# Can America Keep Up? US News & World Report

1. Apr 4, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/060327/27global.htm

Why so many smart folks fear that the United States is falling behind in the race for global economic leadership
By Richard J. Newman - 3/27/06

The US still provides incredible educational opportunities, however the rest of the world is catching up and passing by - maybe.

Learning is hard work! Get used to it!

2. Apr 4, 2006

### Zlex

America, with 300 million people, hands out only 5% of its undergraduate degrees in science and engineering...and half of those go to foreign nationals.

China, with a billion or so, hands out over 72% of its undergraduate degrees in science and engieering.

So, 15 years from now, who the **** do YOU want running the world? The increasingly technically illiterate, still yet imagining that they rule the skies in their ...1970s era warplanes?

Wake up and smell the polluted skies in China.

Accounting is the number one US undergraduate degrees being pumped out.

It's also the highest growth rate outsourced resource; 4X growth each year. So, (for example,) if its only 20000 jobs this year, that means ... about 5 million jobs at the end of 4 yrs. Which means, it's on a growth path for outsourced saturation before today's kids get out of college.

Salaries will be long term depressed for years. There's going to be a glut of accountants with no experience, it's easy to predict.

The big accounting firms digitize/sanitize the bread and butter tax compliance returns, zip them to India, where experts in every US state are available to crank them out cheap.

Turns out, +,-./,X , and 'continuity' is not all that tough a barrier to entry, and the bread and butter forms come with RTFM instructions.

So, the long term accounting trend is for increasingly specialized tax avoidance...I mean, accounting specialists/"elites." (Did I get the smeer job right?)

But, not the bread and butter accounting jobs, which used to be higher paying bread and butter accounting jobs.

Kind of like what 'making bitmaps dance' used to be here not all that long ago.

What kind of virtuous workingman "Grapes of Wrath" inspired fantasy can we come up with this time while we're waiting for the lights to go out?

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3. Apr 4, 2006

### BobG

It'll be just like the first one, except the workers in the field will have classier clothes. Instead of being a movie about Okies from Muskogee, the movie will be about ex-programmers and ex-accountants.

Hence the number of programmers and accountants that resent illegal Mexican immigrants sneaking across the border and stealing "Plan B" out from under them.

There is a big difference in attitude between those that lived through the depression and those that lived through the 80's and 90's.

During the depression, things were so bad that a lot of people said the depression proved that capitalism just wasn't a workable theory.

By the 80's and 90's, when the US was becoming the world's only superpower, a lot of people developed the idea that life should automatically be easy for Americans.

In the 50's and 60's, Americans made things - and made them better than anyone else. Now, America is good at making money - which isn't quite the same type skill as making things.

What today's outsourcing means is that the world is returning to a more normal state, where everyone has to compete to get ahead and no one is guaranteed anything - not even Americans.

4. Apr 4, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

Actually, that set of facts paints a picture to me that says we are still on top. Particularly, the fact that half of our science/engineering graduates are foreigners. It means that the US still turns out the best scientists and engineers (which is why foreigners get educated here if they can).

As long as the quality stays as high as it is, I don't much care that the total number of people with science engineering degrees is higher elsewhere. Those accounting majors? They get mindless office jobs at $30k - if they are lucky. Engineers? They still start at$55k+, and almost all have jobs before they graduate from college.

Anecdotal, but instructive: We did an HVAC commissioning job in Mexico last year and the field tech installing the controls had a degree from the best engineering school in Mexico. In the US, that job would not need/require a degree. At the same time, my boss broke a filling and fortunately for him, one of the women cleaning the bathrooms at the plant was also a dentist...

5. Apr 4, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

Along a similar veign, I don't want the engineering profession to become dilued. Sure, some of that is selfish (high demand equals more money for me) but just as important is that competition in engineering generally leads to a decrease in quality, and our superiority has to be based on quality, not quantity.

6. Apr 4, 2006

### scott1

I agree.Lower qanity means higher quaility.
I think that sport majors should be froced to also do somthing elese like engineer/buisness major.Why go to collage if all you want to do is play football?You don't need to go any futher pass high school to play football.The problem is that collages seem to give scholerships to people just want football.Shouldn't they be giving schollarships to people who want learn somthing that you have to actually to collage to learn!

7. Apr 4, 2006

### Cyrus

Eh, well. The chinese did manage to send a man into space. That was no small feat. They are moving ahead technology wise quite rapidly, as is India. I think both are good examples of both quantity and quality. China and space, India and the biotech sector, nuclear. These are not second class areas of science. The quality of the engineers in India are just as good if not better than in the U.S. Not all, but some. So there is a pool of very high quality along with the substandard engineers.

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8. Apr 4, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

I believe the concern is that the foreigners who graduate are taking that skill back to their home countries, and they will be developing technology in competition with the US.

In fact, the US has 'lost' the capability of making large steel forgings. There is only one shop in the world capable of handling large steel forgings, and that is in Japan. China, with it's desire for nuclear energy, will likely build that infrastructure themselves.

