A Nanny State Assault on Internship Programs

The trouble with the Labor Department's one-size-fits-all agenda.

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about raising money for my non-profit college journalism education program in this lousy economy, the nanny state is now threatening my Politics & Journalism Semester with one-size-fits-all regulations written for the blue collar employment era.

Twenty-one years ago, I founded, and still run, a semester-in-Washington effort to teach real world politics (maybe an oxymoron) to college journalists who want to be political reporters. In spring and fall classes of 16 weeks each, I give my dozen students a twice-weekly seminar series featuring top political practitioners and political journalists. The rest of the week, they work in news bureaus as interns, usually unpaid. Few of them receive college credit, and many have already graduated. I guarantee each a $3000 living expense stipend if they aren’t paid, and don’t charge any tuition or fees. Generally, my “graduates” have nothing but praise for the experience, reflected in hundreds of them making personal donations to our 501(c)(3) non-profit, which has a budget of about $250,000 per year.

As an educational entrepreneur, what I have built is now threatened by an Obama Labor Department bureaucrat who wants to crack down on employers who don’t pay interns, using rule-making powers that date to a Supreme Court decision from the 1940s that is mostly applicable to blue collar apprenticeships, and hasn't been updated since.

As reported by The New York Times, M. Patricia Smith, now Labor’s top law enforcement official and previously New York’s labor commissioner, is using her left-liberal imagination to conjure up a 21st century version of 19th century sweat shops that exploit young slave labor.

One of my regular news bureaus pays its intern from my program several times the minimum wage. Several other participating organizations have paid the minimum wage. Most donate at least $3000 to my non-profit to fund the stipends. Some give as much as twice that amount, to help with other program costs. And a few contribute nothing at all, and I have to pick up the stipend expense from other donors. In all, about a fourth to a third of my quarter-million dollar budget comes from the news organizations that host my students and give them useful work to do.

In other words, there is no one size that fits the situation for each student. I have had to cobble together funding to allow lower and middle income students to take advantage of this opportunity, which they are not only willing, but eager, to do. If Smith gets her way, I will now have to shoehorn my program into her restrictive concept of the public good.

Ms. Smith: Why don’t you leave your hands off my program and hundreds like it, and let students decide whether or not they are being exploited? No employer or program like mine is forcing any 20-something to apply to, or accept, an internship.

How will the federal government’s apparatchik mind justify this additional assault on individual liberty and choice? Well, consider this paragraph from The Times story: “Kathyrn Edwards, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute [EPI] and co-author of a new study on internships, told of a female intern who brought a sexual harassment complaint that was dismissed because the intern was not an employee.” Yes, they’ll tout the biggest, scariest, most anti-feminist anecdotal horror story they can conjure up. EPI, by the way, is a labor union-funded think tank.

In a perfect world, it would be great if all interns were paid. But in a perfect world, M. Patricia Smith’s job wouldn’t exist. Her Wikipedia biography indicates she has spent her  "entire career in public service." It comes as no surprise that she has never held a real-economy job. Please, Ms. Smith, go find something worthwhile to do with your taxpayer-paid time, and let me and my students and the benefactors who fund our program decide what is best for us.

Terry Michael is director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism. His other writing is collected at his “thoughts from a libertarian Democrat” web site, www.terrymichael.net.

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  • ||

    STEVE SMITH LOOKING FOR SUMMER INTERN. SEND RESUME AND HEADSHOT AND BODY FAT PERCENTAGE TO:

    STEVE SMITH
    174 DANK CAVE LN.
    MIDDLE OF GODDAMN FOREST

  • Solanum||

    "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Except delivering mail to Steve Smith's cave. Fuck that shit."

  • &||

    You're not funny. Never were.

  • The Gobbler||

    Piss off.

  • wingnutx||

    That last line made me laugh.

  • Kent||

    Years ago, I read about an angry father whose son did not get chosen as the batboy of a minor league team. The father complained to the USDOL that the team was violating child labor laws by working 14 year old kids past 9 pm on school nights. Rather than fight the DOL, the team stopped having batboys.

    When officials of a minor league team in another city were asked about the issue, the response was that they did not have to worry about it because they did not pay their batboys. According to the DOL, paying kids to work past 9 pm was bad, but working kids past 9 pm for no pay was ok.

  • Thomas Jefferson||

    Sally was just an unpaid intern, I swear!

  • Pip||

  • ||

    I'm too busy to RTFA, but please tell me Terry says some dumb "libertarian Democrat" shit, or peddles some of his recent conspiracy theory lunacy.

  • Tim||

    "libertarian Democrat"
    You can't rape the willing.

  • ||

    I believe the proper term is "liberaltarian", which is someone who thinks everyone should be free as long as it doesn't interfere with the government's efforts to transform society.

