How to Solve Youth Unemployment

The New York Times predicts desperate times ahead for America’s youngsters. The recession has diminished most of the remaining part-time job opportunities previously available to young people during the summer, “despite a summer jobs program that was paid for through the stimulus package.”

The problem is severest in poor, minority communities. “Those are the places where violent, criminal street gangs actively recruit disaffected teenagers,” according to the Times. Teenage joblessness causes crime and risks trapping young people “at the margins of the economy” for many years.

Unfortunately the paper fails to identify the root of the problem and supports further legislative action instead aimed at providing teenagers with work during the summer season. The House has already approved spending $600 million on creating summer jobs but the Senate is blocking the effort.

“Bills like these are often portrayed as pork-barrel spending,” notes the newspaper and that’s perfectly true. No matter how much money Congress spends, youth unemployment will persist as long as government maintains a minimum wage.

In times of economic turmoil, small businessowners are naturally reluctant to hire workers that they could otherwise employ because they don’t know whether they’ll be able to afford them tomorrow. The minimum wage adds a further barrier for the simple reason that teenage labor is typically valued less than the mandated minimum.

In a twist not unbecoming of state interventionists, the Times proposes to fix a problem caused by government with more government, boasting that “summer jobs,” paid for by the taxpayer, “help young people in desolate communities find meaning in their lives while improving their long-term work possibilities.” This would be true for employment found freely but it is nonsense when claimed about a state run effort that teaches young people that whenever they face difficulty, it is the responsibility of the government to help them out.

There is a simple simple to fight youth unemployment — indeed, unemployment in general — but it would require of lawmakers something completely foreign to most of them: to get out of the way.

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