In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, numerous unemployed but hard-working Americans have turned to federal job training programs. These programs, held up as a beacon of good government by politicians, are actually riddled with fraud, waste and mismanagement, according to a new report from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
The most egregious accounts in Coburn’s “Help Wanted” report include a program that exposed youth to asbestos “under the guise of involving students in work experience and job training programs,” a shopping spree by a job training company in Tampa Bay, and a $100,000 grant given to an “admitted thief” in West Virginia.
The less dramatic cases of mismanagement tell of wasted time for potential workers and of wasted taxpayers dollars. In New Jersey, a $4 million program trained 184 potential workers, but only seven were able to find work in the field in which they were trained. In San Francisco, workers were paid mostly to sit on a bus, while in Oregon, companies used federal money to train Americans who were already employed.
These examples may be some of the worst, but they are consistent with an overall lack of accountability in federal job training programs. Coburn’s study was released in unison with a report by the Government Accountability Office that found “little is known about the effectiveness of most programs” despite the fact $18 billion in taxpayer funds are spent on 47 separate programs.
“Unemployed Americans don’t need just need our good intentions,” Coburn said. “They need us to conduct careful oversight and ask hard questions of programs designed to help people in very difficult transitions.”
For now, Washington only continues to provide unfounded hopes to the unemployed while the unwarranted praise for federal job training programs does little more than mask the government’s multitude of job-killing decisions elsewhere.