The other pro-labor day, May 1st, is observed in most other civilized countries and all but ignored in the United States. The irony is that this global May Day was inspired by Chicago's 19th century Haymarket Massacre. What happened in America not only didn't stay in America, it has been hidden and suppressed even as its pro-worker spirit has spread throughout the rest of the globe.
But aren't we constantly being reminded how exceptional America is? In America, a country of laws for everybody but the banks and the surveillance state, May 1 has been officially designated "Law Day." You are legally required to go to work, and not agitate.
Even Labor Day USA has been bowdlerized into a forced celebration of the last day of summer, the last weekend we can fire up the grill, cavort at the beach, and gambol in the town square to the sound of all-American brass bands and politicians in taupe suits and flag pins tepidly wheezing out one tired platitude after another.
Labor Day USA is a special day to perpetuate the myth that the bosses, the politicians, and the workers are all part of one big American family. We get a three-day weekend! It ranks right up there with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July! It is one of onlya handful of paid national holidays. Unless, of course, you happen to work at Walmart or McDonalds, or wherever minimum wage is paid and paid days off are a Marxist pipe dream.
Labor Day USA should be extra-special this year, because it marks the 50th anniversary of LBJ's Job Corps Program, a natural Great Society offshoot of FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. Although "unknown to most Americans," (by design?) it serves 60,000 of us every single year. As Time reports,
In total, some 2.7 million young people have participated in the Jobs Corps since President Lyndon Johnson launched the program as part of his Great Society initiative in 1964. And just like in the 1960’s, participants come from the harshest of circumstances. Still, 80 percent of program graduates leave with a full-time occupation.With a successful track record like that, you'd think that President Obama and Congress would be champing at the bit to expand this program in order to alleviate our record wealth disparity and epidemic of wage stagnation and chronic unemployment and underemployment. Of course, you would then be thinking wrong. This, after all, is Exceptional America. The budget of the Job Corps has been cut in every succeeding year of the Obama administration, with the usual "mismanagement of funds" and "poor performance" excuses thrown out to justify the slow but sure whittling away of this valuable social safety net program.
Obama has proposed a permanent reduction in the Job Corps' "slot capacity" in his 2015 budget. Translated from Orwellian Newspeak, this means that about 10,000 at-risk youths will be left with no place to go. Since Job Corps centers feed and house participants as well as train them for careers, this will mean 10,000 more at-risk youths on the streets in such dystopian locales as Chicago and Ferguson.
If you needed any more evidence that the Obama administration's first allegiance is to tax-evading plutocrats who dictate prosperity for themselves and austerity hardship for the rest of us, look no further than the White House's own budgetary web-page for an explanation of why he is making these draconian cuts that harm some of the most vulnerable members of our society:
The Department of Labor (DOL) is charged with promoting the welfare of workers, job seekers, and retirees, which are key Administration priorities as our economy continues to recover and we work toward strengthening America’s competitive edge globally. The Department’s budget reflects the need to make sacrifices in many areas in order to invest in job creation and boost competitiveness for years to come. Accordingly, the President’s Budget provides $12.8 billion for DOL, a 5 percent reduction from the 2010 enacted level. To support effective job training programs, the Budget shifts resources from an underutilized portion of formula grants for states to a new Workforce Innovation Fund. Savings and efficiencies are achieved through a reduction in funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services; and through a 25 percent reduction in the Job Corps construction budget. The Budget increases funding for worker protection and mine safety programs that were underfunded in the previous administration and are critical to Americans’ health and safety.Translation: the little people must sacrifice in order that multinational corporations may profit globally and perpetually. No need to waste money on training programs for the dregs of society when the ravenous plutocrats can scrape the dregs in any corrupt Banana Republic at their disposal.("invest in job creation and boost competitiveness.")
The "workforce innovation fund" being diverted from the direct government-run Job Corps will include $53 million in grants to private businesses for use in training programs that in former democratic times, were funded by the employers themselves. Priority will be given to corporations that can prove they don't discriminate against veterans or the LGBT community and thus enable the predatory rentier class to feel good about themselves. It's all part of the neoliberal agenda of private profit at public expense that was sparked by Ronald Reagan and is raging full steam ahead under Barack Obama.
And to make creeping fascism more palatable to the American public, the job of demonizing the Job Corps is falling to the usual suspects in the sycophantic press. The tactic of destroying public education by closing "poor-performing" schools in poor neighborhoods and firing unionized teachers is now also being extended to the Job Corps training centers. Rather than blaming their own poverty-inducing policies, the ruling class is blaming the programs that get in the way of profit and privatization. They forget to mention that any alleged poor performance is directly linked to low funding. And to the orchestrated epidemic of poverty itself.
One such Job Corps center, in a pristine yet indigent section of rural Oklahoma, is being closed in the wake of a Washington Post report revealing that half its trainees are either failing to complete the program or are failing to find jobs in their chosen fields upon graduating. The neoliberal agenda is trumpeted right in the scare-mongering headline:
Great Society At 50: LBJ's Job Corps will cost taxpayers $1.7 billion this year: Does It Work?
