Tax dollars paid teens to lobby for ... more tax dollars

Help me out, fellow Trekkers.  Didn’t the Borg start out like this?

On Monday, District residents’ tax dollars went to pay Summer Youth Employment Program participants to attend a Council oversight session at which they lobbied for more funding for the program.

It’s just the latest outrage surrounding one of D.C.’s best-intentioned and worst-run programs.

SYEP, which hires about 20,000 D.C. youth for various minimum wage summer jobs, was budgeted at $22.7 million. But it’s already $11.5 million over budget — an overrun of 50 percent.

In other words, the “employment” SYEP provided these teens was to work as lobbyists — for SYEP.  Maybe they’re apprenticing them for future work on K Street!

Speaking of the Borg, the program has apparently started absorbing money from other programs in an effort to keep itself alive:

The Fenty Administration took $8.5 million from federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding to fill this year’s gap. That money had been expected to go to homeless service agencies. Marta Beresin of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless reports a 36 percent increase in D.C. homelessness since the recession began, and there are currently 543 Washington families waiting for emergency shelter services.

Homeless advocates said they were already underfunded before this expected windfall was yanked away from them. Even one SYEP participant appeared yesterday to say that the city should help homeless families, not extend SYEP by seven days.

Ouch!  One of their teen lobbyists left the collective.  Time to re-establish control, SYEP!

Teen unemployment has been a huge problem in the recession, but it’s hardly as pressing as homelessness and starvation.  Someone needs to reconsider their priorities in the DC council, and quickly.  Besides, this problem lies in no small part with Congress, which made the problem much worse by raising the minimum wage nearly 30% over the last three years and making teen labor more costly to small businesses.  The result was depressingly predictable — as predictable as bureaucrats protecting their turf by stealing from the homeless.

Only in DC would a teen-employment program mean turning teens into lobbyists for funding the program.  At least, we hope it’s only in DC.

Update: The Boss Emeritus is all over this.