  • Terry Michael||

    If you'd care to find out what a libertarian Democrat actually is:
    http://www.terrymichael.net/Ht.....4_2006.htm

  • ||

    Terry,

    There is nothing liberal about that link. You want to combine economic freedom with social freedom. There is a whole movement for that, they are called Libertarians.

    That post manages to insult and strawman both conservatives and liberals. I don't like or agree with liberals, but I will give them that a lot of them sincerely believe that the government can help make a just society. That is what makes them liberals. To say they should just drop that idea is to just tell them "hey why don't you just forget half of what you believe in and just come over here". I wish they would do that to. But that is basically wishing that there were not any more liberals. I am all for you there, but don't pretend that it is any kind of compromise or new idea.

    The same goes for other side. Conservative really do believe that there is a civil society that ought to be maintained and that government has a place trying to strengthen that society. They may be wrong, but they believe it. And again, telling them to just forget that part of their world view, while I suppose desirable, isn't really offer much of an argument or anything new.

    And finally, calling social conservatives the "taliban" is just digusting and insulting to the actual victims of the Taliban. No one in this country on either side is even close to the Taliban. And to claim otherwise or throw the term around like you do is to cheapen and insult the real sufferings of the Afghan people.

    Honestly, is this crap what passes for thinking in the Washington think tanks these days?

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    Conservative really do believe that there is a civil society that ought to be maintained and that government has a place trying to strengthen that society. They may be wrong...

    I'm not a conservative, but how is this possibly wrong? Don't libertarians generally think that we should have a civil society and that government has a place in it?

  • ||

    No they don't. That is what libertarianism is. They think that the government has no role in strengthening anything or doing much of anything beyond enforcing some basic laws.

    A conservative will tell you that since marriage is good and generally creates a better more peaceful society, the government ought to encourage and stengthen marriage. A libertarian will tell you that marriage is a private contract between two people and the government should play no role whatsoever beyond enforcing the contract. It is not the government's job to enhance civil society. It is civil society and the individual's job to do that.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    But I would think that enforcing basic laws is an enhancement to civil society. Not to mention that only the most hardcore of libertarians don't think that the government should provide at least some basic services beyond law enforcement.

  • LarryA||

    But I would think that enforcing basic laws is an enhancement to civil society.

    Define "basic." If it includes proposed Biblical-sin-based laws against any abortion, gay marriage, drugs and alcohol, working on Sunday, and a host of other "social evils" then you're conservative and not libertarian.

    To a libertarian the purpose of a law should be to protect your individual right to live your life the way you want to. Examples include laws that prohibit murder and theft.

  • ||

    If you beleive life begins at conception, laws against abortion are no different than laws against murder. There is very strong libertarian argument against abortion.

    As for gay marriage, drugs and alcohol, you are correct.

  • Jorgen||

    Yeah, the abortion argument among libertarians is really a scientific/theological debate about where life begins. Personally, I don't think a zygote has any rights I need to respect, but I do think that a mostly developed fetus does.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    Of course, if you believe that life exists even before conception then you have a libertarian argument against birth control...and if you believe that animals have the same rights as humans then PETA is a libertarian organiazation...

  • ||

    "To a libertarian the purpose of a law should be to protect your individual right to live your life the way you want to."

    Unless, of course, yu're a fetus. Then they believe if California wants to kill your ass you shoulda moved to N. Carolina.

  • ||

    Buyer's remorse, Terry?

    Boo fuckity hoo.

  • doctor_k||

    This putz of an author is the same guy who wrote pre election

    7 Libertarian Reasons for Obama

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/128902.html

    College Journalism Professor?

    Stereotypes are a real time saver.

    Libertarian my ass.

  • PR||

    he called you a labor union-funded think tank

  • ^||

    Late stage affects the brain...

  • ||

    I'm too busy to RTFA, but please tell me Terry ... peddles some of his recent conspiracy theory lunacy.

    Try this slur on Epi's semi-good name by Terry Michael in the article ...

    EPI, by the way, is a labor union-funded think tank.

  • Tim||

    Obviously Terry Michael is greedy and a racist...

  • PR||

    if only the constitution had forseen the need to guarantee people the right to associate freely.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    It comes as no surprise that she has never held a real-economy job.

    This coming from somebody who runs a "non-profit" (aka taxpayer subsidized) organization?

  • Pip||

    So have you finally stopped fucking your mother or is that shit still going on?

  • ||

    SHUT UP DANNY DEVITO

  • Pip||

    WTF?

  • ||

    Sorry, Pip, that was supposed to be threaded under Scotch, not you.

  • Tim||

    Are you posting stoned again?

  • ^||

    Troll feeders.

