I was looking for my first full-time permanent job during the Republican (Ford) Recession of the mid-1970s, so I’m having a hard time finding the flaws in Robert Reich’s latest jobs-program argument:
Friday’s job report was awful. For most new high school and college grads finding a job is harder than ever. Meanwhile, states are cutting summer jobs for disadvantaged young people. What to do with this army of young unemployed? Send them to the Gulf to clean up beaches and wetlands, and send the bill to BP.
Florida’s panhandle beaches are already marred with sticky brown globs of oil. Workers with blue rubber gloves and plastic bags are already losing the battle to keep them clean. Pelicans and other wildlife coated in oil tar are dying by the droves.
It will get far worse. Most of the oil hasn’t hit land yet. When it does, hundreds of thousands of workers will be needed to clean beaches, siphon off oil from wetlands, and rescue stranded wildlife. Tens of thousands more will have to bring in new landfill, replace tarred sea walls, and rebuild shoreline infrastructure.
Yet we’ve got hundreds of thousands of young people sitting on their hands right now because they can’t find jobs. Many are from affected coastal areas, where the tourist and fishing industries have been decimated by the spill.
The President should order BP to establish a $5 billion clean-up fund, and immediately put America’s army of unemployed young people to work saving the Gulf coast. Call it the new Civilian Conservation Corps…
Of course, these will not be permanent jobs, they will be physically (and to some degree psychologically) grueling, and it will require supervisory talents that our Republican-decimated government may no longer possess to make sure the workers are given whatever safety equipment and training is necessary. But plenty of young people would volunteer to do this work, if only they had the familial resources that permit the offspring of those at the top of the economic pyramid to spend their summers networking in internships on Wall Street, Fifth Avenue, or K Street. Forcing BP to take a tiny fraction of its responsibility for this disaster by giving young Americans a respite from the unemployment nightmare seems like a political win for President Obama and Congress, and a social win for all of us.