Part of the problem is that research and development funding in this country is plummeting. Heck, you can't hire more engineers to work on cures for cancer, better healthcare systems if those scientists that are creating the innovations are fighting for (and losing) grants and jobs. You want people to do meaningful work, you need to support meaningful research. This whole "academics are useless" refrain is getting old. You know, that useless PhD did prove that they are capable of original thought and self-directed exploration. Seriously, the state of computer science and engineering research is appalling in the US and other fields have the same problems. Industrial research and development is under attack as well in the few places it still exists. And don't get me started about the long term threats to "liberal arts" and humanities education.
It's amazing how many people are under the spell of economic gain as the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is a better, educated and thoughtful society. When the focus is too much on wealth and wealth accumulation, history shows us that time and time again, it ends up badly. Popular uprising can be very, very unpleasant for all involved.