  • Terry Michael||

    To: Scotch Hamilton
    My program does not receive a dollar from government--never has, never will. If you are making the case that non-profits receive "tax expenditures" by being tax exempt, that comes from the left-liberal part of your imagination.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    Terry, I'm saying that non-profits are subsidized in two ways:

    1) They enjoy government services like police, fire dept, courts, etc. without paying taxes which means taxpayers must make up the difference.

    2) Money individuals and businesses donate to fund non-profit organizations is written off thus shifting more of the tax burden to others.

    I don't really have a problem with most nonprofits but if you're going to slam people who work in public service stricly because they are not earning profits I figure you deserve a taste of your own medicine.

  • ||

    Do not feed the troll.

    Thank you.

  • T||

    A subsidy is when somebody hands you cash. If Terry's group doesn't get a cash payment, they're not being subsidized. This bullshit about how lower taxes is a subsidy needs to stop.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    If I go to a restaurant, order and eat a meal, and then the owner comes out and tells me my meal is free, I have not been handed any cash but I certainly have had a subsizided lunch.

  • Tim||

    OR you found a fly in your soup.

  • Pip||

    Ever lick your own asshole, Scotch?

  • Jorgen||

    The earnings of individuals who work for nonprofits are not tax exempt. The earnings of the nonprofit itself are tax exempt. Given as how the people who run the nonprofit can't pull their money out and go use it, this in no way subsidizes those individuals. And nonprofits, especially nonprofits that are not government grant recipients, are much closer to for profits in terms of management than they are to government. If you can't get revenues and donations to cover your costs and you're a nonprofit, you close up shop. If you're a government, you just request more funding.

  • ||

    If twenty-somethings today haven't gotten the clue yet? It really is time to wake up...

    The biggest losers in the Cash for Clunkers program?

    That would be urban twenty-somethings, who traditionally rely on cheap clunkers for transportation to work. They've all been turned into steel now--thank the Obama Administration.

    The biggest losers in the ObamaCare debacle?

    That would be twenty-somethings, who traditionally don't buy and don't need comprehensive health insurance. In fact, if ObamaCare works, it'll be precisely because it forces twenty-somethings who don't consume health care resources to pay for them anyway.

    Now the Obama Administration wants to put rules in effect that can only discourage companies from giving twenty-somethings experience and contacts they wouldn't get otherwise?

    Show a little compassion, President Obama! What did the twenty-somethings ever do to you?

  • Ms. Smith||

    Why don’t you leave your hands off my program and hundreds like it, and let students decide whether or not they are being exploited?

    The experience of the Obama Administration is that twenty-somethings are simply too fucking stupid immature to know when they are being exploited.

  • GRRRR||

    I would say too idealistic rather than immature or stupid... most are coming from the loving embrace of mommy and daddy, straight into the "loving embrace" of mommy and daddy government. Most twenty-somethings haven't learned that they can and should do things for themselves.

  • ||

    25 is the new 18.

  • Jorgen||

    I'm 21. When I voted for Obama, I was voting for the first major party presidential candidate I'd seen who really impressed me. He was smart and educated, seemed like a deep thinker, and didn't seem like he would pull the horrifyingly amoral shit that became the hallmark of the Bush administration. Since coming to office, he has done basically nothing that I've liked and doubled down on every aspect of his platform that I'd hoped was just there to appease the party line democrats. When all I remembered was Bush, it was easy to say that the problem was that the people in power were just awful people, but now it seems like there's really very little hope of getting anything other than one form or another of awful bullshit by voting major party.

  • ||

    The bad news is that there's almost never any good way to vote. You'll see it over and over again--I understand voting for Obama to repudiate Bush... I voted for Bush the first time around to repudiate Clinton! I never imagined he would be so awful.

    You'll see it happen over and over again, you vote for somebody new to repudiate what the last guy did, and he uses your vote to do something you didn't want.

    The good news is? What you say to friends and family and the people in the lunch room at work? That's more important than your vote will ever be.

    So you can still have an impact, it's just not with your vote. I repeat, your vote will almost always be used to justify something you didn't want. But there's a solution to that!

    ...and your vote's nowhere near as important as what you say to other people anyway.

  • Robert||

    Not so bad if he only doubled down so he couldn't take any more cards. But I'm afraid he doubled up and is under no such restriction.

    Has anyone noticed how in recent years the metaphor from blackjack, "double down", has virtually displaced the more apt "double up" from the lexicon?

  • Jamie Kelly||

    No.

  • LarryA||

    The experience of the Obama Administration is that twenty-somethings are simply too fucking stupid immature to know when they are being exploited.

    Right. So it’s “for the children.”

  • GRRRR||

    The twenty-somethings got him elected. He is simply repaying them by shifting more of societies problems to young, strong shoulders that can carry the load for a few years... before they collapse in a heap and the parasite will have to move on to a new set of willing victims... all for the good of society.

