Senator Tom Coburn had the Government Accountability Office (GAO) do a study on job training programs.The study revealed that the federal government spends $18 billion a year on job training.
The study also reported that there are 47 different federal job-training programs. A total of five of these have produced data since 2004 on how many people receiving the training got jobs.
Nevertheless, President Obama recently said that 90% of those receiving such training had jobs within three months. It is not clear where this information ca,e from. It did not come from at least 42 of the programs.
Coburn concluded: “The vast majority of money we spend in job training doesn’t go to job training, it goes to employ people in those job training federal programs.”
That is to say, the job-training programs are basically the same as all other federal programs. But he did not mention this.
The study found some media-worthy but ultimately irrelevant examples of waste:
- Some job training participants spent their days sitting on a bus.
- Some were trained for jobs that didn’t exist.
- Others were paid to sit through educational sessions about jobs they already had.
- High school students were knowingly exposed to the cancer-causing agent asbestos as part of a job training program.
- Funds were misspent to pay a contractor for ghost employees and to purchase video games.
- Job training administrators spent federal funds on extravagant meals and bonuses for themselves.
- In one state, workforce agency employees took more than 100 gambling trips to casinos mostly during work hours.
In this respect, the programs are like any federal program. They led to some really juicy examples of waste.
Conclusion: the news media can always use more studies from the GAO that highlight boondoggles.
Reports like this never change anything, but they make terrific sound bites.
President Obama had a different version. At a recent non-campain speech funded by taxpayers, he said: “What’s the better way to make our economy stronger, give more tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, or make investments in education and research and health care and job training?”
Put differently, he might have said: “What’s the better way to make our economy stronger? Give more tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, or keep federal job-training bureaucrats on the dole?”
Mitt Romney countered: “Let’s take that money, give it back to the state, let you fashion your own programs so that you can train your own workers for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Put differently, he might have said: “Let’s take that money, give it back to the state, and let state bureaucrats fashion their programs to keep them on the dole.”
Ron Paul’s former staff economist (me), said: “Let’s not take the money from anyone. Instead, let’s get rid of all federal job-training programs, and let today’s well-paid federal job-training specialists test their skills in the real world.”