- The Washington Times - Monday, April 25, 2016


Every year about this time, my mind wanders to Marion Barry, the Democratic whiz kid who calculatingly took our national capital by storm during the height of the inner-city movement and molded it into an urban mecca.

One of his favored tools was black employment in general and youth employment in particular.

Mr. Barry created jobs where none were needed, and to a certain degree, we’re still paying for his mayoral and legislative largesse to the point where it has become crystal clear that the foxes who have been guarding the summer employment hen house for the past several years have little direction.

The mission seems to be: Give paychecks to as many teens and young adults as possible. Period.

A recent report by the D.C. Auditor proves as much.

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Dated April 21, the “Review of Summer Youth Employment Programs in Eight Major Cities and the District” looked at Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and several other cities and compared wages, funding, eligibility and other policies. The review also makes 11 recommendations to D.C. officials.

In short, because the report is not an audit, it nonetheless proposes that D.C. leaders sort of undo a key part of America’s post-World War II mantra, grab hold of a government job, and the legacy of President Lyndon Johnson’s legacy, grab hold of a government job and don’t let go.

That D.C.-area residents still, with PRIDE, mention their “first summer job” during the (many, many) Barry years is par for the course in Democratic circles.

That the city added Marion Barry to the Summer Youth Employment Program’s name spells attention.

Conservatives don’t yelp about the government program. But there are legitimate concerns that such government-funded programs can lead to young people’s first suckle of government teats and lead to government dependence. Many of the cities in the report already have extended or are considering extending their summer jobs to 24-year-olds, which is well beyond the traditional age of college graduation (22).

That a college-age graduate of 22, 23 or 24 years old is competing with a 14-, 15- or 16-year-old for the same jobs speaks volumes.

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That cities are arbitrarily raising the minimum wage on businesses, and cities themselves are having to reach deeper into government and state coffers to cover the paychecks is troubling.

That the D.C. report recommends the private sector shoulder a larger burden of the summer jobs is conflicting.

The D.C. business and nonprofit communities used to work hand-in-hand with the city before it became, well, anti-business — raising taxes and fees, and implementing regulatory requirements and community benefits costs as if local businesses and organizations have pockets deeper and wider than the Grand Canyon.

What the District should do is audit the city’s jobs program. Do the people who get summer jobs receive any academic skills? Do they learn a marketable skill or marketable trade? Are they plugged into a career?

Or do they merely receive six weeks’ worth of pay and learn how to rinse and repeat the process next year?

It’s good to know where the D.C. summer program stands among those of other big cities. Now the auditor should be pushed to take big grown-up steps and ask how effective and efficient the program is, and are 14- to 24-year-olds sustaining themselves after the summer program ends?

In Mr. Barry’s name, please get to the point of the program.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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