Coburn Report on Federal Job Training Programs

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Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn released a report today on federal job training programs in his state. Here’s what Coburn’s intrepid staff found: duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and stupidity. In short, the report is another example of how Washington is better at creating problems than solving them.

The report’s most important takeaway is that providing job training assistance is not a proper function of the federal government:

The convoluted mess of job training programs exists, not because of any well-meaning Oklahoman, but because Congress created a system that is doomed to fail. Employers and communities know best what skills are needed for a successful workforce, not bureaucrats—despite good intent.

What part of this scenario makes sense: Congress taxes Oklahoma employers at record rates, to fund job training programs created by politicians in Washington, only to send taxpayer money back to Oklahoma with rules and regulations that tie the hands of state and local governmental and business and ignore the unique economic and demographic factors of their communities. This scenario is the reality of the employment programs operated by federal government.

The first step Congress took in the wrong direction was a step out of the Constitutional boundaries set forth by our founders. Providing employment and training services is not a role for federal government at all, according to the enumerated powers listed in the U.S. Constitution. [Emphasis in original.]

Of course the scenario doesn’t make any sense, but as a Cato essay on federal employment and training programs notes, federal policymakers are fixated on “doing something”:

More fundamentally, federal employment and training programs don’t fill any critical economic need that private markets don’t already fill. Instead, the federal programs provide an opportunity for policymakers to show that they are “doing something” to help the labor market. To policymakers, federal job training sounds like something that should boost the economy, but five decades of experience indicate otherwise.