Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, accused the Reagan administration yesterday of putting out "deliberately misleading" statistics concerning the Job Corps and said he will hold hearings on the administration's proposal to eliminate the program.
Internal reviews ordered by the administration show that the Job Corps "is both working and saving tax dollars," Obey said in a statement. The White House, however, is seeking to cancel the $617 million program on the grounds that it is too expensive.
Obey indicated his main concern is the credibility of the budget process under supervision of the Office of Management and Budget and its director, David A. Stockman.
Of the Job Corps, Obey said he knows of no instance in 16 years on the House Appropriations Committee "where the documentation is more uniform or the evidence of success more overwhelming."
He released six administration-sponsored reports and studies, most of them not previously made public, to support his point. The most recent was done in February for the Labor Department by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
It concluded that the Job Corps, most of whose enrollees are members of a minority group and are dropouts, "serves a significant portion of the disadvantaged population effectively and that society receives a reasonable return on the resources it invests in this program."
A 1982 study by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J., reported that for every $1 spent on the Job Corps, there was a $1.46 return to society in terms of increased employment, less crime and reduced welfare payments.
The OMB says that the Job Corps "benefits only a fraction of the youth it serves" and that the Mathematica study "ignores crucial evidence" and puts too much weight on crime-reduction benefits. OMB contends, without giving reasons, that crime should be removed from the "calculus" -- a step that would reduce Job Corps benefits to 88 cents for each $1 spent.
Obey said past reviews of the Mathematica study had been conducted by the Labor Department on orders from Stockman and that they concluded that Mathematica's work was "competently conducted."
"Even if there were agreement with the administration's view that billions of dollars should be transferred from domestic programs to spending on defense and foreign military support, the Job Corps is not a domestic program that any fair or right-minded person would choose for reduction," Obey said.
Obey rejected the OMB contention, recently reiterated by President Reagan, that each Job Corps "slot" costs $15,200, which "nearly equals the annual cost of sending a student to Harvard or Stanford."
Denouncing the figure as "deliberately misleading," Obey said more than one youngster moves through a "slot" during a year. The cost of an education at Harvard or Stanford, including expenses picked up by the universities, he added, is about $25,000 a year.