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NYC Mayor On New Homeless Policy; IRS Lowers Payment App Reporting Threshold From $20,000 to $600; Are College Degrees Necessary For High-Paying Jobs? VA Restaurant Refuses Service To Christian Group. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 10, 2022 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. America has a long-standing homeless problem. At least that's what we call it. I think it's much more complicated than a matter of shelter. And on last week's program, I gave credit to New York City Mayor Eric Adams for taking it on.

Others are not so supportive of his efforts. The mayor himself will join me in just a moment. Adams has tasked first responders with enforcing a state law that was enacted in 2021, allowing them to involuntarily commit people experiencing a mental health crisis. The mayor called it a myth that the law only covered a, quote, overt act that the person may be suicidal, violent or a danger to others.

He said it also pertains to those whose illness, quote, prevents them from meeting their own basic human needs to the extent that they are a danger to themselves. I said last week that the same standard actually exists in theory all over the country. What sets Mayor Adams apart is his willingness to act on it. Mayor Adams says we have a moral obligation to try and help and yet his move immediately caused controversy.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Anthony Almojera, a lieutenant paramedic with New York's Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services wrote these words. "In nearly 20 years as a medical responder, I've never witnessed a mental health crisis like the one New York is currently experiencing. During the last week of November 911 dispatchers received on average 425 calls a day for emotionally disturbed persons. But dispatching medical responders to wrangle mentally disturbed people living on the street and ferry them to overcrowded psychiatric facilities is not the answer."

He lists overworked responders, swamped hospitals and the breach of trust that will cause among the homeless population. New York City Mayor Eric Adams joins me now. Mayor, thank you so much for being here. As I said, you're getting lots of attention. It's mixed. When I looked at the directive, it occurred to me that your standard, are they at risk to themselves or others, is the same as any other city. It's just that you're acting on the authority you have. Is that a fair encapsulation?

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: Yes, it is. And it's a very clear one. And we should be clear, if we are saying let's leave the status quo, those who are saying that this basically stating, leaving people on the streets cannot take care of their basic needs, and they are in danger to themselves or others. That's inhumane. I am not going to do that. I'm going to make sure we give people the care they need and the care they deserve. And in many cases, they don't need -- they don't know they need that care because of their mental health illness.

SMERCONISH: Mayor, we know what it means to be a danger, to pose a danger to others. We can -- we can see that, threatening conduct, violent action. But it's much more of a gray area to try and determine when an individual is at risk to themselves. So how do we define that?

ADAMS: Well, there's clear training, we're using several ways of making a determination. First, based on the partnership we're having with mental health professionals. People continuously state, the police are going to round up everyone with a mental health illness, that is just not true. And people are reading into our statement.

What we are doing, we're going to train our mental health professionals, our outreach workers, and our law enforcement officers to look and make a determination and then reach out to clinical professionals, either view of remote viewing, or some form of telecommunication, telemedicine to also assist in that determination on the street.

Now, after that, it is made that this person cannot take care of their basic needs. They then go to the hospital where determination is made by a psychiatrist or psychologist. A professional would determine the next steps to be taken.

SMERCONISH: You know that a lawsuit was filed this week. And folks say, critics say that you've lowered the bar and that now someone simply with a mental disability runs the risk of being locked up. To those folks who you would say what?

ADAMS: It's really unfortunate that we're trying to use our political motivation to get in the way of motivating people to take care of those individuals who need their basic needs. Everyone knows that my comments were clear. We are not taking everyone that has a mental illness into custody. We're not arresting people.

And so all of this hysteria that's being raised is totally in conflict what New York is. New York is overwhelmingly understand that we cannot leave our fellow citizens on the street that cannot take their basic needs.


And I did not get to this point overnight. For the first two months, January and February, I went out, I sat in tents, I sat in encampments. I've talked to people. You know what I saw? I saw people living with human waste, talking to themselves, drugs paraphernalia, imagining things, hearing voices in their heads. And after the end of February, I stated, this is not the city we're going to live in. We're walking by our fellow New Yorkers that we know they cannot make those determinations of seeking help.

