Better Than An Unpaid Internship?

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.






54 replies
  1. 1
    Ailuridae says:

    Not sure if it makes sense to round up kids from all over the country when there would seem to be more than enough underemployed or unemployed adults and HS and college kids from the areas likely to be affected. FL and Texas don’t have overly grim employment scenarios but without looking I would imagine that LA, MS, AL, SC and GA have some of the worst and all are directly affected. And for FL and TX better employment scenario they have a whole lot of beach front to take care of.

    I favor direct government employment until the recession is over but I am not sure its a viable sell politically (and it might not be even if Obama had spent every day since 1/20/09 making the argument either). This is a recession that by and large isn’t affecting the white and college educated except in geographically contained areas. That’s why, for instance, nobody pointed out that Ben Nelson and the Maine Senators were behaving like sociopaths when they subbed out 80M in direct aid to the states for the AMT fix during the ARRA debate.

  2. 2
    robertdsc says:

    Can it get 60 votes? I don’t think so. This fucknut Congress doesn’t care.

  3. 3
    roshan says:

    The young folks are welcome to go there for cleanup but I think its not advisable. Who knows what’s in the water out there with all the dispersant and oil mixing to form a toxic stew. If need be get proper protective gear before participating. Also make sure that BP is liable for any health issues that may arise in the future due to exposure during cleanup.

  4. 4
    Spiffy McBang says:

    @Ailuridae: That part was odd, but what the hell, ignore it. Just hire kids from the affected states. Could get more workers for the money that way, and jobs are jobs.

    By the way, when, again, are they going to raise the liability cap? Even if this went straight to the President’s ear and out his mouth, BP would laugh him back to Washington for as long as they were only staring at $75 million in damages.

  5. 5
    Allison W. says:

    I would prefer that Obama get adults working before the kids. And whether its kids or adults, we need to make sure it is safe for any civilian to work in those areas. Next thing you know Obama will be accused of child or slave labor.

  6. 6
    blondie says:

    @robertdsc:

    Of course it can’t get to 60 votes – anyone who participated in such a program would become a lifelong Democrat when they witnessed what the feckless Republicans, with their utterly blind obeisance to corporations, have done.

  7. 7
    aimai says:

    I agree with everyone that “kids from all over the country” though logical, andlike the original ccc, is not preferable to adults and older teens from the affected area–in a way. But in another way it would be an incredible boon:

    The money would flow into the affected area restoring tourism and all the subsidiary jobs *other* than the fishing industry since the new Corps members would spend most of the money locally.

    Also, it would spread understanding of the disaster and its effects throughout the country instead of localizing it.

    And despite our desire to protect “children” if we limited the jobs to recent highschool and college grads that would make even more sense–these are not jobs that older workers should be doing. They probably are in now condition for it.

    aimai

  8. 8
    wilfred says:

    The President should order BP to establish a $5 billion clean-up fund

    He might as well order the pelicans to suck up the oil and shit out blue diamonds.

  9. 9
    Honus says:

    From a friend of mine, a New Orleans native and lifetime resident, here’s BP’s plan:

    “Please send an email to your Washington representatives asking them to demand the President federalize the clean-up effort in South Louisiana. Nothing BP says about the response is accurate. There may be thousands of people working on the clean-up, but most of them are temporary workers hired on Canal Street and from temp labor firms, then bussed to the coast. These people do not have the stamina, discipline or training to work under the difficult conditions that exist in the marsh. As a result, almost nothing is being accomplished.”

    Free Randian markets at work.

  10. 10
    mr. whipple says:

    Sounds like a great idea as I had the same one weeks ago :).

    I don’t think the unemployment rate of college graduates is very high, maybe 3%. But it is sky high for those with less education and also among the construction sector. Let’s get those people working!

  11. 11

    @Spiffy McBang:

    BP would laugh him back to Washington for as long as they were only staring at $75 million in damages.

    The $75 million is only for certain types of damages that people might sue them for. They are on the hook for the entire price of the cleanup itself.

