Classic Ron Paul: Federal job training programs, of any sort, further the destructive idea that the proper role of the federal government is to provide for all the needs of its citizens.

Earlier this week, I blogged about the "SKILLS" Act, the Republicans' proposals to make federal job training programs more efficient. This is not the first time a Republican Congress tried to reform job training programs. In 1997, the Republican Congress worked with the Clinton Administration to pass the "Employment, Training, and Literacy" Act. Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul served on the Education and Workforce Committee at the time and filed the following dissenting views on the bill


Congress is once again attempting to repair the broken system of federal job training. The major federal role in job training dates back to 1962, with President Kennedy's Manpower Development and Training Act (MDA) and continuing though the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, passed as part of President Johnson's Great Society. Consistent with the Great Society philosophy that the federal government had the solution to all problems, these bills centralized job training authority in Washington.

Soon, however, concerns arose that federal job training programs were rife with waste and abuse. Congress, therefore, began trying to repair some of the inefficiencies in the job-training program. First, in 1973, Congress, with the support of the Nixon Administration, passed the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). CETA was designed to decentralize federal job training programs. Congress next addressed job training in 1982, with the passage of the Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA), which promised to turn federal job-training into a public-private `partnership' that would operate more `efficiently' than the three major job-training bills that had previously passed the Congress and failed to accomplish their stated goals.

After thirty years of federal involvement and two major legislative overhauls, there are now over 160 federal programs dedicated to job training. The federal government spent approximately $4.5 billion on just JTPA in 1997. However, the US Congress cannot measure whether or not they are getting a good return on their investment though most federal agencies do not even know if their programs are helping people find jobs.

Therefore, Congress is once again attempting to repair the federal job training systems. However, despite the abundant evidence of the failure of the centralized welfare state model of job-training programs, this Congress is planning to continue dictating to all 50 states the composition, content, function and even the goals and benchmarks of job training programs. The Employment Training and Literacy Act of 1997 (H.R. 1385), tampers with the constitutional principle of federalism and devolving power to the states. However, HR 1385 redefines the very notion of federalism to mean that states, localities, and individual citizens are given limited flexibility and control over how they fulfill the federal government's mandates.


Unlike the `mandate federalism' embodied in H.R. 1385, the federalism embodied in the United States Constitution allows for no federal role in job training, or education generally. In fact, the tenth amendment, which reserves the authority for carrying out functions not explicitly granted to the federal government, to the states and the people, forbids federal education programs. Yet, as demonstrated below, H.R. 1385 continues the unconstitutional centralization of education program for the benefit of certain members of society at the expense of the mass of American taxpayers.

Under H.R. 1385 states must provide a three-year plan for Adult Job Training and Literacy programs in order to receive federal job-training funds. These plans must satisfy federally-specified content and must be approved by the Secretaries of both the Department of Education and the Department of Labor.

Additionally, states are required to establish `local workforce development boards' whose functions and composition are dictated by the federal law. Furthermore, the boards must meet benchmarks identified by the governor's in `negotiation' with the schools, the local boards do not even have the authority to determine how their performance should be measured. Rather progress under this bill measure by predetermined federal `core indicators.'

Under H.R. 1385, the `local workforce development boards' would be dominated by representatives of the business community. Certainly the input of the business community is important for job training. However, a federal mandate that representatives of business dominate the job-training boards may provide a means for business to socialize or externalize their training costs. Those businesses which will achieve a direct benefit from a more highly-skilled workforce should be the ones to finance such programs. Individuals who will benefit from improving their skills could also choose to ultimately pay at least some of the cost of their training. In no instance should the individual taxpayers be forced to subsidize the job training of another person.

Not satisfied with wealth transfers to prepare those without employment for business, this bill provides training for `skills upgrading' for `incumbent workers' (those already employed). Despite a budget billions of dollars out of balance, this bill creates a new entitlement for already-employed workers and their employers to receive more training courtesy of the American taxpayer.

Businesses are not the only institutions showered with largess in this bill. Under the provisions of this bill, the Secretary of Labor is empowered to provide taxpayers dollars to labor unions to carry out `research and demonstration projects' as well as grants to `public interest groups.' Credible accusations have been made that these groups have often used federal funds to advance their political agenda. At the very least, Congress should conduct a thorough investigation and take steps to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for political activity before handing out more grant monies.