In a rush to sell plants to India and China, the US and Europeans will likely end up giving away the technology.

9. Apr 4, 2006

### scott1

Who much of there India's and China's population have higer I.Q. to an average american citizen?The average I.Q. in India and China is probally lower then the U.S.
China only sent on man up to space our technology is still more advance.

10. Apr 4, 2006

### sid_galt

As others have said before, quantity =/= quality.

Besides, most of the good foreign students who graduate tend to stay in the US. Which true lover of science and engineering would give up splendid research opportunities available in the US and go back? Sure, some good quality foreigners do go back but most stay. And those who go back, their output is very low compared to what it could have been had they stayed in the US.

And the research opportunities are a result of US capitalism and freedom. So until some other country becomes better than the US in the latter two spheres, I don't expect the US dominance to go away.

11. Apr 4, 2006

### Cyrus

That, actually, is not entirely true sid galt. It costs far less to do research in, say India, than it does in the United States. This is why its attractive to do the research over there, where its on the cheap, and then manufacture and sell it over here, to maximize profits. (At least as far as biotech is concerned)

12. Apr 4, 2006

### sid_galt

Any references you could provide to back up that claim? It is cheap to manufacture in 3rd world countries, but as far as research is concerned, from the laws of economics, research cannot be cheaper in 3rd world countries or else it would have been conducted there.
Besides the people and the atmosphere is just not there.

13. Apr 4, 2006

### Cyrus

I heard it from a lady who runs a major biotech company in India on an interview. Ill dig up her name later.

Why can't research be cheaper in another country? It is being conducted there for exactly that reason. There is a transition to doing more research in India, because it's far cheaper.

That's not true in the case of India either. The atmosphere for change is there, and is the cause for concern. Some say this will be the century of the India/China story.

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14. Apr 4, 2006

### Smasherman

I have to agree with cyrus on India/China taking the #1 position as far as national power in the world goes.

A lot of people, when they find out that I'm adept at computers (I program some), tell me that programming will be a good job in the future. I highly doubt this, however, for two reasons: One, programmers are becoming more common. Two, programming is getting easier, so less programmers are needed to do more.

I'm not sure how quantity and quality affect the quality of engineering work, but I imagine that it's true that less engineers means less faults, but if there are huge numbers of engineers, projects can be double- and triple- checked before being put into play.

'Course, my biggest question in all of this is how the &*%# I'm going to survive in the upcoming world. I live in a dying world power with a large military. Joy.

15. Apr 4, 2006

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
Quite the contrary, in fact, sid. I'm afraid you're just wrong.

Many researchers from US universities are offered gleaming new laboratories overseas, generous government support without all the bureaucracy and political wrangling to get funding (one advantage non-democratic governments offer), and few or no laws which restrict what they can do with, e.g. stem cells or embryos.

It's a deal too good for many to pass up. The "atmosphere" is definitely there, in force. These governments are willing to do whatever it takes to lure and keep top-notch researchers happy.

The people, too, are there. While many of the brightest still end up in the US, many return home after making a small fortune here, effectively gouging our economy. Since China and India are simply churning out more scientists and engineers, most of those who don't have the smarts to make it to America still find plenty of opportunity at those gleaming new government-funded labs. Since living costs are much lower there, they can be employed much more cheaply than silver-spoon Americans.

We are losing the "race," partially due to stupid government policies (i.e. crippling stem cell research), partially due to stupid kids (who don't want to study science), and partially because this is simply a natural correction to a technological bubble that has persisted far longer than it really should've.

- Warren

16. Apr 4, 2006

Staff Emeritus
Warren, assuming all the rest of your post is accurate, those kids are not dumb. Any kid smart enough to do science is smart enought to see the grungy support that science gets in this country and plan to do something else.

Among the sources of the problem you should also include the US way of education, though. Because parents and local politicians control the school content, there is a cultural dumbing-down force constantly at work, and teachers are not well-enough prepared in science either, particularly at lower grades levels.

17. Apr 4, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

They are welcome to it. I'm a big fan of the American Dream and that means I am wholly in favor of anyone and everyone who can, getting ahold of it. If they come here to get it and then take it back with them, they have my blessing.

Besides, when those countries come up to our level, we'll have new trading partners akin to Canada and Europe. But they have a looooong way to go: we're only having this conversation because of their vast population - the average level of development in China and India is abysmal.
Well, this thread is mostly about diluting of expertise - we have only "lost" that capability insofar as it is no longer economically feasible to do it here. Frankly, the steel industry was doing the US economy more harm than good and I'm glad to see it go. It would be nice if we could get new steel companies, though (even if we end up with a Toyota business model with Japanese companies making steel in the US with American workers).

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18. Apr 4, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

Toughie: dumb or just lazy? And "dumb" can be an all-encompassing word that doesn't necessarily imply low IQ.
Agreed. To me, that's the one critical problem here: regardless of the "dumb or lazy" thing above, the current cultural forces ensure that only the most motivated people become scientists and engineers. Making science more popular would dilute the talent pool, but there are also plenty of high iq people who have the intelligence to be scientists and engineers, but simply lack the motivation.

