May 5, 2013

What we can learn from Europe

The middle and working classes in this country have had a difficult last few years. All but the top 5 percent have lost wealth. Some have been forced to delay retirement. Others in retirement no longer have the income and security that they once thought. And, still others grapple with persistent unemployment and underemployment.

Yet, we have been lucky compared to some nations.

Europe is often a microcosm of the best and worst an economic union has to offer. It remains divided, with some nations prospering while others flounder. Yet, somehow, it must knit itself together as an imperfect economic union.

Let’s begin with one of its strengths. Germany has forged a compact between free enterprise and its working class. The coalition promises social and economic responsibility by its corporations and inclusion of its workers. There, management and unions have figured out how to work together in the interest of the whole. They have learned to cooperate to provide long-term productivity and sustainability through a partnership.

A variety of German institutions assume responsibility for the training of their workforce. Universities educate a smaller share of their population than we do, but more of the young people who begin college in Germany finish it. Their institutions of higher education produce a good mix of doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, administrators and other professional white-collar and green-collar staff. And, they don’t leave as many highly trained individuals unemployed or underemployed as we do.

Companies and unions also cooperate to train those who see value and dignity in technical professions like electricians, heavy-equipment operators, machinists, welders, plumbers and pipefitters. They help sponsor the education of the next generation of blue-collar workers by providing internships that allow young people to get real-world experience in their trade. The companies then hire these workers who have received two or more years of training and practical experience beyond high school.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • ken_wibecan.jpg Another day in the life

    Each morning I rise from bed, slowly, as is my habit, and sit quietly on the bed contemplating the day that looms before me, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR small talk mug 081714 Corner store is no more

    Columnist Gordie Little offers a reminder of the little grocery stores of days gone by.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR skin deep mug 081714 High-end products worth the splurge

    Regardless of the price, writes columnist Felicia Krieg, she would buy the core group of her makeup products over and over again.

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Tax code needs overhaul

    Corporations may be criticized for exploiting loopholes, but it is the complex tax system that is at fault, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Ideas about soil health changing

    New techniques like no-til and cover crops can make soil healthier than conventional tillage, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Economy may have changed forever

    The Great Recession has reordered the workforce in a way that makes it unlikely it will ever be the same, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The dark side of fun funerals

    Something strange happened in American culture in the past decade or two: People started planning fun funerals, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR fit bits mug Developing power key to success

    While strength is important, the ability to generate power is required for many basic activities in life, writes columnist Ted Santaniello.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR you had to ask mug 081014 Time to reel in youth sports parents

    Do not scream at a child that he's a loser, at least not in a language he understands, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Treating corporations like people

    Problems arise in many areas when businesses take on the attributes of individuals as mandated by the court, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice
Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time