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Such a strategy, however, is unlikely to work as well in the U.S. An economic program can work only within the confines of the history and traditions of a society. While the Japanese government has long been involved in the economy, there is no such heritage in the U.S. The roots of American economic success have been in individualism and entrepreneurship. The dream of making a fortune by launching a new company runs deep in American society and has been the source of great business strength. In addition, the U.S. has by far the largest pool of private venture capital available to back risky new businesses. Both that individualistic business culture and the strong venture-capital market should be fostered, but the Government is not the source of help. It is unlikely that Washington bureaucrats would have taken a chance on many of the upstart, start-up companies formed in the Silicon Valley during the past few years. They would have put money into safe, established firms. But venture capitalists did invest and began many corporate success stories. That combination of entrepreneurship and venture capital can continue to make the U.S. economy the most innovative in the world.
The Government may have a role to play in the massive retraining that will be required to give workers the skills needed in a changing economy. Trade Negotiator Brock predicts that people will now be changing jobs four times during their working careers. That will make retraining a permanent part of American business and society. Economists call that retraining "investing in human capital." The programs set up during the 1970s under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act were roundly, and correctly, criticized because they often steered people toward make-work public service jobs rather than real employment in the private sector. Under the Jobs Training Partnership Act passed last year, new programs will aim at preparing people for jobs with private companies, and business executives will play a major role in shaping the training. The proposed budget for the first year is $3.5 billion. A report soon to be released by 32 House Republicans known as the Wednesday Group will call for more action in the training area. One of the recommendations is that companies be given tax credits for expenses in teaching new skills to their workers. Unfortunately, many employees laid off in declining industries, especially older people, will find it difficult to learn new skills. They may wind up in low-paying jobs or in limbo.
While education is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments, sentiment is growing that Uncle Sam should chip in more. The Reagan Administration wants new spending to be targeted narrowly at strengthening math and science instruction, and proposes new funds of only $75 million. Walter Mondale thinks that much more broad-based support is justified and suggests an educational aid program of $11 billion, most of which would be given to communities to use as they see fit.
The only drawback to such spending is that it would raise the federal budget deficit, which is already