The current distribution is ok, imo, (read: not great, but not bad), but if the downward trend continues, we will have a real shortage of scientific minds in the near future. Regardless of if it dilutes the talent pool, it would be good to have more. Besides - there are always easier science/engineering jobs that the dumber scientists and engineers can do. Like mine, for example....

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19. Apr 5, 2006

### Zlex

In the context of this thread, it also indicates that we can 'fix' this issue by an increased reliance on foreign technologists, to wit, the ones that at least 'half' of those degrees 'produced' at American Universities have created.

Well d'uh; what do folks think we've been doing for the last 40 years? I mean, "we don't need no steenking technology to do any of this ****, all we need is good old American hard work ethic and virtual working class (when it is not out ****ing the dog) ethos" aside.

Well, OK. So...where is it?

Whatever S&E degrees that 'America' produces, a number like half of them are being taken by(not given to)foreign nationals. At grad schools like MIT even thirty years ago, this was the case, I doubt it has changed significantly. What has changed is the % of them that feel the desire to stick around after the fact.

Is China any 'good' at what it does? What has kept them down in the past has been their factual organisational implementation of where half of us think we are heading. Seriously, the Chinese are not our genetic inferiors, only our political inferiors.

So, counting on their continued self-crippling behaviour does not sound like much of a plan, especially when it is coupled with our own flirtation with self-crippling.

Literally, 'self'- crippling.

Counting/wishing that China is 'not very good' at what it does is not a plan. As in, let's loosen up our belt, take a blow, or as those long dead 19th century German philopsophers once implored mankind, 'don't try so hard.'

Technology capability does not sit on a shelf well, and by that, I don't mean the actual products of technology, but the capability to advance technology; hard earned area under the curve does not archive well. That capability is ultimately captured by living people. I've often bumped into management types who regarded that capability as something of a tap, to be turned on and off like any commodity. Many companies have their legends of 'the Golden Years' and the not so Golden Years of technological development. It seems like seasons come and go, like vintages. My rambling point is, this is not the same USA that did Apollo in under ten years. Same initials. Some of our capabilities have expanded greatly, at the same time, our reach has withered, and with it, I think, our focus and discipline. It seems to me that we are in a prolonged period of mere 'idling,' trying to keep that capability on a shelf, so to speak, until some maybe future next 'Golden Years.' But if you consider(maybe you don't agree)that the 50's and 60's were the last 'Golden Years', it has now been two full generations of 'idling.'

I don't mean to imply that outrageously good effort is not being done today; the rubber of some of that might even someday hit the road. But, consider that the B52 is still flying. Consider that, the difference between what the Wright Brothers flew and the B52 50 years later is infinitely more dramatic then the B52 and the slightly improved B52 still flying 50 years later, or any of its stealthy not even replacements.

Two full generations of relative idling, now. A spark, a national will, has been nearly extinguished.

20. Apr 5, 2006

### Zlex

The steel industry--a great example. Literally, folks got paid tons of money to do absolutly nothing.

In order to support that immense gradient of 'steel' created at a steel plant, there must exist other massive gradients of steel consumption. But face it, an America that put its last star on the map over 2 generations ago in the aftermath of a major gradient producing world war is not the same place it was then. Hey, Ike's Autobahn is just about finished. The rate of filling in our little local maps is not what it once was a hundred years ago. ANd, the rest of the developing world is no longer knocked flat on its ass. There is less room in the market for underproductive massive steel plants, and/or affable executives at Beth Steel phoning it in from Saucon Valley CC throwing a huge benefits and wages party on the Lehigh; the rest of the world says, "We would like a piece of that, too." Stay still, get eaten.

There once was a massive wave of transmission tower building going on in this nation, as the nations power distribution network was constructed. Well, the maintenance/slow expansion phase is not the same wave of consumption that the original development phase once was. We've seen these things; once, they were galvanized steel towers, erector sets on steroids, still plenty around, later often replaced with tubular steel tower designs that went ungalvanized and actually relied on a weathered/oxidized surface to reduce cost.

So, there used to be galvanizing plants along the east coast which 'hot dipped' the steel in molten Zinc, and as the demand lessoned, fewer and fewer. But, at one point, near the end of this phase, in the 70's, these plants started finding that they were unable to compete with foreign galvenizing plants. Imagine that; it was becoming cheaper to ship the steel overseas, have it galvanized, and then shipped back, then it was to truck it to some local plant and have it galvanized. Mind boggling. Not just one reason for this, other then under the unifying principle, gradients drive everything. The foreign plants were often newer and not encumbered by the post WWII attitude, whether by labor or management, that this gig was going to last forever no matter what and it was not necessary to compete in the world.

The flaw in the irrational wish to seek stasis in the steel market is the belief that somehow the game can be rigged so that it can all somehow be just downhill. Forget it, the Universe only rewards those who charge up its many hills with a fine view from the top.

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