by Jason Pramas (originally credited as Editor)
It’s pathetic, but true. Boston can’t even keep a proper summer youth jobs program going these days. This according to a Boston Globe piece indicating that the city’s 3 main summer jobs programs – run by Action for Boston Community Development, Boston Private Industry Council and the Mayor’s Office – expect to fall far short of the 9,500 jobs provided last summer.
There’s an old social democratic saw that says if we’re going to have a capitalist economic system with built-in permanent unemployment then we sure as hell had better have a cradle-to-grave living wage to provide a minimum taxpayer-funded income for everyone who needs it.
But since this is the U.S. we’re talking about, even that kind of minimal safety net was successfully beaten back by corporate forces decades ago. So the next best thing historically was to run various public jobs programs coupled with Social Security, Welfare, vets pensions, Medicare and a few other Depression-era artifacts to keep people on their knees through hard times, if not on their feet.
Yet even that pale shadow of a government for the people was too much for triumphalist corporations from the 1970s onwards. So government-run jobs programs at all levels are a thing of the past, unemployment is on the upswing, and the remaining U.S. social safety net is in such precarious shape after several years of the latest Bush regime that it barely lives up to the name.
And now, despite a growing list of economic woes, it seems that Boston is not going to be able to provide even the number of summer jobs for young people that it did last year – which was already insufficient in a time where the ranks of “high-risk teens” is growing and almost 25,000 of Boston’s children (about 23%) live in “intense poverty.”
According to a 2005 study by the Boston High-Risk Youth Network, about 8,000 of the over 100,000 youth in the 16-24 age range are classed as “idle youth” (neither in jobs nor school). It is, therefore, quite clear that our city, state and federal governments need to step up and provide sufficient public jobs to give young people a fighting chance for economic survival.
After all, those 8,000 down-and-out youth are hardly the only ones in need of summer – and long-term – employment. And if last year’s 9,500 summer jobs is now slated to drop far below that figure this summer because of cyclical and structural factors in the regional economy as we enter a serious recession, what can we expect will happen to all these unemployed kids?
Simple. Rather than have a city with full employment, and a rising standard of living for all, as we would with a real social safety net, we will instead get rising levels of poverty for over a quarter of Boston’s families – and rising crime, including serious crime like homicides, across the city.
So it seems that, once again, profit trumps people. Rather than reinstitute progressive taxation at all levels of government to pay for the public services we need to have a good society, our corporate-dominated government would just assume let society go to hell as long as profits keep flowing. And perhaps it’s just a bit ironic that the chicken coop that is city government allows foxes like the Boston Private Industry Council to guard the economic welfare of our young people at the same time that such corporate lobby groups fight tooth-and-nail to prevent the expansion of needed social programs across the board. But that’s a discussion for another day. As is a serious look at overall unemployment figures for Boston and environs.
However, there’s still time to act in this case. Mayor Menino needs to seriously get on the stick with what he has long considered one of his policy priorities, and find public money to create a real public jobs program to make sure that every young person that needs a living-wage job this summer will have one. It seems likely that there are two or three things in our fair city that young people in such a program might be able to spruce up, no?