If she wanted, Rosalynn Carter could get a CETA Title II public service job this morning.
She is more than 22 years old. She has been unemployed for the previous 30 days. And her home on Pennsylvania Avenue NW lies within a census tract that had an unemployment rate in the last quarter of more than 6.5 percent.
That's all it would take under Title II.
The fact that Mrs. Carter's husband has a job and an income well into six figures doesn't matter at all, according to federal government guidelines.
The example may be fanciful in the case of Mrs. Carter, but it has been nothing of the sort for others. Although most people who hold CETA jobs or take CETA training are and always were poor, some are not, or were not until recently.
For instance, Jeanne Ehrlichman, the wife of convicted Watergate conspirator John Ehrlichman, held a CETA clerking job in Seattle last year. The Ehrlichmans separated earlier this year.
While her husband was employed, Mrs. Ehrlichman could not have qualified under the same title that could employ Mrs. Carter. The unemployment rate in her Seattle neighborhood was less than 6.5 percent.
But soon after Ehrlichman went to prison, the family income dropped close to zero. That meant that his wife was a member of a family whose previous three months' income was less than 70 percent of the federal government's minimum standard. And that in turn meant that Mrs. Ehrlichman qualified for a CETA public service job - not under Title II, but under Title VI.
The D.C. public service job program has no "name" participants, but it does have five PhDs working as clerks. All took CETA jobs to earn some sort of income while looking for more permanent positions in the fields for which they are trained.
One PhD is a medieval historian. Two are artists. The other two are engineers. All were either laid off or fired from jobs with comfortable salaries within the previous year.
Because federal guidelines forbid preferential treatment for CETA applicants, local CETA officials said they would treat a "famous wife" - or anyone they suspected was rich - the same as any other CETA applicant.
"If I got a Rockefeller in here, I'd look at the financial statement pretty closely," said Michael Gilbert, head of CETA in Fairfax County. But it is still conceivable that a very well-off persons could qualify for the program.
Assume that a woman married to a bank president had recently separated from him and had never worked during the marriage. Assume, too, that she had a comfortable savings account.
The woman would be eligible for CETA. Her savings could not be taken into account under CETA guidelines. She could simply, and legitimately, say that she was unemployed and wanted to enter the work force.
Or take the case of a $250,000-a-year lawyer. Assume that, by chance, he had spent the last six months working on one case, but had not yet been paid.
He, too, would be eligible, in the same way that Jeanne Ehrlichman was.
CETA guidelines ward off rich people in a general way by requiring that programs be aimed at the "unemployed," the "underemployed" and the "economically disadvantaged." But the guidelines do not define these terms.
So Rosalynn Carter would not be doing anything remotely illegal if she joined CETA today. And CETA's fiscal 1979 authorizing legislation, which Congress will begin considering in October, contains no language that would change that situation.