California into an academic death spiral. Too many professors believe their job is to "advance social justice" rather than teach the subject they were hired to teach. Groupthink has replaced lively debate. Institutions that were designed to stir intellectual curiosity aren’t challenging young minds. They’re churning out "ignorance." So argues a new report, "A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California," from the conservative California Association of Scholars.

My guess is, and I think this would be easily substantiated, that the U of C system is just an example of the problem, not the sole problem.  (The study is here.)

Of course the left has a ready answer for all of this:

UC Berkeley political science Professor Wendy Brown rejected that argument. (Yes, she hails from the left, she said, but she doesn’t teach left.) The reason behind the unbalance, she told me, is that conservatives don’t go to grad school to study political science. When conservatives go to graduate school, she added, they tend to study business or law.

"If the argument is that what is going on is some kind of systematic exclusion," then critics have to target "where the discouragement happens."

So, other than “stereotypes are us”, Prof. Brown has no real explanation.  Because, of course, unless all “conservatives” go to business and law and none to political science (which we know isn’t true), the problem isn’t about who does or doesn’t got into grad school, but who gets hired by universities, isn’t it?   And most people with a modicum of common sense know that most people who hire have a tendency to hire people like what?   Like them.

And anyway, it appears its not really about learning or acquiring skills such as critical thinking:

At the same time, grades have risen. "Students often report that all they must do to get a good grade is regurgitate what their activist professors believe," quoth the report.

Hardly an atmosphere (akin to a “hostile workplace”, no?)in which a “conservative” would feel comfortable and certainly not one in which a critical thinker would be welcome.

Peter Berkowitz took a look at the study and concluded that the result was much worse than imagined:

The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds. It also erodes the nation’s civic cohesion and its ability to preserve the institutions that undergird democracy in America.


The analysis begins from a nonpolitical fact: Numerous studies of both the UC system and of higher education nationwide demonstrate that students who graduate from college are increasingly ignorant of history and literature. They are unfamiliar with the principles of American constitutional government. And they are bereft of the skills necessary to comprehend serious books and effectively marshal evidence and argument in written work.

In other words, they’re indoctrinated and not taught to think critically.  And, per the study, they’re actually ignorant of “the institutions that undergird democracy in America”.  That would, in part, explain their ‘shock’ at the validity of the arguments against ObamaCare (so there’s your example of the point).

Granted, this is but one study, it’s by a conservative group and there may be a bit of confirmation bias concerned on my part, but I’d love to see the left really document an actual challenge to its substantive points instead of doing what they usually do – wave it away.  While it may be one study by a conservative group, it does note that which Berkowitz points out – “numerous studies” of the system demonstrate the facts listed, i.e. an increasing ignorance of history and literature, unfamiliarity with the principles of American constitutional government, lacking skills necessary to comprehend serious writing, marshal evidence and argue their point effectively.  Or, in other words, think critically.  Wait, isn’t that what universities are supposed to teach?

Start there.  Explain.

HT: Instapundit


Twitter: @McQandO

B..b..but won’t poor and minority students be “disadvantaged”?

Apparently cheating on the SAT and ACT is rampant.  Therefore:

The millions of students who take the SAT or ACT each year will have to submit photos of themselves when they sign up for the college entrance exams, under a host of new security measures announced Tuesday in the aftermath of a major cheating scandal on Long Island.

The two companies that administer the tests, the College Board and ACT Inc., agreed to the precautions under public pressure brought to bear by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is overseeing the investigation. The measures take effect in the fall.

"I believe these reforms, and many others which are happening behind the scenes, will prevent the kind of cheating that our investigation uncovered and give high schools and colleges the tools they need to identify those who try to cheat," Rice said.

Rice has charged 20 current or former students from a cluster of well-to-do, high-achieving suburbs on Long Island with participating in a scheme in which teenagers hired other people for as much as $3,500 each to take the exam for them. The five alleged ringers arrested in the case were accused of flashing phony IDs when they showed up for the tests. All 20 have pleaded not guilty.

Students have long had to produce ID to take the test (another example where ID is required), but the use of a picture is new.  That is, students will now have to submit a head shot with their application for the tests.  The picture will be printed on their ticket presented on the day of the test.  Additionally the test results will be sent to their high school along with the picture of the student for a final check to ensure the student taking the test is the actual high school student.

All of this for what?  To ensure the integrity of the testing system.  Something, apparently, that is too much to ask when applied to the voting system.

And thus far, not a single cry about poor and minority students being disadvantaged.  No one talking about anyone being “disenfranchised”. Go figure.


Twitter: @McQandO

Nanny state: The lunch inspector

Stories like this infuriate me.  They again point to the depth to which government has come to intrude in our lives.  And yes, while this is an anecdote, it points to the wider problem of increasing intrusion and the loss of our freedoms.  Tyranny by a thousand paper cuts.

