Address Unemployment and the Oil Slick

Mark Thoma agrees with Robert Reich and John Whitehead.  I’ll add my support too.  Let’s put unemployed teenagers to work NOW cleaning up the mess, even if we have BP has to pay to house them in the Gulf coast hotels that are rapidly losing business.

“Put Jobless Young People to Work Cleaning Up BP’s Mess”

Robert Reich has a wish:

Put Jobless Young People to Work Cleaning Up BP’s Mess and Order BP to Pay, Robert Reich 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. …

[W]e’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.)

This isn’t exactly what he has in mind, but it’s along the same lines. John Whitehead:

Green jobs: “Unemployed Hired to Clean Affected Beaches”:

via The Unified Command in Mobile announced today the first deployment of the Qualified Community Responder (QCR) program that will put unemployed individuals to work in the counties that may be affected by the oil spill. Working closely with the Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida unemployment offices, unemployed workers have been hired to help with the cleanup effort.  A similar program exists in Louisiana.

Starting today some 400 QCR workers in Florida and Alabama began cleaning affected beaches….

The plan is to train more than 4,500 workers in the three states in the Mobile Sector (1,500 in Alabama, 1,500 in Mississippi, and 1,600 in Florida). To date there are 2,946 people trained and ready to be deployed (978 in Alabama, 1,500 in Mississippi, and 468 in Florida).

I’m assuming that these states will send a bill to BP, they should, and if they do then it is even closer to what Reich has in mind. With respect to Reich’s idea, if we go that route I’d prefer to have the government in charge of the clean-up rather than BP, with BP billed later. And I don’t see any reason to cap the bill at $5 billion. It will take whatever it takes to clean up after this mess (as though we can simply wash away the damage), and BP should pay the entire bill. If it bankrupts BP, too bad, they should still pay as much as possible with the government making up any shortfall in the amount needed to do the clean up job properly.