  • ||

    He's just pissed that twenty-somethings can still smoke dope and he no longer can.

  • Jorgen||

    This 20 something can't see myself voting for another democrat in a long, long time. Which sucks, because Bush convinced me not to vote for a Republican for a long, long time, and Barr convinced me of the ultimate futility of Libertarian party politics.

  • CJ||

    The biggest losers in the ObamaCare debacle?

    That would be twenty-somethings, who traditionally don't buy and don't need comprehensive health insurance. In fact, if ObamaCare works, it'll be precisely because it forces twenty-somethings who don't consume health care resources to pay for them anyway.

    I'm 25 and they'll have to kick the fine way up there before they manage to wrangle me into buying a product I don't want.

    Really annoys me that I even have to think about such things, though. Who says I want to live longer anyway? Perhaps I'd rather keep more of my money, retire at 55, and die at 70 than not keep that money, retire at 65, and die at 85. I'd take the ten retired years of younger life over the fifteen retired years of older life, but apparently the ability to make individual choices is bad for America.

  • Barry Obama||

    Don't worry Twenty-somethings, when I start to poll poorly among your group I'll start giving you some student loan forgiveness. (Remember how I took over the student loan business as part of the "health care reform")

  • Tim||

    The career prospects for journalists are grim enough, and now the Democrats want to strangle them in their cribs...

  • ||

    "The Obama Administration. Made of stupid since 2008."

  • Tim||

    "And ...loving it."

    -Frank Drebin

  • ||

    I'm still confused about these unpaid internships. In order to get my degree, my program required 800 hours of experience in the field. I got paid for all of those hours. I worked as a glazier one summer and then as a PM for a large glazing contractor the next summer. The PM job was as an intern. Is it that hard to get a job in some industries where you have to do the work for free?

  • MRK||

    Yes. There are many industries where interns are expected to work 40+ hour weeks for free. The extra insult comes when employers are generally only interested in new college grads who had internships, since it represents some kind of work experience. For students who are trying to work their way through college (or simply keep themselves afloat over the summer) working unpaid is not an option.

    This has been the case in the art field for decades, and it is now happening into other industries.

    When supply (New college grads) outstrips demand (entry level jobs) wages fall, in this case, to zero.

  • hammeredHead||

    Yes, it is. It depends on the position, region of the country, and the state of the economy at the time. While getting my MBA in Buffalo in 1991, I had to work as a stock analyst for free. After graduation, I never did find a career in finance and changed to programming. My biggest hint to change was when I found out programming interns got $10/hr.

  • KyleG||

    This was one reason why I changed from journalism to engineering my first year of college.

  • ||

    The real sham of this is that the industries the original law was meant for, those that have always done traditional apprenticeships: trades, craftsmen, artists, cooks, etc, still largely don't pay their interns, they can't afford too, and they will continue to employ cheap, illegal (alien or domestic) workers, regardless of what the law is, or just not employ any interns.

    Professional industries will likely find creative ways around the law regardless, or just not employ interns, resulting in lower skills and thus pay for entry level workers.

    For every place that a student would kill to work for free at, and thus don't have to pay, there are 1000's that they aren't, but it's still good experience and if they could afford to pay they would.

  • Tim||

    What’s the story behind today’s Democrat brand? I continue to be a partisan Democrat, but I’m not sure....The marketplace is full of bad guys who need to be restrained, including their greed-driven political speech.

    Aren't you indulging greed driven speech here? Regulation is great, until you lose your livelihood...

  • Jennifer||

    I must confess to some sympathy for those who want to stamp out unpaid internships. I couldn't afford to work for free in college, and my lack of internship experience effectively made it impossible for me to get even a crummy entry-level newspaper job out of college. (Though I eventually got that crummy entry-level gig years later due to a combination of unusually lucky factors.)

    Our college system is screwed up enough already -- no matter how many skills you have, you can't get hired unless you have bullshit "credentials," and Uncle Sam has distorted the education market so badly that a poor or lower-middle-class kid who wants to get a job where he "works with his mind" is effectively required to take on an enormous college debt to do so -- and in addition to that, he has to find time to hold down a full-time job without getting paid for it? Bleah.

  • ||

    That is a good point. Unpaid internships are the playground of the idiot sons and daughters of our upper classes. Don't forget to that it often takes connections to get such an internship. If you are living off of mommy and daddy's largess, not only do you have the time to work unpaid, chances are mommy and daddy can make a few calls to get you into the right office to pad your resume.

