Monday, September 1, 2008

Obama's plan to transform American society

Can any of you Obamafans honestly tell me you think his plans to mandate community service for nearly every young adult are a good idea? This is so breathtakingly arrogant that it leaves me almost speechless. Needless to say, this is the first I have heard of such sweeping proposals:

[Jim Lindgren, September 1, 2008 at 12:27am] Trackbacks
OBAMA'S NEW "CORPS" AND OTHER SERVICE PROGRAMS.Senator Barack Obama is proposing to remake American society in a way that the American public does not yet understand.
In his July 2, 2008, speech calling Americans to national service, Obama departed from his prepared remarks to announce his support for a mysteriously named “civilian national security force”:

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

Many commentators were stumped. What is this “civilian national security force” that must be as well funded as the military? Is it merely our existing civilian national security force, the militia, or perhaps the FBI and the CIA? Or was Obama referring to some thuggish new paramilitary street organization?

The answer to this mystery is not hidden. It is prominently displayed in Obama’s speechesand in the position papers on his website. Obama is referring, neither to the militia nor to a reincarnation of the Brownshirts, but rather to his unprecedented plans for universal community service for young people and for hugely increased funding for a myriad of voluntary service programs for the rest of us.

Earlier posts dealt with mandatory service for middle and high school students, voluntary service for college students, and college “Serve-Study” laid out in Obama’s speeches and his “Plan for Universal Voluntary Citizen Service.” This post covers his other service programs.

A. Green Job Corps, YouthBuild Program

Although Obama’s education proposals would effectively reach over 90% of the 47 million middle, high, and college students in the country (perhaps leaving out only private secondary school children), what about the 2 million young people who are out of school and unemployed or in prison? To reach young prisoners and the young unemployed, Obama will add a newGreen Job Corps, “an energy-focused youth jobs program,” and expand by six-fold theYouthBuild Program, which teaches housing construction to low-income youth.

B. AmeriCorps VISTA, Experience Corps, Senior Corps

What about the middle-aged and older Americans not covered by these programs for the young? Obama plans to enlist retirees in his civilian national security force “on a large scale” and to expand service programs for baby-boomers and the elderly: AmeriCorps VISTA, theExperience Corps, and other Senior Corps programs.

C. Classroom Corps, Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, Veterans Corps, Homeland Security Corps, Peace Corps, Global Energy Corps

Among other “transformative” community service proposals, Obama will more than triple the number of full-time AmeriCorps members to 250,000 and distribute these new members among five new “Corps”:

1. a Classroom Corps for teachers and students;

2. a Health Corps to improve public health;

3. a Clean Energy Corps to conduct weatherization and renewable energy projects;

4. a Veterans Corps to assist veterans at institutions; and

5. a Homeland Security Corps to deal with emergencies.

Not only will “Barack Obama . . . double the Peace Corps to 16,000 by its 50th anniversary in 2011 and push Congress to fully fund this expansion,” but he will create a "Global Energy Corps to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions overseas and promote low-carbon and affordable energy solutions in developing nations.”

Barack Obama is proposing so many new “Corps” that he runs out of distinctive names for them. Note that his new Global Energy Corps is not to be confused with his new Clean Energy Corps and his new Green Job Corps.

D. Social Investment Fund Network, Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits, Corporation for National and Community Service

But Obama is far from finished:

Barack Obama will create a Social Investment Fund Network, . . . a government-supported nonprofit corporation, similar to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, that will use federal seed money to leverage private sector funding to improve local innovation, test the impact of new ideas and expand successful programs to scale.

He promises us that this new corporation will not be just a single entity, but it will involve “a network of funds.”

That’s not all; he’s going to create a “Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits”:

Barack Obama will a create an agency within the Corporation for National and Community Service dedicated to building the capacity and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.

Note the tone of these proposals: none of this false modesty about proposing these new agencies and Corps to Congress and working for their passage. His Plan simply declares: “Barack Obama will create” this; “Barack Obama will create” that.


