NY Times Editorial: A Rockier Pathway to Work

For Immediate Release:

April 9, 2012

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Editorial Board

The New York Times

Hundreds of thousands of unemployed people are desperate for new skills to pull them back into the job market, but when they visit a job-training center, they are often turned away. As Motoko Rich reported in The Times on Monday, Seattle’s seven centers had money to train only 5 percent of the 120,000 people who came in last year seeking new skills, and the numbers are similar elsewhere.

The reason: drastic cuts to federal spending on training over the last six years, including $1 billion since the 2010 fiscal year. Even though training programs are already harder to get into than Ivy League universities, Republicans in the House want to put them even further out of reach.

Last month, the House passed a 2013 budget written by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would reduce spending in the category of Education, Training, Employment and Social Services by $16 billion from the previous year, or 22 percent, on top of all the cuts forced by Republicans over several years. The cut in that category is typical of a budget that savages precisely the kind of domestic spending, like job training and Pell grants, needed to help people get off social-safety-net programs, while slicing open the net itself, through big reductions in Medicaid and food stamps (all while generously lowering taxes for the rich).

Mr. Ryan lacked the courage to provide the details of how sharply his budget would affect popular programs like job training or state aid to education. That task, he says cynically, will be left to the appropriating committees in Congress. When a critic like President Obama tries to point out which programs will inevitably suffer when a broad category is sharply cut, Mr. Ryan’s allies, including Mitt Romney, rush in to claim that no such cut was specified in the budget. They want it both ways: to win support from those who don’t care about social programs, without ever having to detail the pain the cuts would cause.

The Ryan budget is quite clear, though, about its intent to go after job-training programs. It cites a 2011 Government Accountability Office report that criticized the government for having 47 overlapping training programs spread across nine agencies and announces plans to consolidate them into a new scholarship program. The report, however, envisioned using the savings from consolidation to train “hundreds or thousands of additional individuals,” not using it to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

President Obama has also proposed greater consolidation of training programs, but he wants to spend an additional $2.8 billion a year on these programs. By contrast, last year, the House proposed cutting $2.5 billion, a pretty good indicator of how much it could slash when it puts in the details on this year’s budget.

There are six million more unemployed people now than there were in 2006, when the decline in training programs began. Training centers and community colleges are filled to bursting. Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan and their party have made it clear that giving the unemployed a pathway back to work is an extremely low priority.

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