Congress is debating domestic taxation and spending priorities for next year and beyond. The debate has narrowed to two choices: Cut taxes by $1.6 trillion, as President Bush wants, or by $1.2 trillion, a figure supported by a bare majority in the Senate.
Supporters of the larger tax cut, which is skewed heavily towards the wealthy, say its opponents suffer from "class envy."
A perverse form of "class envy" disguised as benevolence has certainly been driving national policy when it comes to poor youth. An envious-of-the-poor Congress just couldn't abide paying any longer for the Summer Youth Employment Training Program, which in its final year, 1999, paid minimum wages to 500,000 low-income 14- to 17-year-olds. Under the now fully implemented Workforce Investment Act (funded at $1.1 billion and dropping), priority goes to year-round programs serving about 10 percent of the country's 2.3 million out-of-school and out-of-work youth and young adults.
Last summer was the first in generations without a targeted summer jobs program for teens. The results, as compiled by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, were predictable: Mobile, Ala., cut its program from 949 teens to just 96. New Haven dropped from 756 to 275, while Los Angeles (birthplace in 1965 of the modern day urban riot) cut its program by 93 percent, from 13,500 jobs to 1,000. Other jurisdictions ended the summer jobs program entirely, including Santa Ana, Ft. Lauderdale, Louisville, New Orleans, Clarksville, Tenn., and Cincinnati.
Cincinnati? Isn't that the scene of the latest race riot, which cost the city millions? If that's the toll for April, what will be the national tab for August? Perhaps far more than the $150 million increase in funding for summer jobs for teens that the National League of Cities says is urgently needed just to equal last year's dismal youth job figures. Advocates have scored some successes: New York's Summer Jobs Coalition of 60 city agencies squeezed $25 million from the state government.
Why can't Congress take a break from debating tax cuts to find $150 million for - to use the jobs program's unfortunate but insightful nickname - "fire insurance" for the summer?
Youth Today's New Look, Old Problem
Commencing with our previous issue, Youth Today is in the process of a redesign. But the change is only skin deep. We remain The Newspaper on Youth Work with an ever-evolving editorial lineup with insightful features, regular departments such as Research Watch, Web Watch and Snapshots, and expert columnists, some as regulars, others as guests.
The Newsmakers section has been re-dubbed "Nose Knows: Newsmakers" to underscore for even the most obdurate reader that while the facts are real, the intertwined opinions are real obvious. Much of the column is penned by Youth Today's publisher, Bill Treanor. He is a 35-year veteran (or survivor) of youth work credentialed with a GED, a Harvard degree, and an early career in youth work that included a stint as a civil rights field worker in the South. In 1968 he founded one of the nation's earliest shelters for runaway and homeless youth, which grew on a pauper's budget into a multi-service youth serving agency. After seven years running the nation's first national group representing independent CBO youth agencies, a year with the United Kingdom's National Youth Agency and two with the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice, he began the American Youth Work Center in 1984. He co-founded Youth Today in 1992 with the late investigative journalist Bill Howard.
After 66 editions, Youth Today is well-established and widely read by youth workers employed by a vast range of public, nonprofit, for-profit and faith-centered agencies. A Youth Today reader is as likely to work at a Methodist Church or a juvenile detention center as at a YMCA or a university research center.
Our successes, however, are tempered by being "paid-circulation challenged." We have set a rock bottom subscription price ($14.97 for 10 issues) to encourage agencies to sign up for multiple subscriptions. The results have been disappointing, with paid circulation bouncing between 11,000 and 15,000, an amount that barely covers our annual printing bill for about 750,000 copies of the newspaper. (Youth Today continues to winnow its 50,000 unpaid circulation, which will eventually be eliminated.) Were it not for advertisers and foundation support, Youth Today would be but a memory.
Such agencies as the Southwest Georgia Workforce Investment Board, the Child Advocacy Center in Niagara Falls, N.Y., the Lubbock,
Texas Parks and Recreation Department, and the Rumford Group Home in Maine, have multiple subscriptions. But more are needed if we are to ever reach the 50,000 paid subscribers we need to be self-supporting.
It is hoped that youth program managers reading these words will conclude that $150 for 10 subscriptions for their agencies' staff is a sound expenditure in in-service training, promoting career retention of talented younger staff, and a prudent investment in strengthening the youth service field.