- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2012

Good news for veterans. If you have honorably served your country and are looking for work, drop your rifle and grab a shovel. President Obama has a job for you.

Last week, the White House proposed a new jobs program for unemployed veterans. The Veterans Jobs Corps (VJC) seeks to spend $1 billion to find work for 20,000 former servicemen. Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar said the program was modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps. Like the Depression-era program, the VJC will focus on jobs such as maintaining parkland and other unskilled labor. The proposal follows Mr. Obama’s suggestion in the State of the Union address that we “do some nation-building right here at home.”

This accurately reflects Mr. Obama’s worldview when it comes to veterans. Liberals in general tend to think people join the military only as a last resort. They feel military service is better left to the uneducated, the unimaginative or people desperate to escape crushing poverty. Veterans are the poor unfortunates who had no other options in life than to put on the uniform and be sent to fight unpopular, unnecessary wars. In fact, most veterans are better educated than their peers and have a variety of useful skills that make them very attractive to employers. The last thing they need is White House pity.

The plan responds to a crisis that does not exist. The Labor Department reported in January that unemployment among veterans is tracking just 0.4 percent above the general unemployment rate, but even this slight variation is a statistical fluke. A March 2011 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that veterans experience higher-than-normal unemployment rates during their first year out of service, when they are getting their feet on the ground. After 24 months out of uniform, veterans are unemployed at half the rate of their civilian counterparts. It is hard to see what the VJC is supposed to accomplish other than provide a new way to spend money the government does not have.

The program’s expectations are highly unrealistic. The proposed billion-dollar budget averages out to $50,000 per job, for one year, excluding substantial government overheard costs. Experience with Mr. Obama’s “stimulus” program shows that such government-created jobs cost a quarter-million dollars more for each, so at that rate, the plan would underwrite just 4,000 veterans. It would hardly make a dent in the overall unemployment problem and certainly is not worth the public having to take on another billion dollars of debt.

Politics plays an inordinate role here. In November, Congress passed a bipartisan measure providing tax credits to businesses that hire veterans. The credit was “paid for” by delaying a planned reduction in fees on home loans for vets guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This “Rob Peter to pay Paul” budget strategy is designed solely to give politicians bragging rights. Mr. Obama has not even bothered to suggest how he hopes to pay for the VJC, but the urgent necessity for living within the nation’s means has never stopped him before.

The Washington Times