In The Wall Street Journal, James Bovard, a former CEI Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow, takes aim at some of the billions in waste contained in President Obama’s recent “jobs” proposal, the “American Jobs Act,” which would fund proven government failures in the form of federal job “training.” Federal “job-training” programs, which Obama likes, are so dismally ineffective that they cause “significant earnings losses” for young people who participate in them, and result in participants ending up on food stamps at higher rates:
Last Thursday, President Obama proposed new federal jobs and job-training programs for youth and the long-term unemployed. The federal government has experimented with these programs for almost a half century. The record is one of failure and scandal.
In 1962, Congress passed the Manpower Development and Training Act (MDTA) . . . A decade after MDTA’s inception, GAO reported that it was failing to teach valuable job skills or place trainees in private jobs and was marred by an “overriding concern with filling available slots for a particular program,” regardless of what trainees actually needed.
Congress responded in 1973 by enacting the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). . . CETA spent vastly more money. . .[such as] providing nude sculpture classes (where, as the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, Ind., explained, “aspiring artists pawed each others bodies to recognize that they had ‘both male and female characteristics’”), and conducting door-to-door food-stamp recruiting campaigns.
Between 1961 and 1980, the feds spent tens of billions on federal job-training and employment programs. To what effect? A 1979 Washington Post investigation concluded, “Incredibly, the government has kept no meaningful statistics on the effectiveness of these programs—making the past 15 years’ effort almost worthless in terms of learning what works.” CETA hirees were often assigned to do whatever benefited the government agency or nonprofit that put them on the payroll, with no concern for the trainees’ development. An Urban Institute study of the mid-1980s concluded that participation in CETA programs resulted in “significant earnings losses for young men of all races and no significant effects for young women.”
After CETA became a laughingstock, Congress replaced it in 1982 with the Job Training Partnership Act. JTPA spent lavishly—to expand an Indiana circus museum, teach Washington taxi drivers to smile, provide foreign junkets for state and local politicians, and bankroll business relocations. . . young trainees were twice as likely to rely on food stamps after JTPA involvement than before since the “training” often included instructions on applying for an array of government benefits.
For years the Labor Department scorned the mandate in the 1982 legislation to speedily and thoroughly evaluate whether the programs actually benefitted trainees. Finally, in 1993, it released a study that showed participation in JTPA “actually reduced the earnings of male out-of-school youths.” Young males enrolled in JTPA programs had 10% lower earnings than a control group that never participated. . .
In his speech to Congress, Mr. Obama called for funding hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for teens, which he labeled “investing in low-income youth and adults.” Yet such programs have been blighting work ethics for decades.
The GAO warned in 1969 that many teens in federal summer jobs programs “regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid.” A decade later, it reported that most urban teens “were exposed to a worksite where good work habits were not learned or reinforced.” And in 1985, a National Academy of Science study found that government jobs and training programs isolated disadvantaged youth, thus making it harder for them to fit into the real job market.