The House Appropriations Committee yesterday released its first set of proposed cuts under the spending cap unilaterally imposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). As I pointed out, the committee has suggested draconian cuts in programs that help women and children, but that is by no means where the downside of their suggestions ends.
Also on the chopping block is nearly 50 percent of federal job training funding (about $2 billion). Republicans recently have a had a preoccupation with gutting job training programs. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN suggested that the government simply “eliminate federal job training programs,” while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said on MSNBC that job training is on the list of things he could “whack from this budget and [have] nobody feel it.”
This is the same set of House Republicans who rode into the majority asking “where are the jobs?” and pledging to make job creation their top priority. Since then, however, House Republicans have:
– Passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that was doomed to failure;
– Attempted to restrict abortion and redefine rape;
– Changed the budget rules to allow for unlimited, unfinanced tax cuts;
– Proposed a spending plan that could cause the loss of 600,000 jobs;
In their proposed spending cuts, House Republicans also want to do away with all funding for high speed rail, even though such work could employ plenty of workers. In fact, the only relatively job-related piece of legislation that the GOP planned to vote on was reauthorizing the Trade Adjustment Assistance program — which helps workers who lose their jobs due to the effects of trade — but some staunch conservatives revolted, causing the Republican leadership to pull the bill from the floor without a vote.
Of course, federal job training programs are by no means perfect, and plenty could use a refocus toward skills that workers need in a 21st century economy. The main avenue for job training programs — the Workforce Investment Act — was written in 1998 when, as the New York Times put it, “simply teaching jobless people how to use computers and write résumés put them on a path to paychecks.” Current job training programs are often too short and not specific, leaving workers in a thankless cycle of low-paying, low-skill jobs.
As CAP’s Louis Soares has pointed out, channeling job training through community colleges could be a good way to get more out of these programs. But instead of offering ways to reform job training so that they actually work, Republicans want to simply lop off half their funding and call it a day.