    The same thing goes on in college admissions. Admissions officers love to hear about the "whole person". And that basically means favoring brats who had the time and money to take trips to exotic places and observe the locals in the name of charity. Middle class kids who spent their high school years working the odd job or if not that just didn't have the money to be sent off on such trips, don't get that benefit.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    I actually agree with both of you guys but isn't the proper libertarian answer to this problem just to say "tough"? Or maybe "work harder, like the rich do?"

  • ||

    that would be the answer and probably the right one. While unpaid internships suck, it is unclear how banning them would do any good. Dumb rich kids will always have advantages. Trying to eliminate those advantages is just self defeating.

  • Jennifer||

    I would not try to eliminate all advantages,just the advantages that exist only due to asinine government meddling.

    Consider: right now I make all my money with words -- either writing my own articles, or editing manuscripts for a certain publishing company. I was perfectly capable of doing both jobs at age 17, except back then I did not own an expensive, suitable-for-framing piece of paper with the words "college degree" on it, so I never would've even been given the chance to take the editing test or writer's test to prove I COULD hold those jobs. Nobody would even consider talking to me unless I'd first spent four years and thousands of dollars on that bullshit piece of paper.

    Okay, so I had to go to college. This would not have been much of a problem had I been a Baby Boomer, but by the time my generation was ready for school the goddamned education bubble had already started inflating, thanks to the government -- colleges know they can raise their tuitions as high as they wish, and Uncle Sugar will provide bankruptcy-proof loans to the poor suckers who NEED those college degrees if they ever want a chance at a work-with-your-mind job.

    But now it's not enough for the poor kids to start adult life with strangling levels of debt if they want a crack at a good job -- no, dammit, first they have to work a full-time job and not get paid for it, too. And for the most part, they're not even gaining "skills" or "knowledge," but just another inflated credential.

  • .||

    I was perfectly capable of doing both jobs at age 17

    You haven't gotten any better in 30 years?

  • nicole||

    Preach it! Seriously, my life/education/career story is extremely like your own, and one of the few things that irritate me more than the government meddling is the upper-middle-class-from-birth group that are now my peers going on about how their progressive politics helps poorer kids do better.

  • Jennifer||

    One of my extremely lefty friends damned near had a hemorrhage when I said if Obama really wanted to help today's college kids, he'd wipe out the entire federal student loan program. Without student loans, 90 percent of students couldn't afford to go to college, so do you think the colleges would all shut down? Hell, no! They'd lower tuition costs back into the "affordable" range.

  • ||

    This would make for a very interesting article!! Write it!

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    They'd lower tuition costs back into the "affordable" range.

    And scale back tremendously on their programs, lay off top professors, etc.

  • nicole||

    Agreed with both Jennifer and John.

    But the other "proper" answer is that the situation could be ameliorated by elimination of the minimum wage. Employers have a choice of paying you at least minimum wage or having you work for free, but nothing in between. The value of interns' labor is likely not zero, but it's apparently often lower than minimum wage.

  • Brian||

    In a world with no minimum wage, it would be. With the actual set of U.S. laws we have, I'd rather impose the same set of requirements on all businesses rather than having special carve-outs for politically favored jobs. If Congress expects Joe the Farmer or Bob the Contractor minimum wage and benefits for all his employees, Chuck the Congressman and Art the Film Director shouldn't get to skimp on their interns.

    And then maybe they'll think about not hiking the minimum wage if they have to pay it.

  • Mike||

    Obtuse.

  • Jamie Kelly||

    Though I eventually got that crummy entry-level gig years later due to a combination of unusually lucky factors

    Did it involve "unusually lucky" fellatio on an editor standing in front of you with his cock waving in your face?

  • ||

    The unpaid internships will simply disappear. This is not going to create a bunch of paid internships.

  • Tim||

    Will we be abolishing Americorps? Which is fundamentally a government funded internship for aspiring liberals?

  • Schultz||

    I'd have expected more from Reason on this subject. This post is little more than whining. No substance whatsoever.

    According to the Department of Labor, these are the criteria for determining whether an unpaid internship violates labor laws:

    1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
    2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
    3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
    4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer's operations may actually be impeded;
    5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
    6. The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

    Terry Michael doesn't address these criteria, and doesn't indicate whether or not his program would fail to meet them. Yet he proclaims that somehow his program is under assault and demands that the DOL keep its "hands off"! In other words, he assumes the worst without any analysis of the rules.

    A more reasonable interpretation is that the DOL may finally start enforcing its standards when it comes to unpaid "internships" that are clearly designed to help employers circumvent wage and hour laws.

    "Internships" like these:

    http:// sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/web/1674148030.html

    http://
    sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/cpg/1691870815.html

    Note:

    1. In the first example, the unpaid intern is being asked to perform skilled work that an employee would normally be paid for in furtherance of the company's economic gain.