  12. 12
    stuckinred says:

    Thousands of “teens” from all over the country? Great idea but just who is going to supervise this? The will live where? They will answer to who? They will be segregated by gender? This sound like a recipe for disaster.

  13. 13
    Keith G says:

    The President should order….

    How? By what authority? There are some federal assets that a president can order about. By what method can private assets be requisitioned? Isn’t there a legit Constitutional issue about Congressional action mandating such a thing?

    I see my liberal friends proposing such things quite often lately. They seem to be living in a different country than I do.

  14. 14
    satby says:

    @stuckinred:
    There’s already Americorps, which has both Vista and the NCCC as programs. If that was expanded it would be able to administer the young people working the clean up. And one of the bennies of the program is an award for service that can be used to pay off loand for college or for tution.

  15. 15
    gypsy howell says:

    You know what’s going to happen (if anything happens at all) —
    the free market will dictate that we hand billions of tax dollars over to Halliburton to “clean up the oil spill.” Halliburton executives will get huge bonuses, stockholders will receive a big dividend, kids will be poisoned because Halliburton, in an effort to “save costs,” won’t provide any safety gear, and the oil will still be sloshing around the beaches and marshes 10 years from now.

    Why should the Gulf be any different from Iraq?

  16. 16
    kay says:

    @stuckinred:

    Thousands of “teens” from all over the country? Great idea but just who is going to supervise this? The will live where? They will answer to who? They will be segregated by gender? This sound like a recipe for disaster.

    I think so too. I don’t know where they’re going to live. I guess he’s talking about unemployed young people from within the 5 affected states, but why focus on them? There are plenty of unemployed people in the 5 Gulf states, and many of them have far greater responsibilities than a 20 year old.
    Robert Reich can’t think outside the context of the Great Depression.

  17. 17
    stuckinred says:

    @kay: I just remember how well we all got along at Ft Campbell in 1966 and that was with DI’s with their boots in our asses 24 hours a day!

  18. 18
    stuckinred says:

    @gypsy howell: No live ammo.

  19. 19
    Nick says:

    @gypsy howell: Not to mention the markets will still focus on private job creation…so we can create a million government jobs, but that private market is going to drive the markets which dictate the state of the economy in the media.

    Clean up the Gulf jobs are no different than Census jobs, they’re temporary and meant to get us through tough times until the private sector hires again. I don’t understand why Reich pisses all over Census hirings, yet suggests we do the same thing.

  20. 20
    LGRooney says:

    I think it’s a great idea but BP would need to not only pay for this effort but set up funds for:
    a) long term epidemiological studies of those doing the clean up to measure the effects of the potential exposures for these workers and develop remediation therapies; and,
    b) a special health fund to cover potential costs of health care related to the clean up effort.

    …blue diamonds indeed!

  21. 21
    kay says:

    @stuckinred:

    It just seems like this fatal flaw in everything he says. He always begins and ends with the Great Depression. Now he’s effortlessly integrated an environmental disaster into his favorite narrative.
    How does this story he’s telling himself end? With a world war?
    He’s always like “where is the URGENCY?” I don’t know, Robert, there’s perhaps less URGENCY because there aren’t any bread lines and tent cities because we have food stamps and extended unemployment benefits and housing assistance and Medicaid? The Liberal Safety Net that didn’t exist in the Great Depression? That big ‘ol thing?
    There’s going to be lots and lots of displaced workers in the Gulf states. Why bring down a bunch of temps and set aside jobs for them?

  22. 22
    Brian J says:

    I get that there’s a big concern over what will happen with people whose employment is very directly tied to what is supposed to be temporary government spending, but isn’t that supposed to be the case? Why should anyone, least of all the government, be anywhere near certain where the jobs in the future will come from? If it could be that precise, it’d be a lot easier to have government involvement in trade, which almost everyone agrees is a poor decision. In other words, we shouldn’t worry that much where the jobs are going to come from, because nobody is really sure. Instead, we should be focused on giving people work now and letting things get better on their own, however slowly.

