Put Jobless Young People to Work Cleaning Up BP’s Mess and Order BP to Pay

Friday’s job report was awful. For most new high school and college grads finding a job is harder than ever. Meanwhile, states are cutting summer jobs for disadvantaged young people. What to do with this army of young unemployed? Send them to the Gulf to clean up beaches and wetlands, and send the bill to BP (BP).

Florida’s panhandle beaches are already marred with sticky brown globs of oil. Workers with blue rubber gloves and plastic bags are already losing the battle to keep them clean. Pelicans and other wildlife coated in oil tar are dying by the droves.

It will get far worse. Most of the oil hasn’t hit land yet. When it does, hundreds of thousands of workers will be needed to clean beaches, siphon off oil from wetlands, and rescue stranded wildlife. Tens of thousands more will have to bring in new landfill, replace tarred sea walls, and rebuild shoreline infrastructure.

Yet we’ve got hundreds of thousands of young people sitting on their hands right now because they can’t find jobs. Many are from affected coastal areas, where the tourist and fishing industries have been decimated by the spill.

The President should order BP to establish a $5 billion clean-up fund, and immediately put America’s army of unemployed young people to work saving the Gulf coast. Call it the new Civilian Conservation Corps.

(The old CCC — created by FDR at another time of massive unemployment and environmental stress — gave millions of young Americans jobs and training to reforest lands that had been degraded, provide emergency flood relief in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, and build the infrastructure for our national parks.)

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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