Federal Jobs Programs Don’t Work

In a 1975 interview, Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman said, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

In writing and editing essays on www.DownsizingGovernment.org, I see that mistake in department after department. It is an important reason why policymakers find it so hard to control their spending appetites. They want to believe that programs work, and so they internalize the bedtime stories sold to them by program advocates.

In Politico today, I examine federal employment and job training programs. From FDR to Obama, and from Reagan to Ryan, policymakers have wanted to “do something” to help labor markets. However, jobs programs are not a proper exercise of federal power under the Constitution, and they simply haven’t worked very well despite decades of renaming, retooling, and reinventing.