The flagship of President Clinton's emergency economic stimulus
program is his proposal to spend a billion dollars to create 700,000
summer jobs for youth. But the program is fundamentally fraudulent
and subversive of America's long-term economic future.
Government summer jobs programs have long sabotaged the work
ethic. The General Accounting Office noted as early as 1969 that
some people hired in the government summer programs "regressed in
their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for
wages paid." Sen. Lawton Chiles complained in 1979 that young people
"get such a strong message of cynicism and corruption that it cannot
fail to carry over into their attitudes about work, crime and
Washington, D.C., has one of the largest summer job programs,
with more than 16,000 youths collecting checks financed jointly by
the federal and local government. I visited some of the Washington
sites in 1989. At the Marion Barry Youth Leadership Institute (named
after the city's role-model mayor), young people "worked" by having
a rowdy talk over whether "women are not interested in sex" and
whether "men want women to be submissive." The director explained to
me that the teenagers were learning "conversational skills." Many
participants were shouting, throwing paperclips, and punching each
other, and few were paying attention to the group leaders. In the
afternoon, the youth were paid to work at basketball -- a frequent
"occupational skill" underwritten by big-city summer jobs programs.
The summer programs often reveal a genius for divorcing jobs from
work. The New York Times reported last summer that Bridgeport,
Conn., youth workers were assigned to the Sweat Team; but, instead
of signifying arduous work, the acronym referred to Students Who
Entertain Artistic Thoughts. In the first week of their "jobs," the
"workers" went to a local dance, took a trip to Spike Lee's Block
Party in New York, and had a "brotherhood picnic."
The summer jobs programs create scores of thousands of "jobs"
simply by paying teenagers to attend summer school. In Houston last
summer, youths were paid to participate in classes in a
"multicultural curriculum" and lengthy discussions on race
relations. The Brown County, Wis., jobs program has paid students
for sitting in high school during the summer to make up the
detention time they did not serve during the school year.
Labor Secretary Robert Reich states that the jobs program
benefits the "long-term unemployed." But many of the beneficiaries
will actually be college students taking a break from their studies.
The Labor Department inspector general reported that in Wisconsin
some college students were placed on the summer job payroll who
would have been hired by government agencies anyhow.
Mr. Reich, touting the need for an "aggressive campaign of
academic enrichment," stresses that the expanded summer jobs program
will focus more on educating young people. But a major 1992
federally funded report by Public/Private Ventures concluded after
analyzing eight years of data that the remedial education provided
by summer jobs programs had little or no long-lasting impact.
Mr. Reich, in a phone interview March 1, declared the summer jobs
program an "investment in the good work practices" of young people.
In the private sector, a young person keeps a job by producing
enough to earn his pay. But not in the summer jobs programs. Larry
Brown, public affairs director of the D.C. Department of Employment
Services, explained in 1989: "We don't fire any of the kids -- it
just doesn't do anything to help a 14- or 15-year-old." Youths who
refuse to exert themselves at one job site are simply transferred to
another. This is not untypical of how jobs programs run nation-wide.
Robert Woodson of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise
observes, "The programs instill a false sense of work in kids and
make it more difficult for them when they go out and try to get a
real job." Elijah Anderson, a University of Pennsylvania
sociologist, wrote, "In many black communities, the [summer youth
program] has . . . a reputation for being 'a sham' and a 'waste of
Mr. Reich claims that the expanded summer jobs program will
"result, eventually, in decreased welfare." But the Job Training
Partnership Act (JTPA), of which the summer jobs program is a part,
may have actually boosted the number of young people on the dole.
The Labor Department inspector general reported in 1988 that the
percentage of young JTPA "trainees" receiving food stamps and
general assistance was twice as high after JTPA involvement as
before. (Government programs routinely deluge people with
information on how to apply for welfare as part of their
Federal training programs have a long record of blighting young
Americans' economic prospects. The liberal Urban Institute concluded
that the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, or CETA, which
consumed over $35 billion between 1974 and 1983, produced
"significant earnings losses for young men of all races and no
significant effects for young women."
Last May, a damning six-year Labor Department-financed study
revealed that young males enrolled in JTPA programs had
significantly lower earnings than a control group that did not
participate in JTPA; the report concluded that federal training
"actually reduced the earnings of male out-of-school youths."
Employment and Training Reporter newsletter reported on Jan. 20 that
Jon Weintraub, staff director of the House Education and Labor
Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations, asked the Labor
Department "to isolate positive lessons that can be gleaned from the
report . . . but that the department has not yet done so."
Mr. Reich told CBS on Feb. 3 that Mr. Clinton's stimulus package
is "very, very importantly going to [be] labor-intensive. Wherever
that money is going, it's going to create a multiplier effect." But,
the main thing that job creation programs multiply is boondoggles.