  23. 23
    stuckinred says:

    @Brian J: Yea and this isn’t exactly “giving people work”. There is a real and lasting purpose to getting on this NOW!

  24. 24
    Nick says:

    @Brian J: I agree, but it’s important to realize that if we’re doing this for economic purposes, no one is going to be satisfied until the private sector is creating jobs again at a rapid pace.

    Now some will argue, with logical arguments, that if the government temporarily employees people to do, whatever, the tax revenue created from those workers will eventually trigger the private sector into creating jobs, but it’s becoming increasingly clear the problem with the private sector is not that it doesn’t have the money to create jobs, it doesn’t have the need to.

    My employer basically cut a job this month. One of our employees left, willingly, to take another job and my bosses never refilled the position, rather splitting up the job responsibilities over a couple of interns. Why? They don’t have to pay a salary then, just a stipend and can use the money to give us the raises our (union-negotiated) contracts demand.

    I know I just sounded like a Republican there, but that’s a small example of what’s going on out there. Business aren’t not hiring because they’re broke, they are not hiring because they have no need to, and won’t for a long time.

    Some sort of WPA can only starve off the problem until a new government is in power or something breaks.

  25. 25
    Richard Bottoms says:

    Sounds like a great idea but you should really be aiming your suggestions at the local Democratic elected officials in the affected parishes touched by the spill:

    The following cities are in parishes at the waterline:

    Cameron
    Pecan Island
    Lydia
    Franklin
    Bayou Cane
    Golden Meadow
    Venice
    Chalmette
    New Orleans
    Covington
    Bogulusa

    Lousiana Map

    Step One:
    Identify a Democrat mayor, city council member, or congressman from each of those areas to back the project

    Step Two:
    Offer to build the web & mobile infrastructure of promoting and managing the signup and logistics

    Step Three:
    Provide an HR professional to manage the processing of the clean up crew paperwork

    You could get the whole thing off the ground with just a couple thousand dollars raised by this blog.

    I’d be happy to help on the technology side.

    Ball’s in your court.

  26. 26
    Mr Furious says:

    @Brian J: Yep. This isn’t a “make work” project, or even bullshit highway infrastructure stuff. This is something that needs to be done, and needs to get started ASAP. Dumping money into the economy via the banks who don’t lend it or any other kind of subsidy is not showing visible results.

    This is certainly a logistical nightmare to pull off, and it might not be anything like Reich is pitching, but something needs to happen.

    I’ve already said that every damn fishing boat in the Gulf should be chartered by BP for double the normal rate to be skimming, and Gulf hotels should be filled with cleanup workers. No matter who runs the cleanup—BP, EPA, Halliburton or some mix, the bodies to do the work are still needed.

    I’d rather the President be taking some steps on this—even if somewhat symbolic or futile—than channeling his inner rage for a media waiting to jerk off to it.

  27. 27
    Mr Furious says:

    @Nick:

    My employer basically cut a job this month. One of our employees left, willingly, to take another job and my bosses never refilled the position, rather splitting up the job responsibilities over a couple of interns. Why? They don’t have to pay a salary then, just a stipend and can use the money to give us the raises our (union-negotiated) contracts demand.

    That’s illegal. At least in my experience hiring interns. They cannot be used to perform work that would otherwise be done by a paid employee.

  28. 28
    Mr Furious says:

    Though, my former employer is a good example of not replacing departing employees, but spreading the work onto the remaining staff.

    Fortunately for me, that also means some consulting cash for me as one of the recently departed.

  29. 29
    Cacti says:

    @Nick:

    I don’t understand why Reich pisses all over Census hirings, yet suggests we do the same thing.

    Because Reich is kind of a douche?

  30. 30
    Nick says:

    @Mr Furious: Who’s going to complain? No one is going to risk their jobs to complain to the Dept. of Labor.

  31. 31
    Cacti says:

    There’s going to be lots and lots of displaced workers in the Gulf states. Why bring down a bunch of temps and set aside jobs for them?