SMERCONISH: So for the reasons that you just articulated, I said last week, right here that may be homeless or homelessness is not the right descriptor, because yes, shelters a factor they need to be housed. But so much of this is driven by mental illness and addiction. Like what should we call it?

ADAMS: That's a great question. And I'll leave that up to the experts that's better than me. I sat down with our mental health professionals, other individuals and sat in the room. And they assisted me after my observations. And the first subway safety plan, we continue observation, and what we discovered, it was a lack of clarity.

Our first responders did not know exactly what they could do if they came in contact with someone that clearly was more imaginative things. We cannot wait until they do something harmful to themselves, or harmful to others. And we gave that clarity to our first responders.

And you know what I've learned, changes hard. And anytime, you want to make a change, especially in New York with 8.8 million people, 30 million different opinions. But we know this is the right humane thing to do. And we're going to move forward, and hopefully other cities and states will see that we can't leave our fellow Americans on the street, when they're in these conditions.

SMERCONISH: You know that you're going to be judged for how well you care for these folks, those that you do remove from the street, you ready for that?

ADAMS: Yes, I am. I did not become the mayor to climb a hill, I became the mayor to climb a mountain. And far too often, we are afraid to take action and we want to punt to another administration. So we want to pretend as though the problem is not there. I want these problems.

I noticed them for years as a police officer. I saw how we abandoned people. And I made that commitment. We're not. We're going to take these tough choices. We're going to go towards the problem. I ran towards gunshot as a cop. I'm going to run towards the problems we're facing in the city that is leading to the dysfunction of our city and how we can do better by the people of the city.

SMERCONISH: Well, it's heartbreaking. And I wish you Godspeed. I have an unrelated question before I let you go. The guy with the bat.


SMERCONISH: Like what the hell. $7,500 and he's back out. I mean, that's heartbreaking and it's wrong, correct?

ADAMS: It really is. Not only that, the individuals who plot it to a synagogue, they're back out of. The individual who's a shot two -- shot three people, killed two have had a long record. He finally got caught. Every time we do our job as law enforcement and city administrators, we're seeing this revolving door catch, release, repeat system. That's really playing out all across the country.

I say this over and over again. When are we going to pass laws that are going to protect the innocent people of this city, in this country? We have to stop passing laws that protect the guilty.

SMERCONISH: Agree with that, too. Mayor Adams, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

ADAMS: Thank you. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me at Smerconish. Go to YouTube, Facebook, social media, hit me up, tell me what you're thinking. I'll try and respond to some during the course of the program.

What do we have, Catherine (ph). Let's stop kidding. This isn't to help the mentally ill but for the benefit of others. It's a clear civil rights violation, but so what? What about the rights of individuals who are ill equipped to make decisions for themselves?

I'm in Philadelphia, I came into work today under the cover of darkness, as I always do, on a Saturday morning, stopped at an intersection, looked at someone who had an encampment, and they had an umbrella set up to shield them from the overhead lights of the city. Is that person capable of making a determination that this is where they want to be? I mean, he's evaluating it in a way that I think all of his contemporaries are afraid to do.

So I hope it works. And my highest priority are those folks that are living on vents, and I've seen them all over the country and have interviewed them all over the country. Here in Philadelphia and New York, in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, Skid Row in LA. I hope he's successful.

Up ahead, just as the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether a Colorado law could compel a web designer to make sites for same marriages, a Virginia restaurant canceled the private room reservation of a Christian group citing the dignity and safety of its LGBTQ employees. Well, the President of the group that was shunned is going to join me next.


And Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema jolted the political world Friday when she announced her switch to independent, many cynically think it's a bid for survival. But my glass is half full. I'm hoping more will follow her lead. And I'll explain.

Plus, if you were paid more than $600 in goods and services via apps like PayPal, or Venmo, they're now required to report that to the IRS. The previous threshold was 20 grand, this as a result of the so called 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, and the addition of 87,000 new employees at the IRS. So I want to know what you think. Go to my website at and answer this week's poll question. "Should every app report transactions over $600 over the course of a year to the IRS?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't even pay taxes, they take tax. You get to check money go. That ain't a payment, that's a jack




SMERCONISH: Is refusing business to someone discrimination, or is it free speech? A Virginia restaurant recently refused service to a group because of its anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ religious beliefs. And news of it happening just the same week as the Supreme Court hearing arguments about a Colorado web designer who doesn't want to make wedding sites for same sex couples.

