Apparently wage stagnation matters…a lot.

Not just because middle class families are swimming debt, but we’re apparently on a collision course with having a work force that doesn’t represent the best and brightest in the world.

From NY Times:

The rising cost of college — even before the recession — threatens to put higher education out of reach for most Americans, according to the biennial report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

“If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.

“When we come out of the recession,” Mr. Callan added, “we’re really going to be in jeopardy, because the educational gap between our work force and the rest of the world will make it very hard to be competitive. Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”

So what to do?

We could significantly increase education subsidization, but no doubt conservatives would cry foul at the additional spending. But we all know that a strong nation starts with education, and if getting a solid foundation becomes nearly impossible without going hopelessly into debt, the American dream will start disenegrating a lot quicker than it is presently.

Honestly, I think we’re looking at a serious realignment of national priorities in the next 20 years and one that most people on the right side of the aisle won’t like very much: slowly drawing down defense spending and investing in the American people. Let’s face it, the defense budget is a big pot of honey that never gets touched, but it’s the most obvious choice to draw out of. Or, at the very least, stop increasing the budget year after year and make the military tighten their belts just like everybody else.

After all, folks like McCain characterize any infrastructure project as “pork”, but they have no catch phrases for defense projects. And many of those give us no discernible gain. You know, sort of like the war in Iraq…nearly a trillion dollars spent when all is said and done and no demonstrable benefit from it.

At the very least, by upping education spending, we know that we’ll collectively get smarter and be more competitive as a result.

What do you think?

Business College Becoming Unaffordable For Most Americans