Need we even read the article to get the answer to that question? Are readers ever even informed of the high success rate nation-wide? Reporter David A. Farenthold (more about him in a minute) cuts to the chase:
INDIAHOMA, Okla. — In the middle of an Oklahoma wildlife refuge — at a campus so remote that buffalo wander in — about 100 young people are taking classes in the hope that the U.S. government can turn their lives around.Given the statistics, most of them will be disappointed.So many turns of slanted, right-wing free-market phrase in just a few little sentences. Job Corps: on a veritable game preserve in the middle of Nowheresville. A hundred youths, barely distinguishable from the herds of smelly cattle plodding around, are passively relying on the Nanny State to turn their lives around, when they could be acting proactive in Bootstrapville. They are instantly dehumanized and reduced to disappointing numbers.
This is the Treasure Lake Job Corps center, an outpost of a job-training program created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. The program began with a noble, untested idea: Government could save troubled youths one at a time, taking them in and teaching them a trade.Today, students here learn subjects such as cooking, nursing and plumbing from employees of the U.S. Forest Service. A year of education and job placement costs taxpayers about $45,000, more than tuition at Georgia Tech.There's that outpost at the back of beyond characterization again, when they should be out on the streets where the Washington Post can see them. And just think, they could even be going to college and owing a fortune in student loans to predatory lenders!
But at last count, only about 49 percent of Treasure Lake’s students completed their job training.Guess what, Farenthold? The graduation rate at Georgia Tech has fallen for the fourth straight year, and is now at an abysmal 31%! So tear that college down, pronto, lest the taxpayers be peeved. (On second thought, never mind: their football program is still making scads and scads of dough. And even the non-grads are still on the hook for those usurious loans. So it's all peachy-keen.)
But Farenthold continues weaving his web of lies anyway:
The struggles of this place — and of the Job Corps program as a whole — have come to illustrate two powerful legacies of the Great Society. The first is that the government has vastly expanded its ambition to improve individual lives.The "this place" (populated by "those people") phrase hovers uncomfortably close to a racial dog whistle.
For that matter, so does the bit about the government expanding its ambition to improve lives. As Paul Krugman and others have proven time and time again, the federal government has actually reduced the rate of spending on social programs, to the lowest levels in decades. Nor is this smear job on Job Corps the first time Farenthold has spread the lie of government overspending and government inefficiency in programs that benefit ordinary people. He even tried to trash Medicare this summer by comparing it to the Russian Mafia. It seems that disabled people have been ripping off the taxpayers by joy-riding on motorized wheelchairs! Lucky for us, he approached the wrong source to get his scoop. Dave Farenthold, sycophant to the plutocratic centrists, got himself well and truly exposed by Wheelchair Junkie.
Another clue to Farenthold's deviousness is that he not only takes right-wing budgetary flim-flam man Paul Ryan seriously, he is seriously turned on by Ryan's lanky, sexy, sadistic wonkiness and their mutual hatred of Medicare and old people everywhere.
But I digress. Farenthold also cannot stand the thought of undeserving younger people daring to make themselves at home where the buffalo roam when they could be wage slaves at Walmart or drive-by shooting victims:
But Job Corps is still very popular in Washington, among lawmakers of both parties.
It is still considered a success — at least as “success” is defined now, after a hard and disappointing 50-year war on poverty.The poor are still alive in places. The war on the poor has not been a success. So let's blame the poor, and rile up the white people.
The Job Corps program has 125 centers across the country. The students come as volunteers, some recruited by an online ad campaign: “Every day is a fresh start at Job Corps.”
To enroll, they must be from low-income families and at least 16 years old. More than half lack a high school diploma. Once accepted, nearly all students live at a center rent-free. Most stay there between nine and 11 months. In addition to academic and vocational classes, students also learn how to write a résumé and how to interview with an employer.
It is an expensive way to get somebody a job.What a bunch of moochers, living rent-free when there is such a demanding plethora of rent-seeking predators for whom too much is never enough. These kids learning a trade are snatching the caviar right out of the Kochs' mouths as far as Farenthold is concerned. He goes on to mutter over his keyboard that if Job Corps is such a great success, why are people on food stamps while these ghetto kids are living the life of Riley in a charm school? Really. Read his whole article for yourself, because I am feeling way too nauseous to continue.
But anyway, Farenthold's hatchet job on Job Corps was apparently a huge success, because just days before Official Labor Day USA, the Obama administration scheduled the Oklahoma training center for closure. And the Labor Department is looking for even more centers to shut down. With a 51% non-completion rate, Treasure Lake is only the first among many public treasures ripe for the privateer grant-plucking. Pretty soon even a 75% retention rate will be declared officially inefficient.
|Obama to Youth: Go Jump In the Lake
When Job Corps students quit, it's called a failure. When college students quit, their institutions simply have a non-retention problem. Even if both classes of student dropped out at approximately the same rates, (and Job Corps has much better stats) you don't hear the plutocrats calling for colleges to be shut down. That's because while both are in the business of education, one category is a money-maker for corporations and the other is not.
And speaking of quitters and slackers, look at Congress, due back in Washington this week after a month of laboring for private dollars on the public dime and against the public interest. Of the 9,732 bills and resolutions currently before them, only about 5% will become law.
That is a 95% failure rate.
Cut off the spigot, and throw the bums out.