We recently noted on Inkwell that at long last President Obama has pivoted to “work opportunities.”
As we noted, there’s a catch: “Work opportunities” aren’t quite the same as job opportunities—many work ops don’t pay. Nearly half the work opportunities listed as available on the administration's summer jobs program don't pay. The program appears designed purely and simply to allow the administration to pretend it is addressing the abysmally high rate of unemployment among young people.
Well, it turns out that the summer jobs program is even more dishonest than we originally reported.
What could be worse than a job that doesn’t include a paycheck? Well, a summer jobs program that simply legalizes a practice that the White House previously sought to prosecute.
Basically, as Ron Meyer points out, this is what the new jobs program amounts to:
The jobs and internships being advertised already exist in the private sector, and the only real change is that the Obama administration will stop prosecuting private companies for offering unpaid internships.
Internships are a great way to acquire workplace skills. But the Obama administration hasn't always been so fond of them. Indeed, the Obama Department of Labor put out a directive demonizing the very same unpaid internships that it now claims are an important part of its own jobs program. It stated:
If you're a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren't going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.
What a difference a looming campaign for re-election can make:
So, instead of prosecuting the employers offering [unpaid internships], the Department of Labor is now praising these employers and counting these internships in their jobs numbers.
As Meyer observes, it is a good development that the administration is no longer penalizing outfits that offer unpaid internships. But it is dishonest for the administration to suddenly claim that it created these opportunities.
It is also pathetic that the administration now finds itself bragging about unpaid internships. It is dishonest that the administration tries to pretend to the public that putting together lists of unpaid internships is a jobs policy.
None of this hopeless activity is going reduce the youth misery index, as measured by the Young America’s Foundation.
The administration could, of course, do plenty to create jobs. Rolling back regulation and providing certainty about taxes would be places to start. But the administration prefers to try to wing it with a phony "jobs" program.