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Bernstein on Investing in Public Goods


On PBS’s “Need to Know” that aired on Friday, CBPP Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein participated in a panel discussion on economic inequality, mobility, debt, and the state of the American economy in the wake of the Great Recession.  In this exchange with host Jeff Greenfield, he highlighted the importance of investing in public goods like education to increasing economic growth and mobility:

JEFF GREENFIELD: But if social mobility is lessening in part because of structural reasons — the need for a more educated workforce, let’s say — does it tell us much about what public policy ought to be doing?

JARED BERNSTEIN: I mean, public policy plays a huge role in what economists call “public goods,” and education is a key part of that.  And in fact, if you actually look at the numbers and recent budget trends, our investments in the public school system and the public university system, systems that I think have been crucial to providing the kind of upward ladders of mobility that we are sorely in danger of losing, we are disinvesting in those kinds of public goods.  And frankly, I think that’s the way forward, in terms of growth and in terms of inequality and opportunity, is to think much more about an investment model and the kinds of things that will generate a productive economy moving forward — and to obsess far less about tweaks in the marginal tax code, and obsessing over the kind of root canal economics that I hear so much about these days.

We’ve documented the harmful effects of cuts to K-12 and higher education (see chart below).  Click here for 50-state data on higher ed cuts and here for 50-state data on cuts to K-12 programs.

Click here for the full video of this episode of “Need to Know.”