Losing Touch With Working People

Guest host Ray Suarez, sitting in for regular On Point host Tom Ashcroft, talks with author and historian Thomas Frank about how the selling of post-secondary education, the federal government (via trade deals and tax policy), and big business (via globalization and the neutering of unions) have negatively impacted working Americans.

An interesting nugget from Mr. Frank: “People in DC always talk about the skills revolution … . The problem is not that we don’t have enough skills … . They [Democrats] see every economic problem as an education problem. It’s not. It’s a problem of power.”

Take forty-seven minutes out of your day to give this podcast a listen.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I’ll have to give this a listen. I’m becoming more and more interested in the impact that post-secondary education is having on our economy. I’m starting to feel like it’s this gigantic avalanche that has so much momentum there is no way to stop it, regardless of whether it’s helping or hurting. Too many stakeholders with too much to lose if the system gets turned upside down.

    • Summarized, I would say Mr. Frank believes the ‘elites’ continue to insist that the reason the working class continues to draw low wages is because they lack the education (right education?) and their productivity is lacking. He disputes that notion by informing listeners that education is not the problem and American workers are more productive than ever. He asserts the reason wages remain low is pretty straight forward … those in power use that power to drive up their own wages, at the expense of others, through their ability to impact policy.

      The podcast is definitely worth a listen. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. I’m kind of anti democrat, and republican for that matter. anti coke and pepsi system. I’ve seen the two parties as just little more than corporate puppets.
    I never understood why corporations create poverty on purpose. I want to live in an ideal society where people don’t struggle to get by, buildings aren’t dilapidated, homes are kept up and food is on the table. Don’t people that run corporations want to be able to go to any place in the world and expect it to be nice? Or are they so sheltered they don’t care. Also, the more money that is in the people’s pockets, the more innovation is driven, duh! Who cares if Joe Blowjob CEO has billions if it stagnates human innovation and progress which Joe himself greatly benefits from. Comes back to my view that the general population, including people in power, are so shortsighted.
    I’ve heard from local farmers how corporations and the government is trying to squash out small farms and even just producing food on your own small property for yourself for some strange reason. I had close friends that ran a small Dairy farm, been in farming for decades and they’re struggling as much as anyone out there, they lost their farm. Government and Business are supposed to be completely separate. If anything Business is supposed to be the government’s baby, take care of it and help it grow, but we also set rules for it to follow so it doesn’t hurt others. Instead we have Business and Government as a married couple and Business writes it’s own rules it has government pass, probably laughing constantly at the system. It’s a ridiculously corrupted system, both corporations and Government have become corrupted on a massive scale where people in power realize they can do whatever they want with zero consequences.

    John Collins wrote an interesting post years ago about college debt and debt in general.
    Short of it that I found interesting: $1 in 1970 was worth $6.36 in 2014.
    “In the same time period, a 4-year state school college education went from $4,800 to $160,000. A 33-fold increase.” I just looked at Wisconsin university tuition, looks like it was an 18 fold increase from 1970 to 2011. And I know people that have a lot of student debt, work close to minimum wage and have no idea how they’ll pay their loans that they can’t get rid of, let alone pay for apartment, food, heat, etc.

    • As Thomas Frank noted in the interview, it isn’t that American workers have become less productive or that there is an education problem. American workers are more productive than ever and more educated than ever. However, those increases have not led to commensurate economic benefits for the vast majority of Americans. A relative few, those that wield the power and are able to shape policy, have enjoyed outsized gains at everyone else’s expense.

      • Yeah, I may have gone a bit off topic there, I hate politics lol. I agreed with many of what Thomas Frank said. On the one hand we have many industries shifting and jobs being moved around, but the end result for America are jobs that are increasingly unbalanced. You either make a living or you struggle. Yeah people that lose their manufacturing jobs can probably find other jobs, but that also probably means taking a lower paying job and possibly uprooting their whole family.
        Corporations playing these games, moving overseas and creating unemployment causes wages to drop or stagnate here. What Thomas Frank noted sounds like a win-win for the corporations to me. They save money moving jobs somewhere else, and in turn, jobs here become cheaper. Many people with degrees really don’t make much either. And I’m really sick of jobs requiring degrees for $12/hr jobs with no benefits. There’s more than I realized. Some required by law, it’s like a system built to keep people in poverty. Not every job needs a degree. And that’s why managing money is so extremely important these days, we’re not in a society these days of booming wealth for the masses.

        • These are certainly difficult times for many and on a micro level, because let’s face it, there is nothing the individual – or the individual household – can do on a macro level, the best that can be done is to educate yourself, plan thoroughly and execute with laser like focus.

          • That’s why I tend to ignore politics, feel helpless. Just focus on what you can control.

            *I realized I meant Jim Collins earlier, I knew John sounded wrong.

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