In the Colorado case, designer Lorie Smith is challenging a Public Accommodations law that would compel her to design wedding sites for same sex couples. Smith's claims this means she'd be forced to express messages inconsistent with her beliefs, which she says violates her first amendment rights.

Opponents argue that she's seeking a license to discriminate and that the law pertains to conduct not to speech. Four years ago, you may recall that the Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same sex wedding citing religious objections. In the midst of all of this comes the Virginia restaurant dustup, a Christian group, the family foundation of Virginia had reserved a private room for a dessert reception at a Richmond restaurant only to have it canceled about 90 minutes ahead of time.

The restaurant Metzger Bar and Butchery is helm by co-owner Brittany Anderson, a veteran of TV cooking shows including Top Chef and Chopped. It released this statement on Instagram about the cancellation, quote, "We have always refused service to anyone for making our staff uncomfortable or unsafe. And this was the driving force behind our decision. Many of our staff are women and/or members of the LGBTQ plus community.

All of our staff are people with rights who deserve dignity, and a safe work environment. We respect our staff's established rights as humans, and strive to create a work environment where they can do their jobs with dignity, comfort and safety."

On the foundation website is a list of its beliefs and causes including Virginians, being quote, free to live out their faith in the public square and in the marketplace, to enhance the value of human life through increased restrictions on elective abortion and greater information for support for mothers who find themselves wrestling with an unexpected pregnancy. That marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, an institution of God and a foundation for civil society and that each person's gender beautifully expresses either male or female as God created them, and fighting the false ideology of transgenderism in our schools and workplaces.

Joining us now is the President of a Family Foundation of Virginia, Victoria Cobb, who wrote this blog post describing the incident, quote, we've been canceled again. So Victoria, thank you for being here. I don't think that you should have been denied service in Virginia at the restaurant. Similarly, I don't think that the baker or the web designer should deny service to a gay couple. And I want to know if you are similarly consistent.

VICTORIA COBB, PRESIDENT, FAMILY FOUNDATION OF VIRGINIA: Yes, I don't think you have the analogy quite square. So, the real apt analogy would be -- let's take the baker, for example. If the baker had a sign on the door, and he said, I can't have an LGBTQ person in here, that would make me uncomfortable, that would make my team unsafe, that would be an apt analogy bit to our restaurant situation.

Instead, what we have is people who have said, are -- we have a situation where people have said, these people make us feel bad, and therefore our team, our staff doesn't want to be around them. How hypocritical is it that we cloak a statement and all sorts of words like inclusivity and welcoming in order to defend our decision to deny food service to other people who hold different political religious views?

SMERCONISH: But I think what you're saying is that, you correct me if I'm wrong, I think you're saying that there's speech inherent in the baker, or in the web designer, and you're now going to compel that person speech. Let me stop there. Do I have it right so far?

COBB: Yes, Jack does birthday cakes for anyone. He does not do same sex marriage wedding cakes. It's a specific --


COBB: -- product that he thinks is his speech, his creativity. Our courts have said, look, he's an artist. That's creative speech, and we're not going to make him do a certain type of speech.

SMERCONISH: OK. I'm going to take that as a yes. That's so far, I get your argument. All right. So you're for the baker being able to say, I'm not baking the cake for the gay couple.


But in this instance, it's now a Virginia restaurant tour, apparently highly touted you're there for dessert and she says, I'm not serving dessert to this group because I don't agree with what they represent. It's completely analogous. And I'm all for service.

Like if you're a cake baker, bake the blank and cake and a web designer, make the design. And if you're a restaurant, then welcome in the, you know, the Christian group from Virginia. I think you got to be one way or the other.

COBB: She didn't say I can't use my artistic talent to help them. I don't want to be a part of this. She said my waitstaff is uncomfortable. She said they feel unsafe. Remember, we used the word -- use words like unsafe to mean things like -- for a domestic violence victim going to get a restraining order. She said, my people don't feel comfortable with these people in our restaurant. That's not OK.

