At Least It’s Not The Freikorps (update)

Jon Henke points to a little editing at the Obama site. The original (cached):

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

The revised version:

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

So now it’s a ‘goal’ and a bribe instead of being mandatory (although that was obviously the first inclination). $40 an hour to do ‘community service’. “Service”? I thought that was voluntary. And what about those who don’t go to college? Will they pay them $40 an hour for ‘service’?

So he’s been caught in a change on this policy – nothing particularly new there.

And in all honesty, that’s not what disturbs me most about this bit of “now you see it and now you don’t”. While it may not be the Young Pioneers or the Red Guard, there is certainly a whiff of those sorts of organizations in this line up:

Classroom Corps? Health Corps? Clean Energy Corps? Veterans Corps?

There wouldn’t be any room or possibility for a youthful fanatic ideologue or two to grow and develop in those sorts of organizations would there? And since we’re going to do 50 hours for both middle and high school, no opportunity for a little indoctrination while “serving” is there (after all, how would they ever understand why they’re serving without it?)?

Farfetched?

Well here’s the paragraph preceding the both the original and revised text:

“When you choose to serve — whether it’s your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood — you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That’s why it’s called the American dream.”

“Choose to serve?” Sounds like it, doesn’t it? I wonder – is there an opt out choice here, or is this a typical “choice” from the left?

Hey, they’re selling the new and improved “American Dream” – you will get on board.

UPDATE: And now to the pedantic stuff, like cost and administration:

* Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of the roughly 3.2 million high school seniors who graduate each year who aren’t cut out for college, or aren’t yet ready for what’s left of its rigors, will not go into private-sector jobs that might make sense for them, but will instead erroneously or prematurely choose higher education, partially because of this perk.

* Administering the program will require a vast bureaucracy, including verifications that kids indeed attended eligible schools (full-time?), indeed did the service, didn’t drop out as soon as their service was completed, etc., etc. This bureaucracy will almost certainly impose paperwork requirements on colleges, as well as charitable and government organizations, that can ill afford it.

* Roughly 60% of high-school grads go directly on to college. Let’s estimate that this puts 8 million kids in college at any one time (I think the number is higher, but I can’t prove it right now). If they are required to put in the service (that’s what the site still says), the program would cost Uncle Sam $32 billion a year (8 million x $4,000).

* In the last fiscal year, the entire Department of Education spent $66 billion. This one program would expand the Department’s budget by almost 50%, before adding a dime for administration.

* More practically, are there 800 million hours (8 million kids at 100 hours each) of meaningful community service work out there? Even if there is, how do you manage a program with the equivalent of almost 4 million full-time employees efficiently and effectively? Wal-Mart, which is I believe the nation’s largest employer, has 2.1 million employees. (Ironic/never happen suggestion of the day: Maybe Uncle Sam should outsource program administration to Wal-mart. At least they might keep it under control).

And that’s just one of the “corps”. Sounding better all the time, isn’t it?

[Crossposted at QandO]

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