    Not to mention, how many college students are going to want to spend their summer performing non-career relevant, grueling physical labor in the Louisiana heat?

  32. 32
    Mr Furious says:

    @Nick: Yeah. That’s a major problem. People are really feeling under the thumb. Understandably.

  33. 33
    Bill H says:

    The President should order BP to establish a $5 billion clean-up fund,

    What country does Reich live in? First he says that Obama should “place BP into recievership,” sort of like Truman tried to do with the steel industry and was slapped down by SCOTUS, and now he can give orders to a British corporation?

    Reich belongs in the nut ward of the nearest hospital.

  34. 34
    Nick says:

    @Bill H: What bothers me about people like Reich is they give false hope to people who, when they discover the hope is false, suddenly get all Jane Hamsher.

  35. 35
    OriGuy says:

    California has had this program since 1976. Let’s see, who was governor then? Oh yeah, Jerry Brown.
    http://www.ccc.ca.gov/

  36. 36
    Svensker says:

    @Ailuridae:

    This is a recession that by and large isn’t affecting the white and college educated except in geographically contained areas.

    Huh? Where do you live? Here in a very rich white suburb of NJ none of the college kids can get jobs at all. And don’t talk to me about older college educated adults — we have one formerly well-off ivy-educated friend who is essentially homeless right now, rotates people he can stay with (including us) who’s been out of a job for over a year. Along with 3 other college educated older adult friends who’ve been unemployed for over a year. One of them — who used to make in the comfy 6 digits — supplements his unemployment, which is about to run out for good, by walking dogs in NYC. His wife, who lost her retail store, babysits. Our small but wealthy bankster-inhabited town has 43 empty storefronts. God knows what it’s like where the banksters don’t live and spend money.

  37. 37
    Nick says:

    @Svensker:

    Here in a very rich white suburb of NJ none of the college kids can get jobs at all.

    When I was a college kid in my very rich white suburb in New Jersey (a lovely place called West Caldwell), SIX YEARS AGO, this was also true.

  38. 38
    Cacti says:

    Since in Reich’s world, Obama can “order BP into receivership” and “order them to set aside $5 billion” for a jobs fund, why doesn’t he just…

    Order the well to stop leaking.

    AND

    Order the spill to disappear.

    Sounds a lot quicker and equally realistic.

  39. 39
    Nick says:

    @Bill H: This is what gets me fucking frustrated. I made this argument to a hysterical liberal friend of mine last week and when he asked why Obama couldn’t just nationalize BP, I said “Google Youngstown Sheet & Tube vs. Sawyer” and he just called me an Obama apologist.

    Stubborness and ignorance is an American virtue.

  40. 40
    JBerardi says:

    You know, I hate to use the whole “he has a book to sell” explanation for Reich, but that’s really what this seems like. He’s putting forward this idea that is basically impossible to implement, and when it doesn’t happen (because, it’s freaking impossible), he gets to go “See! Obama is just another corporate shill!”. The really annoying thing here is that no one should have to resort to making shit up in order to prove that corporations are excessively powerful and dangerous… and making shit up ultimately undermines that argument, and feeds into the whole “liberals aren’t Serious People” perception.

  41. 41
    Americanadian says:

    @Cacti: I can only speak for myself, but as long as I felt confident my safety was being looked out for by some non-private-sector entity with the power to enforce minimum safety standards, I’d go.

  42. 42
    Nick says:

    @JBerardi:

    He’s putting forward this idea that is basically impossible to implement, and when it doesn’t happen (because, it’s freaking impossible), he gets to go “See! Obama is just another corporate shill!”. The really annoying thing here is that no one should have to resort to making shit up in order to prove that corporations are excessively powerful and dangerous… and making shit up ultimately undermines that argument, and feeds into the whole “liberals aren’t Serious People” perception.

    Win.

  43. 43
    tkogrumpy says:

    @wilfred: Oh ye of little faith.

