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How About Some Intellectual Diversity At The Labor Department?

As the cabinet turns: Hilda Solis announced this week that she will soon be stepping down from her post as secretary of labor. Solis, a former Congresswoman from California who served as Obama’s labor chief since 2009, explained in an email to staffers that her decision was made over the holiday:

I enjoyed my first opportunity in years to reflect on the past and my future, with an open mind and an open heart… After much discussion with family and close friends, I have decided to begin a new future, and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life.

Solis pointed with especial pride to her Labor Department’s efforts on job training during a tough economy. The White House concurred, praising Solis in a statement, “Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work."

It is true that, during Solis’ tenure, some 1.7 million people have passed through federal-sponsored jobs-training programs. But to what end? Good question, seeing as the national unemployment rate still hovers at a dismal 7.8 percent. As even The Washington Post admitted, it is, “…not clear how much good these programs accomplished. Although many economists support job-training programs in theory, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of the stimulus specifically — few good studies exist yet.”

Indeed, the objective value of the kind of job-training programs so vigorously promoted by Solis has long been called into question, occasionally by the Labor Department itself.  As the New York Times once reported:

A study conducted for the Labor Department tracking the experience of 160,000 laid-off workers in 12 states from mid-2003 to mid-2005 — a time of economic expansion — found that those who went through training wound up earning little more than those who did not, even three and four years later.

As the study, prosaically titled Workforce Investment Act Non-Experimental Net Impact Evaluation (IMPAQ International, 2008), concluded in part: “Overall, it appears possible that ultimate gains from participation [in jobs programs] are small or nonexistent.”

No kidding.

Interestingly, the effectiveness of her tenure is not what has generated the most discussion in the hours immediately following Solis' resignation announcement. Instead, talking heads and wagging pens are in a fit over what her absence may mean for the “diversity” of the Obama administration. As a report in POLITICO put it:

Solis was the first Hispanic woman to lead a major federal agency, and her departure seems certain to increase pressure on Obama to add more diversity among his Cabinet and senior staff.

Her decision to resign, along with the departures of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, leaves three women in Cabinet-level posts…. Solis’s departure also leaves just one other Hispanic, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in the Cabinet.

Even Elaine Chao, former labor secretary for President George W. Bush, agrees that Obama "can do better," than he has in regards to diversity. "In an America that is so diverse these days," Chao recently told Charlie Rose, "We should have a cabinet that looks like America."

When leftists squeal about “diversity,” what they are really talking about, of course, is skin color and gender. This focus on the outside is highly instructive of the progressive worldview, which sees people as categories (rather than individuals), defined by qualities that are quite literally skin deep. (It is a worldview that both perpetuates and necessitates the statist policies that so enamors the left.)

In other words, diversity in all that doesn't matter, but in what does matter -- character, philosophy -- nothing but rigid and strictly enforced orthodoxy will do. That is too bad, because we really do need diversity at the highest levels of government -- intellectual diversity.