SMERCONISH: I get it. I totally get it. I'm just saying that if she in the desserts that she was going to make for you was expressing speech, it's the same as the cake baker. Let me back up to the case --

COBB: If she was.

SMERCONISH: -- of the web designer. I know you follow the arguments as I did this past Monday in the Supreme Court on this same issue. I mean, it's incredible the timing of all of this. So Justice Sotomayor said, hey, if we allow the web designer, the web designer to not have to design that web for the same sex couple, for the first time in our history, we're going to be saying it's OK to discriminate, right, based on gender identity, based on race, based on religion.

You know, it's a slippery slope argument. I mean, would you similarly say that a web designer doesn't have to make a cake for an interracial marriage because they don't agree with that, from their religious point of view?

COBB: I think we're stretching the Lorie Smith case to be something that it's not. She has a fundamental concern about same sex marriage. Again, it's not the people, it's I don't want to write speech, I have to literally write content and create beautiful imagery around something that violates my faith. So that's her case before the Supreme Court.

We haven't seen a ruling yet, but it sounds like they're going to be favorable from what folks are saying. And it's because we protect speech. It's a bedrock principle in our country. We think that is so important that no one not even a paying customer compel someone else to have to say words or write words that they don't agree with. And I think that's the America we want to live in.

SMERCONISH: Right. Well, I want to live in a world where everybody gets served. I want to live in a world where the judgments aren't made based on religious conviction, because you respectfully didn't answer me. I think the web designer could similarly say, oh, my God, it's an interracial marriage. I'm not designing a website, the baker could say, I'm not going to bake a cake for them. It's got to be one way or the other. I want everybody to get served. But I'll give you the final word. Go ahead.

COBB: Americans want to know that we live in a place that protects freedom, and that protects their religious views, but not a place where waitstaff can say, I am bigoted. I am intolerant of other people who just simply believe differently, so I won't put food on the table.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Victoria. Appreciate you being here.

COBB: Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying in all my social media. Hit me up on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, et cetera, et cetera. What do we got? This is wrong. It was wrong to deny a cake to a gay couple too. But the right started this slippery slope. Now they can live -- you know, again, I'm not going to get into that, they started, we started these.

If you're -- to me, it reminds me of the -- it reminds me the pharmacy where someone because of their religious convictions says I cannot dispense birth control. And my response to that is to say, then maybe you shouldn't be a pharmacist.

Still to come, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced she's leaving the Democratic Party and registering as a political independent. While she has long upset partisans in both parties, as she put it, I say, we need more like this.

And to help pay for the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan, the IRS is hiring many new agents and has lowered the reporting threshold for Venmo and PayPal, business transactions from $20,000 to just $600. Are Americans with a side hustle in for a rude awakening come tax day?

That's the focus of this week's poll question. Go to and answer, "Should every app report transactions over $600 over the course of a year to the IRS?



SMERCONISH: We strive for all Americans to be properly, even proportionately represented at all levels of government, right? I mean, that's why we appropriately celebrate when glass ceilings are shattered in elections. Well, imagine if I told you that 35 percent of Americans are unrepresented in Washington. No elected official stands for what they want. That is the case. But maybe it's changing.

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema just announced a change in her party registration from Democratic to Independent, and she's got lots of company. According to Gallup, 35 percent a plurality of Americans regard themselves as Independents, not Republicans, not Democrats. The number of Independents routinely exceeds the alternatives.

And in Arizona, according to the latest data as of the time of the midterm election, it's the same story. 33.9 percent of Arizonans regard themselves as other in comparison to 30.7 percent who say Democratic, 34.7 percent who say Republican. Something's wrong when so many of us have no one we can look to who is similarly registered.

Angus King and Bernie Sanders, they regard themselves as Is, but rarely exhibit the maverick behavior of Sinema. Heck, Bernie runs for president every four years as a D. Viewed this way, the House of Representatives and Senate do not look like America.


Maybe that now changes. Senator Sinema's explanation published in the "Arizona Republic" reads like a transcript of one of my Saturday morning commentaries.

