The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Occupy Wall Street may be out of Zuccotti Park, but Americans ignore its message at their peril. The protesters may have been pushed out of prominent venues around the country, but the forces that inspired the mass, albeit unseemly, demonstrations have not abated. The U.S. is rapidly fracturing into two nations: affluent players in the global economy and growing masses facing a diminished standard of living for themselves and their children.
Getting a first opportunity for a rewarding career often requires focused skills acquired at elite universities, and to progress and stay on the ladder, sophisticated career management and good luck. For the rest of America, global competition, communications technologies and essentially unchecked immigration have hammered down wages and winnowed opportunities in once decent paying occupations -- for example, ordinary line work in manufacturing, middle management and sales and writing for a daily newspaper. So much more can now be outsourced and accomplished on the Internet with inexpensive software or performed by semi-skilled immigrant workers. Sending more Americans to college is not the answer -- degrees in the liberal arts are simply not as valuable today as 25 years ago, and many students are not suited to engineering and other technical disciplines. The workforce is well overstocked with business school graduates. The problem is not too few educated Americans but too few good jobs for most of them to do. Heavier taxes on the wealthy to redistribute income won't help. Many will take their work and income offshore, but more importantly, the U.S. economy is shrinking. Not only is income increasingly less equally distributed, but per capita income is falling at an alarming pace. Simply, the pie the government can carve up is shrinking. Germany and China, two of America's toughest competitors, recognize the challenges posed by globalization and manage them. They engage in mercantilist policies. They undervalue their currencies and promote industrial policies aimed at providing high-paying jobs for ordinary people through exports. And those jobs are frequently mined from America's Heartland. Certainly, America doesn't want a protectionist world, but the U.S. can't always dictate the terms of competition and continue to stand idle without more effective responses than bailouts for General Motors ( GM), subsidies for Solyndra and Social Security tax holidays, all paid by borrowing from China. The U.S. must force open foreign markets or protect its own, or it will perish. It is a tough world beyond the water's edge. Either Americans learn to compete in the world as they find it or America will be no more.
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