The incident took place in a North Carolina pre-school of all places.  There, a “lunch inspector” rejected the home packed lunch a 4 year old and required the child eat a school provided lunch instead, claiming the home packed lunch didn’t meet USDA requirements.

The child in question then ate all of 3 chicken nuggets for lunch as provided by the school and threw the rest away.

Now, the fact that the “lunch inspector” was wrong isn’t the story.  The lunch provided by the mother was more than acceptable by the USDA standard which requires 1 serving of meat, 1 serving of grain and one serving of fruit or vegetable.  The mother had packed a turkey sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice.  The “lunch inspector” mistakenly believe that the lack of a vegetable disqualified the lunch.

The story, as far as I’m concerned is that the “lunch inspector” exists at all.

This is the problem:

The state regulation reads:

"Sites must provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch meeting USDA requirements during the regular school day. The partial/full cost of meals may be charged when families do not qualify for free/reduced price meals.

"When children bring their own food for meals and snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the specified nutritional requirements, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements."

Really?  If ever there was a place the state has no business, its poking its long nose in my child’s lunch box.  None of the Nanny’s freaking business.

Who knows better what their child will eat, the state or the family?  Ever try to feed a 4 year old?  Forget the fact that the lunch packed was better than the meal the child was served and ate at school, or that the home provided lunch met and exceeded the USDA guidelines.  The fact that someone poked their state approved nose where it had on business is the problem.

Oh, and here’s reality of these sorts of misguided programs.

The bottom line: back off, government!  The responsibility for children belong to parents whether you like it or not.  You can’t both demand they take responsibility and then usurp that responsibility at will when the state decides it “knows better” for whatever arbitrary and god-awful reason.

This anecdote highlights a mostly silent and progressive usurpation of parental rights and authority.  It is happening everywhere, because, you see, the “experts” always know best.




Twitter: @McQandO


I’m stunned every now and then when I see a story like this.  By the way this isn’t an indictment of Germany, necessarily, its not the only country in which you’ll find such knowledge gaps.  Japan has hidden its atrocities during WWII as well.  In fact, most countries would prefer not to discuss such behavior.  

But it sure makes it hard to say “Never again” and have it mean anything if part of the population doesn’t know what it refers too.

One in five young Germans has no idea that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp, a poll released Wednesday showed, two days ahead of Holocaust memorial day.

Although 90 percent of those asked did know it was a concentration camp, the poll for Thursday’s edition of Stern news magazine revealed that Auschwitz meant nothing to 21 percent of 18-29 year olds.

And nearly a third of the 1,002 people questioned last Thursday and Friday for the poll were unaware that Auschwitz was in today’s Poland.

Maybe it’s not significant that 21% didn’t recognize a name that is so identified with concentration camps that it could be a synonym.  Perhaps it is good enough that 90% of the total knew it was a concentration camp.  Or does it signal that the shame and the knowledge of the shame brought to Germany by the Nazis is beginning to fade (of course my guess is if you asked the question of the same demographic here in the US, the percentage to which the name would mean nothing would probably be higher)? 

Or, does it perhaps point to a demographic in which a portion is so self-absorbed that history like that represented by Auschwitz simply doesn’t register?

I wonder at times, as I watch the WWII era dim as veterans die off, whether things like D-Day and its import or Pearl Harbor will even get a mention in a few years.  

But back to the poll.  If ever there is something every German school kid should know about it is the Nazi era.  If ever there was a subject to which they should be exposed, to include all of the atrocities by that regime, it is the subject of Germany and Nazism. 

I can’t help but believe, and I don’t know it for sure, that the subject gets taught but it isn’t something that is lingered over by schools.  And I wonder how sanitized it has become now days. 

The fact that a fifth of the young demographic said the name “Auschwitz” had no meaning for them has thinking it is both short and sanitized when presented.  

Wonder if they knew the name “Dachau” (10 mines northwest of Munich).


Twitter: @McQandO

Why college diplomas aren’t worth as much anymore

Or at least one reason they’re not worth as much:

Columbia University is offering a new course on Occupy Wall Street next semester — sending upperclassmen and grad students into the field for full course credit.

The class is taught by Dr. Hannah Appel, who boasts about her nights camped out in Zuccotti Park.

As many as 30 students will be expected to get involved in ongoing OWS projects outside the classroom, the syllabus says.

The class will be in the anthropology department and called “Occupy the Field: Global Finance, Inequality, Social Movement.” It will be divided between seminars at the Morningside Heights campus and fieldwork.

Columbia.  Reduced to pap like this.  And of course the moon pony “teaching” the course is a big fan of OWS:

She said her allegiance won’t keep her from being an objective teacher.

