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Federal Make-Work Jobs Betray Teenagers

Written By: James Bovard  |  Posted: Monday, September 27th, 2010

Politicians now pretend that government spending can solve any and all ills. Sloshing out federal funds for local summer job programs exemplifies this delusion. Uncle Sam first began bank-rolling summer jobs for urban teens in 1964. It was decided that government should hire any low-income teen who couldn't find a job on his own. Soon, with the usual bureaucratic imperialism, local governments were vigorously dissuading teens from even looking for private jobs, begging them to come learn to be a "government worker."

The programs quickly became a disaster, even by the standards of the Great Society. In the subsequent decades, they warped the work ethic of hundreds of thousands of youths. The General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded in 1969 that some teen participants "regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid." Ten years later, the GAO found that "almost three of every four [urban teen summer-job] enrollees were exposed to a worksite where good work habits were not learned or reinforced, or realistic ideas on expectations in the real world of work were not fostered." William Raspberry, a black columnist for the Washington Post, complained in the late 1970s, "We are raising a generation of kids who don't know the meaning of work." Raspberry blamed government summer job programs, among other culprits.

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