Better U.S. Schools Could End Recession, Pay Off Debt to China

Would you like to send your kid to a great school? Or would you rather send your money to China?

By + More

By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Can we all agree, liberals and conservatives, that the US of A is piling up a mountain of public debt? And can we all agree that nobody wants to raise income tax rates to pay off all those trillions of dollars that we owe?

That is what the infamous tea parties were all about, right Fox News fans?

Well here is one way to pay off our Chinese and other foreign creditors, without raising taxes. It's surprisingly simple: improve our schools.

McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm, decided to calculate what the flaws in our educational system cost us. It concluded that if the United States could raise educational achievement to the level of, say, Finland or Korea, it would boost GDP by 9 to 16 percent, or from $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion a year.

That is, as the firm points out, far more than the price of the current recession. And this gap persists in good times, when we don't tend to notice it but it still, stealthily, "imposes on the U.S. the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession."

Now, Finland and Korea have homogeneous populations. It's easier for them to get everyone singing from the same sheet of music. The United States is still the great melting pot, and the McKinsey study details the various racial, class, ethnic, and regional gaps that we need to close. And, yes, liberals and conservatives have differing views on how best to close those gaps. If this was easy, we would have done it.

But hard work requires a payoff to keep us at our labors. And the McKinsey report suggests that there is a pretty darn big payoff to be had here. Higher GDP=more government revenue=less debt.

Would you like to send your kid to a great school? Or would you rather send your money to China? That is our choice. The answer is kind of obvious, no?

  • Check out our political cartoons.
  • Read more by John Aloysius Farrell.
  • Read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
  • Read more about education.