Her words, "Everyday Americans are increasingly left behind by the national parties' rigid partisanship, which has hardened in recent years. Pressures in both parties pull leaders to the edges, allowing the loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective parties' priorities and expecting the rest of us to fall in line. In catering to the fringes, neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought. Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress. Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating. Americans are told that we have only two choices, Democrat or Republican, and that we must subscribe wholesale to the policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes."

Sad and all true. As I have said many times, we have surrendered the playing surface to the loudest voices in the media and in Washington. Some cynically say this is all about Sinema's survival, noting that she would have trouble winning a Democratic primary in 2024. That's actually more telling about primaries.

If Jeff Flake couldn't survive a primary as an Arizona Republican and Sinema can't survive as an Arizona Democrat, then we have got a primary problem in this country. Nuance is not tolerated. The way to fix it, by the way, is to get states that have closed primaries to open them up.

In Arizona, for congressional and state seats Independents have to register 29 days in advance for one party's primary or the other. They have no such leeway for presidential elections. Consider that if only there were a few more like Sinema the balance of power would shift to Independents who might then see value in caucusing with one another instead of sitting with the two parties so as to hold on the committee assignments. And then the Is would really have it.

Still to come, with job openings outnumbering applicants places as varied as Delta Air Lines and the state of Maryland are ditching the requirement of a college degree. Are diplomas becoming meaningless in the workforce?

And if you sell goods and services via Venmo and PayPal it just got a lot tougher to hide that income from the IRS. The threshold for reporting such transactions in 2022 has been lowered from $20,000 to just $600. Is this the best way for government to recoup the cost of the American Rescue Plan or as the "Wall Street Journal" says, is the government now coming for you and the kid who mows your lawn?

I want to know what you think. Go to By the way, register for the daily newsletter when you're there, and answer this week's poll question. Should every app report transactions over $600 over the course of a year to the IRS?



SMERCONISH: Do you sell more than $600 in goods and services using a third-party payment app like Venmo or PayPal? If so, you and many other Americans could soon be facing a steep tax bill for your side hustle income.

This week, the IRS sent out a reminder to taxpayers that the threshold for reporting such miscellaneous income for 2022 has been lowered from $20,000 to just $600. This means that anyone who receives more than $600 in business transactions through third-party payment apps will need to report those earnings as taxable income. And the platforms are required to report transactions exceeding that amount to the IRS.

Previously, they were only required to do so if a user had more than 200 commercial transactions and more than $20,000 in payments over the course of a year. This is a result of the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion spending bill that critics say spurred inflation. It comes amidst controversy over the IRS plans to hire 87,000 new employees who, we were told, would target the rich.

Joining me now to discuss is Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. He's author of the book "Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns and Our Lives." Grover, if you -- if you oppose this move, if you vote no on my poll question today, aren't you endorsing the nonpayment of taxes?

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: No, of course not. This is a new invasion of the privacy of the American people. We haven't had this law before. It used to take $20,000 and 200 different exchanges to trigger the sending in your private information to the IRS.

This is a massive invasion of the privacy of the American people. It's not just reporting income. It is reporting any payment that you get.

If you sell -- you had your three children. You've got all the children stuff. You see it for $1,000 online and you get $1,000 check the IRS says, that's $1,000 of income. You've got the receipts for all those years and years of children's clothes? If not, you could be audited. If not, you better pay the tax on the $1,000 that was not income. But as far as the IRS is concerned until you prove it isn't income, it is too.

SMERCONISH: Regardless of my receipt of a 1099-K form I needed to pay my taxes. I have an obligation to pay my taxes. Presumably the IRS needs to do this because the gig economy has grown so large and so many aren't paying their taxes. So my question to you is, what should they do? If not this, what should they be doing?

NORQUIST: Well, they should repeal this until, for starters, they have some idea what they're doing and they can tell the American people what they're doing. We have a series of challenges with this IRS. They're not returning -- they're not picking up most phone calls that come in.


Less than 50 percent, maybe 20 percent. You call in and say, what do I do? I got this 1099-K. I don't know what a 1099-K is. And the government is being sent information on you that you don't know about and then they're calling you and -- or sending you a note saying, you owe this money. And I go, what?

You can't call the IRS and get through at present. That's a problem. And the privacy, your privacy doesn't exist anymore.

