Obama's Jobless Track Record

by Gerri Willis

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his 2013 budget at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. 2/13/2012Jobs...The number one issue in this country. You know how bad things are. You've seen the numbers: Unemployment over 8%, more than 40% have been out of work six months or more, a labor participation rate plummeting.

This White House says it has the solution: Government retraining. Now, the President's preferred way to do this is through community colleges. He used one as the stage to unveil his 2013 budget. Declaring on one campus that he had visited so many times, “I'm about three credits short of graduation."

Obama's latest plan? Devoting $8 billion to help community colleges work with businesses to train two million Americans giving them the skills they need to be employed. And it's not his first shot at this.

In 2009, as part of the massive stimulus law, he wanted to set aside $12 billion for community college training programs - Congress eventually sliced that to $2 billion - and just last year, he proposed giving the nation's 1,200 two-year colleges $5 billion for renovations. All told, according to the Government Accountability Office, the number of these programs has skyrocketed to 47 since 2009 costing approximately $18 billion.

But here's the thing. There is no evidence any of these programs that we keep throwing money at actually work. The Washington Post points to a recent study by the Labor Department showing additional education and training for these dislocated workers didn't translate into better pay or higher employment…at least not anytime soon. Actually, some even made less money than those who did not go back to school.

One of the most egregious examples of government waste, this President's insistence on green jobs being the savior of the jobs market. As usual, the numbers tell a different story. The stimulus law appropriated $500 million to train workers for these so-called green jobs promising to train 125,000 people.

But guess what? Three years in - less than 53,000 workers have been trained - only 42% of the expected amount. And only 10% of the target of 80,000 workers have actually been put in jobs. It's not just the federal government. Last year, California gave $59 million for green job training, and only 719 people have gotten jobs. That's $82,000 per job.

Unsuccessful government re-training programs are nothing new. Back in the 1990’s, the New York State Job Development Authority promised to create 1,200 jobs but ended up with fewer than 400. In 1973, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act was passed spending $53 billion, but only employing about 15% of its recruits.

To make matters worse, ten years later as the program was expiring, 50% of them had been laid off. And in 1961, the Area Redevelopment Administration managed to retrain only about 6,500 workers, and of that, only about 1,300 found jobs in their field. Look, joblessness is a huge problem, but government clearly has no track record when it comes to providing a solution.

The better track for government is to create an environment in which businesses can succeed, make corporate tax rates competitive with other countries. Provide carrots, not sticks, to businesses that outsource jobs.

Change the rhetoric of the White House so that it comes clear that the people employing Americans are worthy of respect not derision.