Losing an intangible asset

There was an important op-ed piece tucked away in the Sunday New York Times — The Frustrations of the Educated and Unemployed American. Written by a “24-year-old American” Matthew Klein, it goes to the heart of the dangers of the slowed economy:

About one-fourth of Egyptian workers under 25 are unemployed, a statistic that is often cited as a reason for the revolution there. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January an official unemployment rate of 21 percent for workers ages 16 to 24.
. . .
The cost of youth unemployment is not only financial, but also emotional. Having a job is supposed to be the reward for hours of SAT prep, evenings spent on homework instead of with friends and countless all-nighters writing papers. The millions of young people who cannot get jobs or who take work that does not require a college education are in danger of losing their faith in the future. They are indefinitely postponing the life they wanted and prepared for; all that matters is finding rent money. Even if the job market becomes as robust as it was in 2007 — something economists say could take more than a decade — my generation will have lost years of career-building experience.

In other words, we are throwing away an important intangible asset — an asset we can afford to lose and one we will have a hard time getting back.
So in the middle of all the debate about strengthening our competitiveness by improving education, lets spend a little time also thinking about the resources that are slipping through our hands. That includes not only the young people who can’t find jobs, but the middle-age workers whose skills are eroding while they try to make ends meet on rapidly expiring unemployment benefits and food stamps.
Surely we can do better.

One thought on “Losing an intangible asset”

  1. Using an intangible asset

    Here is an upbeat story to contrast with yesterday’s downer of a posting. As I’ve mentioned before, President Obama has called for a re-organization of government trade functions. Which brings me to this story in this morning’s Washington Post, Federal…


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