Policy to subsidize the education of health professionals in the United States has become contentious and uncertain. This article examines the politics of workforce policy in the twentieth century, emphasizing the years since World War II. From early in the century until the 1970s, most decision makers viewed policy to subsidize the education of health professionals as self-evidently correct. As consensus eroded, proponents insisted to increasingly skeptical audiences that these subsidies created benefits for the public. Recently, decision makers outside health care institutions have come to regard workforce policy as serving particular rather than general interests. Thus health workforce policy, like other policies outside of health affairs, may be said, perhaps oversimply but not inaccurately, to have gone through three stages: from piety to platitudes to pork.

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