All these programs are just the ones listed on the service pages of his campaign website. This list doesn’t include his most expensive program: health care. All these add up to the biggest expansion of the US government since FDR. If Obama gets most of what he wants, he will make libertarians look more fondly on the relatively modest proposals of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

Related Posts (on one page):

Obama's New "Corps" And Other Service Programs.
Obama’s College Service Programs.
Involuntary Associations and National Service.--
Community Service for all Middle and High School Children.--
Sunday, August 31, 2008

[Jim Lindgren, August 31, 2008 at 11:27pm] Trackbacks
OBAMA’S COLLEGE SERVICE PROGRAMS. I have already posted about Senator Barack Obama’s proposal that all public middle and high school students perform community service, such as picking up trash, for 50 hours a week every year. [In a later post, I will point to most of new service "Corps" that Barack is proposing, many of which would be open to college students.]

There has been little discussion so far of his program for college students. The first thing to note about it is that it is voluntary, though the funding is so extensive (and expensive) that almost all college students will be induced to do 100 hours of service each year at an effective salary of $40 an hour tax free.

Obama proposes to achieve almost universal service for the nation’s 17 million college students by offering a refundable annual tax credit of $4,000 toward college tuition. This program should cost about $65-100 billion a year, perhaps more if it substantially increases the number of students attending college. In return for the credit, college students will be required to perform 100 hours of community service every year for four years. By offering college students a hefty $40 an hour, Mr. Obama will ensure that nearly every college student will participate in his program, without actually making their service mandatory.

So, if a student graduates from college, he will have done on average about 11 years of community service, at a minimum of 50-100 hours each year. Almost all college graduates will have spent a total workweek equivalent of at least four to five months of their lives working in Mr. Obama’s “national security force,” starting at the tender age of 11.


The school service programs give context to the much talked about comments of Michelle Obama back in February.

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

I had seen these words quoted many times, but I thought them either taken out of context or just Michelle Obama’s own quirky interpretation of what she thought her husband expected of Americans. What I hadn’t realized until a day or two ago is that her speech was delivered to college students at UCLA. That Michelle Obama was talking to students makes her words dovetail nicely with Barack Obama’s service programs for this segment of society.

So Michelle’s vision was one insider’s view of Barack Obama’s mandatory service programs for all public middle school and high school students and the nearly universal voluntary service program for college students.

Essentially all of the factual claims in the quoted passage of Michelle Obama’s speech are true. He will “require you to work.” He will “demand . . . that you move out of your comfort zones. . . . And that you engage.” And it’s fair to say that “Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved . . . .” The rest of her comments (about becoming better, less cynical, and more informed) indicate her aspirations for what service will accomplish, and reflect pretty standard views of people in the service movement and of people in the left-wing educational reform movement to bring communities into the schools and schools into the community.


Commenters about existing mandatory service programs often claim that public schools have too narrow a view of service, often excluding service by Boy Scouts and churches. Obama hasn't yet said much about what doesn't count as service, but he has said enough to cause me to worry.

Obama proposes to move from college work-study to “Serve-Study.” He plans to mandatethat 25% of college work-study jobs be directed away from working on campus, “such as in libraries and dining halls,” to working in the community, eventually hoping to raise that proportion to 50% of all college work-study employment.

Thus, Obama wouldn’t count as “service” my wife’s college work-study job (years ago) as a weekend librarian in the University of Chicago’s School of Social Work, but if my wife had done one of Barack Obama’s preferred tasks, picking up trash in the slum behind the School, Obama would count that as service.

Reasonable people may differ on whether aiding in the education of social work students is more valuable than picking up trash. Yet in my wife’s student days, picking up trash would probably have done little good in the long run because (as the Boston Globe revealed) the government-supported housing projects developed or managed by Obama’s clients, friends, and biggest contributors within 500 yards of the back of Chicago’s School of Social Work were allowed to deteriorate, pretty much destroying most of the improvements made in that neighborhood.

Related Posts (on one page):

Obama's New "Corps" And Other Service Programs.
Obama’s College Service Programs.
Involuntary Associations and National Service.--
Community Service for all Middle and High School Children.--

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