    2. In the second example, "a shot at pay" (i.e. a real job) is held out as a carrot.

    If you don't believe these two examples are problematic, that's one thing. But they clearly fail to meet rules that have been on the books for some time.

    Assuming that a possible crackdown on gross violations like these is going to affect legitimate, worthy programs is a worthless exercise.

  • hammeredHead||

    I am sure plenty of employers will line up to bring in interns who not only create nothing of value but also impede others in creating value.

  • Terry Michael||

    Couldn't have said it better myself...and of course my program, which places students as interns as well as giving them seminars (which is why the program exists), cannot meet those ridiculous standards, or I wouldn't have written the piece!

  • Schultz||

    Funny, I think programs structured like yours would be the *last* the DOL would go after based on these rules, especially in light of all the "unpaid internships" which are clearly designed with the sole purpose of circumventing wage and hour laws. The intent of these rules is pretty obvious.

    Which begs the question: before you wrote this piece about the inevitable demise of your program at the hands of the DOL, were you the recipient of any communication from the DOL indicating that you may be in violation of the law? Has your organization ever been implicated in a wage and hour claim related to an internship you facilitated? Have you ever sought an opinion from qualified counsel (or the DOL itself) as to the likelihood of your program being implicated by the DOL rules?

    In other words, if you're going to claim that your program is "threatened" and rant about rules that have been on the books for years, shouldn't you first have evidence that there's actual "reason" for concern?

  • Terry Michael||

    Do you think I'm an idiot? Of course I knew the criteria being threatened for enforcement by Labor and of course I know they could be a threat to my program, because I have to place 12 interns a semester and the chilling effect of those rules would place a burden on my news bureaus that would almost certainly cause many to leave my program. At the very least, it would tax me, as a one-person operation, in trying to convince these organizations to risk the wrath of the wage and hours people. I have had at least two bureaus in the past who paid minimum wage, because they feared the Labor Dept. They no longer do that, because they no longer exist! Which is the ultimate problem. If you're not aware, Washington news bureaus are being decimated, and are not in a condition to take on more financial and administrative burdens--and putting someone on a payroll for 16 weeks is a pain in the ass, itself.

  • Schultz||

    You didn't answer any of my questions. You fear the DOL because you apparently "know" everything.

    Again, unless you have received a "threat" from the DOL, or have an experience of complaints that resulted in enforcement actions, it seems to me that you are basing your rant about long-standing rules on little more than wild assumptions and exaggerated fears that completely fail to take into account the intent of the rules in question. You apparently see no distinction between "unpaid internships" that provide no benefit to the intern and are obviously designed to circumvent wage and hour laws (I provided two real-world examples), and the unpaid internships that your organization facilitates, which are clearly designed to benefit the intern.

    "I have had at least two bureaus in the past who paid minimum wage, because they feared the Labor Dept. They no longer do that, because they no longer exist! Which is the ultimate problem. If you're not aware, Washington news bureaus are being decimated, and are not in a condition to take on more financial and administrative burdens--and putting someone on a payroll for 16 weeks is a pain in the ass, itself."

    What is the ultimate problem? I sincerely respect what you're doing, and probably dislike the vast majority of financial and administrative burdens government creates just as much as you do, but let's not pretend that the news industry is hurting for any reasons other than a product that consumers increasingly find less and less value in, organizational largess and antiquated business models. Government is responsible for a lot of failures but the failure of old media is one failure it can't claim credit for.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    +30

  • Robert||

    Thank you, Schultz, for answering the question I wanted answered. It was vexing that the discussion seemed to be lacking the critical facts.

    Criterion #4 seems to mean that, economically speaking, nobody should ever offer an internship. Over the years I've done some volunteer research work, and I'd like to think that although on occasion I did impede progress, that on net I did more to favor it. If I was correct, is that the sort of volunteer work prohibited?

    Also, concerning criterion #1, what about types of training for which there are no vocational schools? Is that prohibited because something can't be similar to something nonexistent, or allowed because everything is similar to anything that's nonexistent?

  • Schultz||

    It's easy to read criterion #4 in the absolute literal sense, but pragmatically-speaking, the application of law is rarely purely literal. For those of us who live in the real world, being pragmatic usually makes life easier.

    I'm not a lawyer, but I think it's worth considering the "substance over form" account principle here. If you're offering an "unpaid internship" like the one at http:// sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/web/1674148030.html, it's pretty obvious that, from a 30,000 foot perspective, you're looking to circumvent wage and hour laws. The intern is performing skilled labor and is expected to work autonomously to produce work product that will be used in the real world for economic gain. In other words, the intern is essentially doing everything a paid employee would, but isn't being paid.

    Terry's program, on the other hand, is clearly designed to benefit the intern. While you could nit pick about whether or not the news bureau is receiving any "immediate advantage" whatsoever, it's very hard to argue that the news bureaus providing internships as part of Terry's program are doing so for their own gain and to circumvent wage and hour laws.