CETA bankrolled such job-creating activities as building an
artificial rock in Oregon for rock climbers to practice on,
conducting a nude sculpture class in Miami where aspiring artists
practiced Braille reading on each other, and sending CETA workers
door-to-door in Florida to recruit people for food stamps. Economist
George E. Johnson, writing in the Brookings Institution study
"Creating Jobs," estimated that the gross national product lost 34
cents in the long term for every dollar spent on public service
employment job creation.
Though Mr. Reich seeks to sharply expand federal jobs programs,
the federal government already has 125 different employment and
training programs administered by 14 federal departments or
independent agencies, costing taxpayers $16.3 billion a year. The
General Accounting Office reported last July that there are "40
programs providing counseling and assessment to the economically
disadvantaged and 34 programs providing this group with remedial or
basic skills training." GAO found that there was poor coordination
between the programs and "confusion among programs serving the same
At the same time that Mr. Reich is calling for massively
expanding summer jobs programs, he is also advocating a boosting of
the federal minimum wage. Yet, according to economist Carlos Bonilla
of the Employment Policies Institute, boosting the minimum wage to
$5 an hour would destroy 442,000 jobs held by teenagers and young
adults. Mr. Reich is thus simultaneously advocating policies to
destroy teenagers' private jobs and to enroll more teens in
In the long run, every make-work program destroys more jobs than
it creates, because it squanders the capital needed to support all
jobs. If the sale of basketball shoes were the sole determinant of
the nation's economic destiny, it might make sense to stimulate the
economy by giving paychecks to teenagers to play basketball. But,
otherwise, Mr. Clinton's jobs program is a junkheap of thrice-failed
policies, deceptive rhetoric and political opportunism.
Mr. Bovard writes often on public policy.
The Wall Street Journal
Copyright (c) 1993, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.
Tuesday, March 30, 1993
Letters to the Editor: Poor Kids Need Summer Jobs Program
James Bovard's broadside, "Clinton's Summer Jobs Sham" (editorial
page, March 5), missed the point entirely. The president's proposal
is for additional summer youth jobs that explicitly avoid "make
work" and include academic work. And in his reference to
Public/Private Ventures' research, Mr. Bovard missed the news
entirely as well: that a summer of academic remediation can improve
the reading and math test scores of kids doing poorly in school; the
young teens in our demonstration improved half a grade's worth.
It's certainly no news that one successful summer of work
experience and academic enrichment cannot turn whole lives around.
No parent who reads your newspaper, certainly, would expect such
magic for his own children. In fact, middle-class children usually
benefit from a succession of enrichment experiences -- after school,
weekends, summers. Poor kids need the same, and the Clinton proposal
takes a step in that important direction.
Michael A. Bailin
In Sonoma County, Calif., the Private Industry Council runs a
summer jobs program for young people, mostly ages 14-16, some as old
as 21, called the Summer Youth Conservation Corps. The young people
work outdoors in crews of 16 for each two adult supervisors,
building park trails and bridges, picnic tables and benches,
installing irrigation and drainage systems in school playgrounds,
repairing and refinishing dilapidated school equipment. As projects
are planned and carried out, the youths learn applicable math
skills. The success of the program is judged by measurable positive
growth in the young people's work maturity and jobsite skills as
against standards established by the Private Industry Council. We
work hard and patiently with some difficult young people. But kids
who screw up badly are fired.
There is a recession in Sonoma County; a lot of people are out of
work; families are struggling to survive. Let's suppose President
Clinton's summer jobs program sends $1 million to us. That will
create jobs for 500 young people and 32 adults. This is not just fun
money for the youths. For many of these youths' families -- and the
adult supervisors as well -- the income from the summer job may be
crucial to survival.
James D. Millikan
Private Industry Council
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Mr. Bovard's claim that the program is "fraudulent and
subversive" is unfounded and unfair, and impugns the reputation of
thousands of hard-working people who administer a program that gives
help to young people who need it the most. Selectively citing
outdated and, in some cases, unrelated data to make his case against
the program, Mr. Bovard fails to report evidence of its success.
Here are just a few of the misrepresentations:
-- The only summer jobs program from 1992 that he cites as
wasteful was not a federal program. The "Sweat Team" in Bridgeport,
Conn., is an alternative drug treatment program financed entirely by
the city of Bridgeport.
-- He claims the Summer Jobs Program "sabotaged the work ethic"
by citing a 1969 General Accounting Office report, hardly a current
-- The other "wasteful" summer jobs programs he mentions are
Comprehensive Employment and Training Act programs from the late
Mr. Bovard did not even discuss the Labor Department inspector
general's report on the 1992 Summer Jobs Program, which reviewed 21
Job Training Partnership Act Service Delivery Areas (SDAs)
nation-wide, made unannounced visits to more than 840 worksites, and
interviewed program staff and more than 1,200 participants. The
report concludes that "with few exceptions, the SDAs managed
successful work experience programs," and that the "participants
were productive, interested and closely supervised."
William H. Kolberg
National Alliance of Business