  44. 44
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Keith G: Any country that can legalize torture without a peep surely can bypass any of those silly little constitutional issues

  45. 45
    tkogrumpy says:

    @stuckinred: Thanks for that. Now what about this coffee on my monitor?

  46. 46
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Svensker: I see you live in the “real” world.

  47. 47
    RalfW says:

    I’m surprised Joe Biden didn’t think of this while he was at his own friggin’ beach party this past weekend.

  48. 48
    brantl says:

    Reich has had a bunch of ideas that aren’t legally sound. If the congress passes a law that puts BP on the hook for what the feds have to do immediately to start emergency amelioration of this problem, then Obama can do that. Otherwise, he has no legal standing to do that.

    They should pass that immediately, then start to act on it, whether or not BP challenges it. The Repubs would fight it, lose on it, and lose in November on it. That’s called ‘karma’s a bitch”, and should happen right here, right now.

  49. 49
    brantl says:

    @Nick: You mean stave off, not starve off, and it’s horseshit. There can be permanent jobs in infrastructure improvement that burgeons into sustainability improvements. Try to think a little more.

    If you think we couldn’t permanently put quite a few people to work, putting solar panels on every damn building they will fit on, you’re nuts. If you think that we couldn’t put people to work putting up small wind turbines, everywhere a person wants one, you’re nuts. If you think we can’t put people to work on recycling the garbage dumps to get recycleable material, you’re nuts.

  50. 50
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Cacti:

    how many college students are going to want to spend their summer performing non-career relevant, grueling physical labor in the Louisiana heat?

    If it meant they could afford to go back to college for another semester? As an alternative to competing with their parents for shifts at Walmart, or day labor on construction sites? If they could earn the otherwise unobtainable $1200-$1500 chunk of cash to buy their entry into the local community college? If it’s more stable than couch-surfing, and they get to actually do something worthwhile that they’ll be able to tell their grandkids about? I think we could find enough 16-to-25-year-olds to make a significant difference, since there are still kids signing up for military service…

  51. 51
    Brent says:

    Next. Responsible environmental organizations state that oil/dispersant clean up is inadvisable without a respirator and other haz/mat equipment. Full body suits in the heat breathing thru a respirator. Where do I sign up the kids?

  52. 52
    Nick says:

    @brantl:

    If you think we couldn’t permanently put quite a few people to work, putting solar panels on every damn building they will fit on, you’re nuts. If you think that we couldn’t put people to work putting up small wind turbines, everywhere a person wants one, you’re nuts. If you think we can’t put people to work on recycling the garbage dumps to get recycleable material, you’re nuts.

    of cours we can, we will and we have begun with the stimulus.

    All of the above are contract to private companies. they’re PRIVATE SECTOR jobs

  53. 53
    Bill Murray says:

    @brantl: not necessarily. If Congress hasn’t acted there likely is some leeway for the President to act on his own. In Youngstown Tube and Steel, Congress had already enacted at least three ways that the strike could be handled and Truman did not choose any of them. Only Douglas and Black held that the President did not sometimes have the power to act in an emergency without Congress acting first. Jackson’s approach makes the most sense to me. He divided Presidential authority into three categories, ranked in descending order of legitimacy: (1) those cases in which the President was acting with express or implied authority from Congress, (2) cases in which Congress had thus far been silent, and (3) cases in which the President was defying congressional orders.

    Of course with our current SCOTUS, there’s no way they would interpret nationalization as justified, even if Congress passed a law authorizing it

  54. 54
    Learn from Australia says:

    Australia’s new Labor Gov’t reacted to the initial GFC Shock with a “Building the Education Future” (BEF) idea, which got rorted to hell by the various companies that signed up (mea culpa) but has resulted in just about every school in Australia getting a new building (admirable) at whatever gross expense & built while the GFC Mk 1 was in full bore (2008/2009).

    $Millions & probable $Billions were wasted, but the buildings came & the schools are using them. Smarter Australians will result, Infrasructure’s like that! ;)

    The lesson is use your Stimulus to build or fix your Infrastructure.

    Throw another shrimp on the barbie for me.

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