“Inevitably, my experience will color the way I teach, but I feel equipped to teach objectively,” Appel told The Post. “It’s best to be critical of the things we hold most sacred.”

Or at least say we’ll be “critical”.  Because, you know, that at least sounds right.


Twitter: @McQandO

Higher Education–privatizing profits, socializing loss

Glenn Reynolds has an article in the Washington Examiner about how he believes the higher education bubble is about to burst.  Perhaps not imminently, but fairly soon.  Why?  Because the value of the product doesn’t match its rising cost.

Reynolds talks about the dilution of the worth of a bachelor’s degree even while the price has risen exponentially.  Something’s got to give.

But there’s no real incentive for institutions of higher learning to back off the price.  Why?  Because government has chosen to subsidize those prices by taking over the student loan business. 

Sound at all familiar? 

With no penalty for raising the price, colleges and universities continue to do so knowing full well that whatever they stick the student with that requires a loan they will get upfront.  And if the the student defaults, we, the taxpayers, get stuck with the bill.

One of the big complaints about the Wall Street bailout from both sides of the political isle had to so with “privatizing profits and socializing debt”.  That’s precisely what the current government loan program does as well.

Reynolds makes the argument that colleges and universities should be on the hook for the debt.  After all they’re the institutions providing the product.  Tying the price of the product to the worth of the product is such an old fashioned concept isn’t it?  Instead this new-fangled way of doing business has led to bubble after bubble which the uninformed then try to pin on “market failure”.

In fact it is a government takeover of a market.  There is no competition, no incentive to revisit pricing, no reason to worry about default.  Charge whatever you like, make an outrageous profit and if the loan fails, stick the taxpayers with the cost.

Nice crony capitalist system if you can arrange it, huh?

We all know exactly how it will end up … with a big “pop” and a bunch of surprised politicians asking “how could this have happened?’

And the first words out of most of their mouths?

“Market failure”.

And what does that usually mean?

More government intrusion and control.

Then the cycle repeats.


Twitter: @McQandO

The “Gimme Generation”

I‘ve mentioned before about the seemingly unbridgeable ideological divide confronting our federal representatives in Washington, DC. This seems to be a generational version of the same thing (my emphasis):

Young folks today appear to have the same dreams and ambitions that my generation had at the same age. We wanted an education, a good career, a home of our own and a happy life. The main difference between today’s youthful opinion is that most of us expected to stay in school, work hard and earn a good life instead of having it given to us at someone else’s expense — a point of view expressed by many young adults today.

Proof of the pudding showed up this fall in a survey conducted by Professor Jack W. Chambless at Valencia College in Florida. He asked his students to write a short essay expressing their view of The American Dream.

Most of the students responded with the familiar notions of youth expressed by my generation with one important and notable exception. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their future, they noted that the government should, “Pay my tuition, provide me with a job, give me money for a house, make sure I get free health care and pay for my retirement.” If necessary, “… raise taxes on rich people so that I can have more money …”

What else would you expect from young Americans, who, after several generations, have grown accustomed to a “Nanny State” in which the Federal Government has taken more and more license with the lives of individual Americans? This entire process has resulted in a citizenry in which one-half of wage earners pay no income tax at all and, indeed, in some cases even get a “refund” even though that refund comes from one of the other half of Americans who have paid income tax. If this is not a prime Marxist example of government, “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need,” I don’t know what is.

In fact, according to clip below, 80% of the students opined that health care, tuition, down payments and jobs should all be provided by the government at no cost to themselves. And, while this certainly isn’t a scientific poll or anything even approaching the sort, it should be noted that this was from a class of 200 college kids. So, at least 160 of them thought this way. Which is more than just pathetic and sad. It’s a harbinger of terrible things to come.

I truly pray that Valencia College has cornered the market on freeloaders, thus making this a terribly skewed sample. Or maybe the students surveyed are just a bunch of smart-asses having fun with their professor. Indeed, I’m sure that something far less than 8 in 10 college students believes that government should just provide for their every want and desire, paying for out of the pockets of the “rich” if need be (one wonders where they think all these goodies originate?).

But the number doesn’t really need to be all that high before serious issues arise. If, instead, the number is only 20% (or 1 in 5), that would be better, but still alarming. Consider that if 20% of the electorate feels this way, and that the remaining 80% are diametrically opposed on almost every issue, then pleasing that smaller cohort becomes the key to political victory. In short, giving free stuff to the 20% in exchange for their votes. Which is not at all unlike what we have now.

Of course if that number is higher that 1 in 5, the problem becomes much worse. At least, until they run out of other people’s money.

You can see a video of an interview with the professor who conducted the survey here.