You may remember when tens of thousands of IRS documents, people's actual audits were shared with a left wing organization taken from the IRS, stolen from the IRS, very illegal. The IRS has made no effort and cannot tell Congress how this happened or what they're going to do to stop it. And they've refused to tell the Congress, never mind the American people, they won't even tell Congress what is happening there.

They now got caught by their own internal investigators destroying about 30 million tax documents. They won't tell Congress how they were destroyed. Were they burned? Were they buried? What happened? Were they lost? They're gone. They say they're destroyed. They won't answer these questions. That may be data, your pieces of paper.

SMERCONISH: I hear -- OK. I hear your argument. But I come to back to this.

NORQUIST: And you're going to add millions of more pieces of paper that people have to send them.

SMERCONISH: I don't know if people still speak of -- I don't know if people still speak of getting paid under the table. But that's what we're talking about here.

You know, the under the table economy has grown exponentially as the gig economy has taken off. So what is the IRS supposed to be doing? Because I'll bet you don't want them to have 87,000 new employees. But unless they get them, they're not going to be able to answer the phone.

NORQUIST: Well, we were doing very well with the requirement. The $20,000 has to be -- it has to be significant. We're not supposed to be catching kids that are raking lawns for a living. And the question is, how much of your personal data do you trust the presently structured IRS? Unless there are some reforms, those 1099s we know are not secure because the IRS has a very bad habit of letting this stuff leaked or handing it out or let it get be stolen.

SMERCONISH: I hear -- I hear you. Again, you are telling me what they shouldn't do.

Let's answer social media together. I'll read it aloud in case you can't see it. Catherine, put it up --


SMERCONISH: -- on the screen and Grover Norquist can respond to it with me.

Can't wait to get audited for all that pizza my friends pay me back. For that I'm not reporting.

The point obviously -- and, look, I -- you know, we Venmo are kids so I guess I'm going to get caught up in this all of a sudden and I'm going to have to explain that these are just gifts for our children who are students as opposed to, you know, income that they've received. Do you want to respond to the pizza comment?

NORQUIST: Well, it's those kind of exchanges that can show up as income even though it may be paying somebody back. What it means is the IRS now has the ability to tell you they're going to audit you because they have questions.

This will allow the IRS to audit anybody, just about anybody in the country who uses Venmo or PayPal or any of those various things, and say, we need to see your receipts. Do you have receipts? If you don't have receipts you owe taxes on what's not income but was cash to you

And it's a very big deal. People don't have receipts for that. And it's going to be a mess. And the IRS is not prepared for this.

SMERCONISH: Grover, thank you for being here. I appreciate it.

NORQUIST: OK. Hopefully, we can get it repealed.

SMERCONISH: This is this week's poll question at As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

Should every app report transactions over $600 over the course of a year to the IRS? Go vote at Sign up for the newsletter when you're there. I'm making a list and checking it twice as to whether you have registered for the daily newsletter.

Still to come, with the labor market tight jobs and job listings are dispensing with the requirement of a bachelor's degree, including some big companies like Google and IBM. Is a college diploma no longer a necessity or will this requirement return when the job market turns?



SMERCONISH: In today's economy will we see fewer and fewer companies requiring a college degree? "The Wall Street Journal" recently reported that the tight job market is prompting more employers, including Google, IBM and Delta Air Lines, to loosen the requirement and concentrate more on skills and experience.

According to a recent study by the Burning Glass Institute, "The share of jobs requiring a college degree dropped from 51 percent in 2017 to 44 percent in 2021." And looking at job postings in November, only 41 percent required at least a bachelor's degree, that's down from 46 percent at the start of 2019 ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Americans have completed Google's online college alternative program offering training in fields like digital marketing and project management.

Joining me now to discuss is Nicole Smith, chief economist and research professor at the Center on Education and Workforce at Georgetown University. She just published this piece at under the headline "Don't Sleep on Middle Skills: Sub-BA Qualifications Are Winning in Tight Labor Markets." Dr. Smith, are employers rethinking the value of a degree or are they just adjusting the current laboring market?



All evidence points to the fact that employers are just rethinking what's available to them. We have a really tight labor market. It's difficult to get workers. We are coming off of the heels of COVID where many people have resigned and left jobs permanently. Something has to be done.

