Certain policies may help avoid a future of growing income inequality and social decline. One is to stop the emigration of California’s best talent. The state should meet the demand for college-educated workers by making itself attractive to the highly educated, not by trying to dragoon all students into college. California cannot hope to retain the entrepreneurs it still has and to attract others unless it radically revamps its business climate and lowers its taxes (a course made more difficult, though, by the demands on government social services imposed by the growing Hispanic population). Congress could help California stay globally competitive by letting foreign-born Ph.D. students in science and technology automatically obtain green cards to work in the U.S. after completing their degrees.
California should also create a robust vocational-education system. The fashionable prejudice against vocational education will end up bankrupting the school and college systems by forcing students into academically oriented classrooms that hold no interest for them and for which they are not qualified. Further, the blue-collar skilled trades are desperate for workers and pay much better than many a service-sector job (see “Wanted: Blue-Collar Workers,” Autumn 2011). Only 55 percent of Hispanic male students graduated from California high schools in 2007, reports the California Dropout Research Project; many of the dropouts would undoubtedly have welcomed the opportunity to learn a trade. At the same time, California must stop decimating what remains of its manufacturing sector with business-killing regulations (see “The Long Stall,” Autumn 2011).
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