Education has been the most important component of America's economic success over the past 150 years, writes Paul Krugman—that is public education. But after 30 years of Reaganite opposition to public spending, we've seen a "slow-motion erosion" of America's educational standing, until what we think is the "the great land of college education" actually has fallen behind many other countries in graduation rates. Current state budget crises and Congress stripping federal aid from the stimulus package have made things dramatically worse.
Over the past five months, 143,000 jobs in state and local education have disappeared—a sobering statistic, since "education should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession." The New York Times columnist says we're doing a lifetime's worth of damage to young Americans who only a few years ago would have used college as a springboard to better lives. Congress needs to get more funding to state governments to keep universities afloat. "Education made America great," Krugman writes; "neglect of education can reverse the process."