One of the problems with government programs is the focus on intent instead of results. While most everyone likes the idea of job training programs, history has shown the Federal government can’t deliver the desired results.
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.
…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 prog rams 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 pro grams isolated disadvantaged youth, thus making it harder for them to fit into the real job market.
Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office reported that there were 47 different federal employment and training programs, costing taxpayers $18 billion a year. There is massive overlap and duplication, and few programs seriously evaluate their impact on trainees.
If federal job training efforts worked, Congress would not have thrown out the programs it has created every decade or so and enacted new ones. In reality, government training has always been driven by bureaucratic convenience, or politicians' re-election considerations. There is no reason to believe the latest round of proposals will be any dif ferent.