    It should be pretty obvious to reasonable people who the DOL is going to go after here. Instead, this post just promotes one of the few government boogeymen that really doesn't exist.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Excellent analysis Schultz. Thanks for posting.

  • ev||

    I've asked this once or twice before but, hey, I always like additional feedback.

    I'm about to turn 23. I graduated in 2009 with a major in psych, minors in animal behavior and German. (Yes, I know that that combo makes no sense. Especially since now I'm more more interested in poly sci. But hey, it shaped me intellectually and for that it was worth it.)

    I'm in Korea teaching, so at least I have a job and experience. My plan is to come back to the states and see if I can get work. If not, I can always come back here and get another gig in a snap.

    So. What's the market actually look like in the states? Would I be a good investment for a company? What do employers look for?

    Thanks. I'm slightly insane and these are things that I think about a lot.

  • Tim||

    Korea? North or South?

  • hammeredHead||

    From my experience companies place little value in a degree and use it as minimum requirement filter. What is desired is direct work experience and success in a field closely related to the position for which you are applying.

  • ||

    The job market here is pretty terrible right now. What kind of work would you be looking for? It's brutal even for programmers, who historically can find work incredibly easily, and I'd think attempting to land some kind of psych job with no PhD would be impossible.

  • ||

    My plan is to come back to the states and see if I can get work.

    Get work doing what, ev?

  • ev||

    I have no interest in getting a psych job. I would enjoy working at a zoo, however, but applying for that is simple enough. I also have the advantage of having lived/studied in Germany for 7 months. My main interest these days has been political research. It's what I do with my time anyway, why not try to get paid for it? I've done some work with the Indiana Lib. Party on a few issues and I've talked to Ed Coleman. They used my smoking ban essay/op-ed fairly extensively and put another piece I'd written on their blog.

    My goal for this year, besides travel and requisite work, is to save 10k for the States. I'm very tempted to go to grad school and get a Masters or something in PolySci if I can't find a job.

    One big problem that I have is that I have never been a planner. I've always found that planning too far ahead limits options. By letting life's mysteries/bullshit narrow the triangle it helps me determine what course I should take. I really just graduated at a shitty, shitty time.

    Me and my writing partner also want to write historical fiction comedies. That could work in an alternate universe where he is Self-Loathing Man and I Jazz Trio Man.

  • .||

    animal behavior and German

    That makes perfectly good sense, actually.

  • ||

    Without a plan to get some kind of credential or experience for a relatively defined job, its going to be tough-to-impossible to get anything worthwhile.

    Offhand, I would say you sound like a natural for teaching. Without a Ph.D you won't get on at a university, but with a Masters you could probably get on at a regional college.

  • Robert||

    The trouble with teaching is that unless you can commit to a career in it, you're not going anywhere. If you want to stay flexible, then all you can get are as-needed low paying jobs teaching as an adjunct and tutoring. I mean, they pay a lot on an hourly basis, but when you take into account the hours lining up jobs and prepping, it's not much.

  • ||

    You sound like an exceptional catch for the CIA. Especially the animal behavior thingey.

  • ||

    You will never, ever get a job at a zoo, as all the volunteering animal lovers, non-DVM-earning wanna-be veterinarians, and Bacheol of Science Ecobiology grads are all fighting over those jobs.

    The economy is terrible here; keep teaching in Korea and see if it improves.

  • ev||

    Word.

  • ||

    Well, there's always consulting.

    Seriously, though, being bi- or tri-lingual is a huge asset. How good is your German? Korean?

  • Robert||

    Why do you think that combination of studies makes no sense? What is animal behavior about if not psychology? And knowing German will help you read literature in the field.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    I'd have expected more from Reason on this subject. This post is little more than whining.

    You must be new to Reason.

  • ||

    SHUT UP DANNY DEVITO

  • Alain||

    If you don't like Terry's article, here's a better one from Jeff Tucker:

    http://mises.org/daily/4243

  • Xeones||

    Epi, how come you hate Danny Devito enough to compare him to Scotch?

  • ||

    It comes from this. As you'll see, I'm actually comparing him to Rosie O'Donnell.

  • .||

    You could just ignore it, you know.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    "...I'm actually comparing him to Rosie O'Donnell."

    That's the lowest blow of all.

  • alan||

    Wasn't the labor secs boss an intern at the Harvard Law Review who, uhm, paid for the privilege of working there, instead of being paid for it?

    Just saying'; a lot of these leftist who support gutting the current intern arrangement to fit their ideology cannot be unfamiliar with internships in their on lives. Perhaps the experience was just too brutal for the delicate sensibilities. I know when I interned in DC, I despised the summer humidity.

