How long are Americans going to cheer little nuggets of responsible behavior from our government and give the administration a pass on programs that cost a great deal with few long-term results?
I was shocked to read in The Humboldt Sun (Humboldt County, Nevada) that the Department of the Interior (DOI) would be hiring 17,000 youth this summer. (On May 23 DOI Secretary Sally Jewel announced the initial 22 projects covering 600 jobs and costing a total of $42 million in federal and private money.) A friend works at the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office – an agency in the DOI, and I asked her about this. She said the plan was announced to BLM employees just weeks after they were informed of a sequester-related hiring freeze and prohibitions on overtime. She did not know where the money for the youth program was coming from.
We cheer the tiny amount of savings from the sequester, but do not complain about $1.27 million of federal funds (along with $2.93 million in private funds) being spent on approximately 600 summer jobs.
My source at the BLM mentioned that whenever BLM gets summer interns, it takes staff time away from primary tasks to teach and oversee the untrained youth employees. In this case that may not be as much of a problem because it appears the “kids” will be mostly wielding shovels and chain saws to remove invasive species, build trails and restore wildlife habitat on federal lands. The announced projects detail some jobs with durations as short as 5 weeks. (I have to wonder if anywhere near 17,000 jobs will be available when only 600 are announced in late May, just weeks before young people will be looking for summer employment. Is this just more exaggerated PR by the Obama administration?)
This $1.27 million in taxpayer funds would provide 20 full-time, mid-level jobs for an entire year, instead of 600 jobs for 2-4 months. Adult employees are more likely to pay federal income taxes, as opposed to youth who would probably get their withheld tax refunded. Adults also need the jobs more, since most are working to support a family. While fighting youth unemployment sounds great, training them to dig up or poison plants is not great training for future employment. Does funding adult employment or youth “training” best accomplish the major tasks of federal agencies? Which provides taxpayers a better return for their money?
Of course, the main point is that if government spending is putting us deeper in debt, we cannot afford to initiate new programs for adults or teens, no matter how noble they may appear.