WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House of Representatives approved H.R. 1385, the Employment, Training and Literacy Act of 1997, on May 16 after the House Committee on Education and the Workforce had approved the bill on April 30. The final vote was 343 voting in favor, 60 against, 30 not voting.
Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) was one of only a few Representatives to speak against H.R. 1385. On April 17, Buck McKeon (R-CA), Bill Goodling (R-PA), and Dale Kildee (D-MI) introduced the bill, a new version of last year's CAREERS bill (H.R. 1617) with some cosmetic changes and the addition of a section on parent literacy.
Since their introduction in 1962, federal job-training programs have consistently failed in their mission. "Federal job training programs, of any sort, further the destructive idea that the proper role of the federal government is to provide for the needs of its citizens," said Rep. Paul. "The belief that Congress has a moral duty to minister to the health and welfare of the populace, both of America and the world, is directly responsible for the growth of the welfare-warfare state which threatens to destroy America's economic prosperity and, as important, liberty, wholesale."
H.R. 1385 would establish Local Workforce Development Boards, which are essential for the continuation of School-to-Work programs. Federal law will dictate the function and composition of these Governor-appointed boards, to be composed of a "majority" of businessmen plus token representatives of local schools and community colleges. The bill gives tremendous power to Governors, who are accountable to the Secretaries of Labor and Education rather than to their constituents.
Each Local Workforce Development Board would submit to the Governor "a comprehensive 3-year strategic local plan" to identify local industries, job seekers, workers, training delivery systems, and "the roles of individual employment." The Board would provide "a description of the steps the local board will take to work with local educational agencies [i.e., the schools] . . . to address local employment, education, and training needs."
Spending "such sums as necessary," these Local Workforce Development Boards are authorized to link training services to "occupations for which there is a demand in the local workforce development area." The notion that a government board is capable of determining what jobs will be in demand in the future is an illusion of Robert Reich and others in the Clinton Administration who admire countries where economic czars control national industrial policy.
H.R. 1385 would finance computer inputing of students' personal data through the Labor Market Information Programs. H.R. 1385 would give the Secretary of Labor powers to coordinate and develop "a nationwide system of labor exchange services for the general public, provided as part of the full service employment and training delivery systems of the States."
H.R. 1385 would establish a National Institute for Literacy to "coordinate literacy services." The bill redefines literacy as being able "to function on the job," rather than as being able to read.
While H.R. 1385 is being marketed as "job training," it proposes to spend a lot of money "to make sustainable changes in a family." H.R. 1385 would provide funds for grants and contracts for "Family Literacy Services," defined in the bill as "training for parents on how to be the primary teacher for their children and full partners in the education of their children."
"Federal involvement in child rearing," said Rep. Paul, "violates the very principles upon which this country was founded. In a free society, such as that bequeathed to America by the drafters of the constitution, the family, not the government, is responsible for the raising of children. State control of child raising is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of totalitarianism."
H.R. 1385 creates a type of corporate welfare by providing for "skills upgrading" for those already employed. "Despite a budget of billions of dollars out of balance, this bill creates a new entitlement for already-employed workers and their employers to receive more training courtesy of the American taxpayer," said Rep. Paul.
The bill also authorizes the Secretary of Labor to use taxpayers' dollars to subsidize labor unions for "research and demonstration projects." Critics say that buying off these organized groups further erodes the American free enterprise system and pushes it toward a centrally-planned economy.
In his remarks before the vote, Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) expressed concern over the types of jobs for which H.R. 1385 would retrain workers. "The occupational classifications of new jobs listed by the Department of Labor scare me. . . . I want to just let the gentlemen hear a few: belly builder; plate stacker; streetlight repairer helper; diaper machine tender; dog washer; dog food mixer; earmuff assembler; brassiere cup molder cutter; sweatband shaper; ball point pen cartridge tester; feather stitcher; ribbon winder; puzzle assembler; dope mixer; bosom presser; sanitary napkin folder; pantyhose crotch closer."
"Congress," said Rep. Paul, "must begin considering whether the Constitution provides any authorization for the federal government to have any role in programs such as job training. America's experiment with the provider state has failed. This Congress must stop draining resources from the private job-training initiatives and disrupting the operations of the greatest job-creation process known to humankind: the free market."