A bit of good news came out of the Senate today, as Sen. Bernie Sanders announced that his Youth Jobs Bill has advanced, and will be added to the Senate’s immigration reform bill.
Senate leaders announced today that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan to spend $1.5 billion creating jobs for 400,000 young people age 16-24 has been added to the immigration bill. Sen. Sanders said, “At a time when real unemployment is close to 14 percent and even higher among young people and minorities, it is absolutely imperative that we create millions of decent-paying jobs in our country. The establishment of a youth employment program for 400,000 young people is a good step forward but in the months to come we must do even more.”
Theoretically, Sen. Sanders should have bipartisan support. It is not a government mandate, but a grant program that would give the states extra money for job training and creation. It is a practical plan that guarantees every state grant money to help them solve the problem of youth unemployment.
As I wrote when the plan was first proposed, the bill is modeled after the stimulus, and President Obama’s American Jobs Act. The Youth Jobs Act would provide $3 billion to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the country’s low income and economically disadvantaged young people. The legislation would also provide skills and job training. The Department of Labor would provide $1.5 billion in grants to states to provide job opportunities. States could also use the money to identify employment opportunities in emerging occupations, or occupations that will help their own communities through the public or non-profit sector. Another $1.5 billion in grants would be given to state and local communities to provide job training and apprenticeship programs. All states would receive a minimum of $15 million for summer and year round jobs. The rest of the funding would be used to target areas of high youth unemployment and poverty.
In a congress where job creation is a completely ignored priority, what Bernie Sanders has managed to accomplish is huge. It is possible that the Senate could vote down his amendment, but getting the amendment included in a piece of legislation that is expected to pass with a great deal of bipartisan support is important. There still are a few members of Congress who understand the importance of job creation, and are trying to do something.
Sen. Sanders gets it. The government doesn’t have to give people jobs, but it can give cash strapped states the resources that they need to innovate and create. A New Deal style or Great Society type program would never pass the Senate. This bill may not pass either, but it’s a start. The youth jobs plan could be the first major legislative step in deal with the stubborn problems surrounding unemployment.
Much more needs to be done. There are millions of middle aged workers who lost their jobs during the recession, and have not been able to find work for years. As the nation gets caught up in scandals and partisan bickering, it is easy to think that the long term unemployed have been forgotten.
Not everyone has forgotten. Bernie Sanders is still fighting, and his battle should inspire others to remember that this country’s government is supposed to be for, of, and by the people.