SMERCONISH: What would you say to someone who now is in the midst of an undergraduate education and they are hearing this and like, oh, my God, I've invested all this time. I've incurred debt. And, what, I am not going to get a leg up?

SMITH: Well, we are not saying a bachelor's degree doesn't matter. Bachelor's degrees still matter. Bachelor's degrees still earn on average more than some associate's degree or middle skill degrees. But we are telling people that if you haven't started yet, you should really consider middle skills.

Almost one in four people with some college only are going to earn more than half of people with bachelor's degree. And closer to one in six high school graduates with some type of training beyond high school can earn more than half of BAs. So this is really calling into question what you take, when you take it, where you work with it.

SMERCONISH: To the point that you made, you published some data on my site today. I want to put it up on the screen and read it aloud. You said nine percent of graduates, 23 percent of workers with some college education but no degree, and 28 percent of associate's degree holders earn more than what half of workers with a bachelor's degree earn. Expand on that, please.

SMITH: So there is a distribution. We all know depending on what you take, where you work in terms of the occupation, where you work in terms of industry, whether you're unionized, all of these things matter in determining what your income is. But we know that there are many bachelor's degrees that take a long time for you to settle in. That take a long time for you to figure out what's your defined pathway, where you are going to step off to get those jobs. And in the meantime we have many middle skills jobs, particularly in sales, many jobs in health care support, health care professional and technical, customer service that can pay more than some of these bachelor's degrees in the short term. So a quick cost benefit analysis particularly when you care about student loan debt and how much debt people are incurring as a result of trying to get this bachelor's degree, it makes sense to consider alternatives.

SMERCONISH: Have we oversold college? In other words, have we -- have too many of us raised our kids believing, well, to be successful you have got to go to college, when in fact it's not for anybody? And honorable working and high paying work comes from the building trades, by example.

SMITH: Absolutely. I wouldn't necessarily say we oversold it because many of the people in the building trades will eventually try to get some sort of managerial training so that they can move into their own business.

I think the concern here is that everyone right out of high school does not necessarily have to go straight to a four-year program. You can think of it as stepping stones. Let's try this particular two-year program, let's see how this works, let's try to figure out what works for us.

So this time it's more of a very, I guess, forward-thinking approach to how you create your career pathway rather than just following everyone else's footsteps.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Nicole Smith, thank you for your time. We appreciate it. Thank you for your piece, as well.

SMITH: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on social media reaction. What do we have on this subject? Interesting, isn't it? You mean I've done all this schooling for nothing?

Well, I just said that to Dr. Smith, like there are going to be people who will have that. It's still a great value to you. But look, the data that she offers is pretty compelling about just how well some people without a college degree are doing these days.

I wonder, will it go back to what it was when the job market shifts? In other words, will those companies that I identified as saying, hey, you don't have to have a college degree, will they alter that when we get further beyond the pandemic?

Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets, YouTube, Facebook comments, and we will give you the final result of this week's poll question. I hope it wasn't too complicated. I think that Grover Norquist laid it out.

Should every app report transactions over $600 over the course of a year to the IRS? Go vote.



SMERCONISH: All right. There's the result of this week's poll question at Should every app report transactions over $600 over the course of a year to the IRS? Sixty-nine percent say no. More than 25,000 voted.

I get the sentiment and it has got all the makings of a cluster, doesn't it, when people start getting these 1099 forms? But what is the alternative? I mean, like what's the IRS underfunded, understaffed to do until they get all that new money to try and track the gig economy? I don't know.

Here's some social media that came in during the course of the program. What do we have?

Grateful for Smerconish making homeless issues the lead on his show. This makes two weeks in a row that he has shined a light on this chronic problem. Many thanks.

Wow! A kind email. How did that get in there? It's important and it's heartbreaking. And I am part of the problem of those of us who are totally desensitized. You know, especially those of us who are like pet lovers.

If it were a dog or a cat on that vent, we'd never walk on by. And somehow it has just become so easy to walk on by. That's why I give Eric Adams credit and I hope he is successful. I don't know if he will be. I hope he will be.


Another one. What else do we have? I'm an unaffiliated voter for the reasons you stated.