The recession has been devastating to young workers.
Now President Obama wants to make things even worse for them.
Huge job losses have created an oversupply of labor and put experienced workers in direct competition with unskilled teens and twenty-somethings for the few employment opportunities available. The ever-increasing minimum wage, meanwhile, ensures that the weakest applicants are priced out of the job market -- many companies are simply too stretched to train workers with no experience to the point where their efforts might be worth $8, $9 or $10 per hour.
Unemployment among young adults is nearly three times the national rate. For black and Hispanic youth, it's even higher. This lack of opportunity does far more than stunt students' future earning potential -- it increases the likelihood that they'll become dependent on productive taxpayers.
The Obama administration obviously feels young Americans -- the ones who turned out in large numbers to help elect the Democrat president in 2008 -- don't have quite enough obstacles to employment. It wants to put tight restrictions on unpaid internships, the resume-building, reference-creating opportunities that help young people establish career paths, gain basic skills and eventually land paying work.
The Labor Department is worried that eager students are being exploited because -- gasp! -- for-profit companies might also benefit from volunteer help. If interns are doing anything productive, the president thinks they should be paid, either the minimum wage or through college stipends or taxpayer-subsidized federal work-study programs.
Unless, of course, they're working for a nonprofit or a political campaign -- such as Mr. Obama's -- in which case they can slave away the days with no compensation and no interference from the federal government.
The department's 250 new investigators will focus their energies policing business internships.
It's further proof the president wants to drive today's students away from the private, for-profit sector (the engine of our economy) and into community activism and government (the brakes).
For heaven's sake, it is not a problem requiring federal regulation when two parties enter a contract and both benefit. The end result of this initiative will be easy enough to figure out: businesses will offer significantly fewer internships, if any at all. And young Americans will see an untold number of training positions vanish, along with the immediate job opportunities those internships create.
Is this the kind of "hope" and "change" young Americans wanted?