  • alan||

    Of course! For profit corporations have to be treated with sterilized tongs and wrapped in red tape or else they corrupt society, whereas academia serves the public interest so the rules would be different for the two. I often forget what it is like to think like a progressive so the answer was not that obvious to me.

  • ||

    A paid internship would certainly be nice, but the experience gained is much more important.

  • ||

    But, aren't you at least a little annoyed by the underlying suggestion here, that everything needs to be justified in terms of what's best for society?

    Maybe society would be better off without my small business. But why should I care about that? Maybe my small business is a net negative for society--who died and said that everything has to be justified in those terms?

    Maybe people have rights that aren't necessarily a net positive for society. ...in which case, maybe society should go screw itself regardless of whether gaining experience is more important!

  • ||

    "Maybe society would be better off without my small business. But why should I care about that? Maybe my small business is a net negative for society..."

    So, how's S&M porn and bondage equipment business?

  • ||

    That's not my line.

    But I'll tell you this. Me and the people I work with?

    We're in it for the money.

    And our investors really appreciate that.

    We certainly don't treat our investors' assets like what's good for society should come first, you know? And if we hire you to work for us?

    You better make a case for yourself as being an asset to the company, rather than how hiring you is good for society at large. ...'cause we're pretty much obligated to turn a profit for our investors, and sometimes that means we don't always get paid what we're worth.

    It works that way with everything, pretty much. People buy a gallon of milk 'cause the milk's worth more to 'em than the money, you know? And on the other side of that transaction, the supermarket's getting more for the milk than they buy it wholesale too.

    People rarely buy anything unless they think what they're getting is worth more than what they're paying for it. Especially if they're running a business.

    And that's why you never want to get paid more than you're worth--because if you are, and your company is managed well, then you're probably gonna get fired.

    No, you don't want to get paid more than you're worth, you just want to be worth a whole freakin' lot to your company.

  • ||

    You understand my gist here, though, right?

    It used to be a foundation of our society. That we don't exist for the benefit of society--society exists for our benefit. And if what society wants to do is to my detriment, then it's society that's wrong.

    We used to really believe that as like cornerstone Americanism 101. Goin' back to before the Civil War, with the Civil War being a pretty good example actually... Yeah, slavery may be highly profitable, and a cornerstone of the Southern economy, but if we have to destroy the Southern economy and way of life, well that's okay, since individuals, even if they're a different race, don't exist for the benefit of society. Society exists for the benefit of individuals.

    We went to war with Nazis and Communists on the other side of that principle, and we seemed to understand it better back then, but somewhere along the line, we got our circuits crossed, and now all of a sudden, individual freedoms are all out the window, it seems, unless they can be supported as if they're good for society generally.

    You see it all over this thread.

    It's a self-defeating assumption for libertarians to make, but sometimes I feel really lonely, even among libertarians, trying to make it.

    Me and my investors? We're not here for you. We don't want to be there for you either. And if people don't like that? I don't know why that should matter.

  • ||

    "Me and my investors? We're not here for you. We don't want to be there for you either. And if people don't like that? I don't know why that should matter."

    I'm not sure you want to word it this way. While I think I understand what you are trying to say and agree the above is a weak statement.
    As an individual I participate in the market to obtain services I want at a price I am willing to pay. If the market is working correctly then that price provide you a profit which is why you and your investors provide that service. So in that sense you are in existence for me and you had damn well better care.

  • ||

    I'm finding the utility arguments pretty annoying on this issue the more I think about them.

    Private industry doesn't exist for the benefit of twenty-somethings any more than twenty-somethings exist for the benefit private industry.

    And the Obama Administration should just mind its own business. If private industry wants to exploit grown interns, and grown interns want to be exploited by private industry, who else's business is it anyway?

    Why should I have to care if you think I'm exploiting interns? Screw you.

  • C-Dog||

    This policy isn't going to help anybody. The job market is so bad that even the unpaid internships want intern experience. It's fucking ridiculous.

  • DC Cosmotarian||

    This is absolutely the most important libertarian issue of our time!

    Without a fresh batch of naive 20-somethings each year, the CATO/beltway guys would NEVER get laid (except with the occasional "icky" congressman).

    Why is the DOL so homophobic?

    And, why aren't you guys making a bigger deal of this?????

  • ||

    Isn't this the same president who was talking about imposing mandatory national service?

  • hmm||

    We aren't fucking college students enough with sending every Tom Dick and Harry to college driving up costs, putting those who should be there deeper in debt. Now lets create disincentives to companies for getting those college students practical experience. Hell I know of people who have paid to get their kids into internships. Imagine that market if they get something like this through.

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  • Tim||

    Still a Democrat this morning Mr. Michael?

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