"What have you done for me lately?" It's a question that voters implicitly ask politicians, especially ones they have supported and who are seeking their votes again. And it's a question that young voters in particular may be asking Barack Obama, whom they supported by a 66 percent to 32 percent margin 13 months ago.
It's a question that is obviously on the minds of some thoughtful Democrats. They've noticed that unemployment among the young is well above the national average -- it reached 27.6 percent among those ages 16 to 19 in October.
They've noticed that an increasing number of young people -- about half of those between ages 18 and 24 -- are still living in their parents' homes. They've noticed that entry-level work is scarce, as older workers cling to their jobs.
So they're urging the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress to do something to help young people. But they seem to be having a hard time coming up with solutions that match the scope of the problem.
For example, John Podesta, chief of staff in the Clinton White House and head of the Center for American Progress, urges in Politico that Congress make a "strategic investment" in expanding AmeriCorps, Volunteers in Service to America and Youth Corps.
He argues forcefully that these programs help communities and provide valuable work experience for those enrolled. He says the expansion he proposes would cost less than $1.5 billion -- small change in today's Washington.
But he's only proposing to create 150,000 jobs, a drop in the bucket when something like 3,000,000 Americans under 30 are unemployed.
Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, co-authors of the insightful "Millennial Makeover," also want government to do more for young people. Writing on the newgeography.com Website, they endorse proposals for creating internships, loan forgiveness programs and "mission critical" jobs in such fields as health care, cyber-security and the environment. Plus, "increased entrepreneurial resources (should) be made available to youth."
All that sounds kind of nifty, but it leaves many questions unanswered, starting with the price tag -- and whether government can readily create work that is useful in the real world. The experience of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program, put out of its misery in the recession year of 1982, is not encouraging.
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