MORE! Nathan Newman is certainly right about importing nurses and doctors from other countries. Not only does it head off excellent jobs that could be filled by native workers, but it deprives other nations of trained individuals necessary for their development. That said, we do have a supply problem for doctors and, particularly, nurses. We need more. But the problem is in training choke points: We require remarkable amounts of credentialing, and we offer only a small number of places to get the necessary degrees. Last year, 150,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools -- this amidst a terrific shortage. Meanwhile, we have around 100 medical schools in the nation, and anyone who wants to attend one has to undergo an excruciating college pre-med curriculum in college en route to almost a decade of expensive, intensive training. Considering the number of these folks who just want to be pediatricians, a different track that made primary care a serious option for less scientifically minded students wouldn't be a half-bad plan.
The point, of course, is that we've got the space here to create hundreds of thousands of terrific new jobs. As the boomers retire, we're going to need an enormous amount of medical professionals. If we began training now, opening the gates so our medical profession was, if anything, too full, we'd both prepare for the coming onslaught and create a new class of skilled laborers. Indeed, creating an excess of medical suppliers would help the Republicans with their oft-stated dream of forcing the health care industry to compete for patients. It would force down doctor's compensation while allowing physicians to spend more time with patients. Couple it with an expansion of training centers and partial subsidization of training, and you've got yourself a policy. Of course, the rhetoric of free-marketeers only translates into proposals that shift risk to individuals and, occasionally, import more low-wage workers from other countries. Actually crossing the medical industry or creating good jobs for the poor doesn't serve any constituency the right currently depends on.