Thunk, thunk, thunk

That is the sound of my head hitting the kitchen table as I read the latest from Tom Friedman:

Yamini Narayanan is an Indian-born 35-year-old with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma. After graduation, she worked for a U.S. computer company in Virginia and recently moved back to Bangalore with her husband to be closer to family. When I asked her how she felt about the outsourcing of jobs from her adopted country, America, to her native country, India, she responded with a revealing story:

“I just read about a guy in America who lost his job to India and he made a T-shirt that said, `I lost my job to India and all I got was this [lousy] T-shirt.’ And he made all kinds of money.” Only in America, she said, shaking her head, would someone figure out how to profit from his own unemployment. And that, she insisted, was the reason America need not fear outsourcing to India: America is so much more innovative a place than any other country.

Do I even need to bother commenting?

Actually, I’m tired, it’s late Sunday night, so I’m going to let reader Erich H. provide the obligatory snarky comment:

“I’m sure those t-shirts earn a steady $75,000 a year and provide family health insurance and retirement bennys…”

Thanks, Erich.

Meanwhile, in the same section in which Tom Friedman shares this latest exciting installment in his ongoing journey deep into the heart of mediocrity, another article points out that the future looks bright — if you’re a waiter.

But some economists point to those same federal forecasts to poke holes in the argument that the key to job creation is more sophisticated education and knowledge. Yes, the greatest increase is expected to be for registered nurses (an increase of 623,000 jobs) and college and university teachers (an increase of 603,000).

But according to forecasts issued last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7 of the 10 occupations with the greatest growth through 2012 will be in low-wage, service fields requiring little education: retail salesperson, customer service representative, food-service worker, cashier, janitor, waiter and nursing aide and hospital orderly. Many of these jobs pay less than $18,000 a year. Forecasting an increase of 21 million jobs from 2002 to 2012, the bureau predicted 596,000 more retail sales jobs, 454,000 more food-service jobs and 454,000 more cashier positions.

Forecasts like these raise fears that many Americans will end up disappointed after spending years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on college degrees. “The education-and-training solution, while it sounds good, is simply too facile,” said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. He noted that the number of Americans with college degrees who are unemployed for more than six months has quadrupled in three years.