In addition to continuing the practice of giving more federal monies to Washington, DC, this bill expands the state's reach into America's families by authorizing federal funding for `family literacy services.' These `services' are to include training for parents on how to teach their children and interactive literacy activities between parents and their children.

The history of federal involvement in family literacy raises questions regarding the effectiveness of government programs to teach anything regarding child raising. From 1963 to 1993, federal spending on education increased from approximately $900,000 to over 10 billion dollars, while scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SATs) dropped by an average of almost 60 points! Given the poor track record, it is doubtful whether increasing federal involvement in family literacy is likely to do anything but ensure lower rates of family literacy.

Furthermore, federal involvement in child rearing violates the very principles upon which this country was founded. In a free society, such as that bequeathed to America by the drafters of the constitution, the family, not the government, is responsible for the raising of children. State control of child raising is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of totalitarianism. Those of us concerned with expanding and preserving freedom must oppose all measures, including the legislation currently under consideration, which erode the autonomy of the family under the theory that government social workers are better able to address the needs of children than parents.

Along similar lines, the language for disadvantaged youth programs mandates the integration of `academic, occupation, and work-based learning opportunities.' This is also quite objectionable. This language seems to suggest those youth diagnosed as `disadvantaged' by the social workers and psychologists will be denied a traditional education; instead `disadvantaged' youth will be herded into a state-run job training programs. Such a federally-mandated plan is in no way consistent with the core American value of individualism.


This bill reaches the height of hubris in its mandate that training services be linked to `. . . occupations for which there is a demand in the local workforce development area.' This provision is objectionable for two reasons.

First, because business-dominated workforce development boards will determine which occupations are in demand, it is very likely that the businesses represented on the board will be the ones determined to be those `* * * for which there is a demand in the local workforce.'

Second, and more importantly, the very idea that a government board can somehow determine what occupations will be in demand at any point in the future is an example of what Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek called `The Fatal Conceit.' No central board, even one dominated by local officials and businessmen, can predict which jobs will be in demand in five, ten, or even two years. It is doubtful that a `local workforce board' in Silicon Valley in 1978 would have tried to link job training services to the personal computer market. In fact, it's highly unlikely that Steve Jobs (founder of Apple computers), would be appointed to the workforce development board in Silicon Valley. The very fact that the boards are comprised of already established leaders for business practically assures that the entrepreneurs creating the jobs of the future will not be represented on this board. In this high-tech information age, where financial and, more importantly, intellectual capital, can travel around the world in a matter of seconds, the jobs in demand in any area can change faster than any geographical local workforce board could conceivably update the skills with which to link job-training.


The argument is often made that state-financed job training is necessitated by the failure of the educational system to properly prepare students for the job market. Each of us can understand the frustration of employers unable to find employees capable of adapting to new technologies.

As a physician, I have employed many people in critical positions. I certainly understand the importance of having a readily available pool of skilled labor. I would question, however, whether the pool was better prior to the federal government's intrusion into education.

The private actions of individual citizens, working together in a free-market, can best build a job-training system that meets the needs of its citizens. Private individuals, local communities, and state governments are also more capable than the federal government of providing adequate help to those unable to provide for training out of their own resources, if the federal government returns to constitutional size and reduces the tax burden on American citizens.

Federal job training programs, of any sort, further the destructive idea that the proper role of the federal government is to provide for all the needs of its citizens. The belief that Congress has a moral duty to minister to the health and welfare of the populace, both of America and the world, is directly responsible for the growth of the welfare-warfare state which threatens to destroy America's economic prosperity and, as important, liberty, wholesale. Job training should be provided, like all other goods and services, by the free-market.

Congress stops the artificial debate over whether to completely centralize control over programs such as job-training, or whether to give states, communities, businesses, and individuals a limited degree of autonomy as long as they follow federal mandates. Rather, Congress must begin considering whether the Constitution provides any authorization for the federal government to have any role in programs such as job training. America's experiment with the provider state has failed. This Congress must stop draining resources from the private job-training initiatives and disrupting the operations of the greatest job-creation process known to humankind: the free market. It is time to return to the federal job-training and creating program created by the drafters of the constitution: low taxes, sound money, and a limited, constitutional government.


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