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The Single Best Way To Help Struggling Young Americans

David Callahan

Give them jobs. That's the most important answer to the serious economic crisis gripping young America, which faces double digit unemployment rates for some groups -- levels rivaling that of the Great Depression. 

Of course, creating jobs sounds very complicated -- a multi-part process of "stimulating" economic growth to boost demand so that employers add more workers. In fact, though, creating jobs is one of the easiest things for government to do: Just use public dollars to directly hire workers and, presto, government has created jobs. 

What's more, direct job creation tends to be more cost effective than round-about stimulus efforts, and such programs are more easily targeted at people and places that are really hurting, as opposed to broad-brush stimulus. 

And youth are really hurting. Which is why Generation Progress has put out a new issue brief calling for job creation for young people. 

As it happens, the U.S. government has particular experience in creating jobs for young people and an existing infrastructure for doing so. The federal government gave jobs to millions of young people during the Great Depression and more modern programs like AmeriCorps and the Youth Conservation Corps have been around for decades. 

So, in fact, direct job creation for young people is not the crazy radical idea that it may sound like. And, in theory, it should have bipartisan support: Conservatives and progressives both understand the importance of helping young people learn work skills and engage in community service. 

In practice, of course, this idea is not going anywhere in today's Congress. But Generation Progress is right to keep hammering away with the specific proposals, such as its recommendation to:

establish new national service corps with a goal of offering one million national service positions, support the creation of an online national service certification system, and fully implement the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

These ideas may not get too far right now, but things could be different after the 2014 or 2016 elections. 

Another strategy here should be to push youth job creation at the state and local level, where friendly governors and mayors (like de Blasio) are more likely to be receptive. 

If you're young in America and want to work, the government should give you a job -- even if doesn't pay very much and involves, say, repairing trails deep in Yellowstone National Park or tutoring kids in reading. 

Government may not be so great at some things, like running needlessly complicated healthcare systems, but it does know how to create jobs. Now we just need it do this at a much greater level.