The so-called "GIVE" and "SERVE" Acts (and you thought the PATRIOT Act had a groan-inducing name) haven't been covered very well by mainstream media, but lately a lot of bloggers and commentators have been going through the bills. What they have found is not comforting. Michelle Malkin writes:
The House passed the "Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act" - or the GIVE Act - last week. The Senate took up the companion "SERVE Act" Tuesday afternoon. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate bill, S. 277, the bill would cost "$418 million in 2010 and about $5.7 billion over the 2010-2014 period." And like most federal programs, these would be sure to grow over time. The bills reauthorize the Clinton-era Americorps boondoggle program and an older law, the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973.
The GIVE Act expands the Peace Corps and creates a plethora of other government-run civil service agencies including the Civilian Community Corps, Clean Energy Corps, Healthy Future Corps, Veteran's Services Corps, and the Education Corps. Supposedly all of these agencies will provide training, valuable experience, and an honest, productive time commitment for young people and the unemployed.
Now don't get me wrong. I would much rather see inner city teenagers working with elementary school kids than wasting their time on street corners dealing drugs or joining gangs. But I'm concerned about the fact that, no matter how cheerfully these programs are sold to us, they do not provide real employment opportunities; rather, they will only be low-paying, temporary government service positions in which the vast majority of enrollees will do little or nothing that is truly productive.
And then there is this whopper:
Under section 6104 of the bill, entitled Duties, in subsection B6, the legislation states that a commission will be set up to investigate whether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.
Section 120 of the bill also discusses the Youth Engagement Zone Program and states that service learning will be a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the secondary schools served by the local educational agency. (emphasis added)
As Allahpundit notes, this is "the ultimate 'What if Bush did it?' hypothetical". And there is another pesky question: is mandatory government service outside of military conscription during a period of warfare even Constitutional?
Regardless, the idea of compulsory government service, combined with compulsory "charity" work financed by mandatory taxes does not sit well with me. Captain Ed Morissey agrees:
Ask college-age students how they feel about taking two years out of their post-educational lives to dig ditches and build bridges not because they want to do it, but because it will become illegal to refuse. I suspect they will start Google-mapping the best routes to Canada -- or stop voting for the people proposing to enslave them.
And given the deep ties between various community organizing efforts, labor unions, ACORN, and the Obama White House, there is also a real possibility that government sponsored service programs could become co-mingled with planned, partisan political activism. Consider this:
They have taken a pledge of loyalty to Obama, and they say they are coming tomorrow for yours. Organizing for America, the Obama-for-President campaign morphed into Obama-for-Maximum-Leader army, will hit the streets for their "Pledge Project Canvass," knocking on doors and accosting folks in parking lots and sidewalks to ask them to sign a pledge to support Obama's policies for health care, energy and education reform.
Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee, is variously described in the media as [President Obama's] "own version of a lobbying firm", "a parallel organization to the Democratic National Committee" and "an independent force to lobby for Obama's goals" (Houston Chronicle); "an independent group" (Dayton Daily News); Obama's "citizen army," and a way of building public opinion" (The Bergen County Record); "a grass-roots lobbying group," (Roll Call), "Obama 2.0" (Newark Star-Ledger), "a joint partnership," (DNC press release), and as a "political bully," (AP).
Make no mistake about this. This not a voluntary "grassroots" or "heartland" effort. "Organizing For America" is not community organizing; it is a political machine designed and controlled by the DNC in cooperation with the Obama White House. It would be very easy for an organization like OFA to train its workers to compile lists of the addresses of people who refused to sign their petition. That information, delivered into the wrong hands (like the IRS or the FBI), would effectively end our freedom of speech.
Using community volunteerism or compulsory government service as a doorway to partisan political indoctrination or activism constitutes a gross misuse of political power that can permanently end our ability to live as free Americans. Don't kid yourself into believing that it can't happen here.
ADDED: The "mandatory service requirement" language in HR 1388 was taken out before the House vote, but it was reintroduced as a separate bill, HR 1444, whose purpose is "To establish the Congressional Commission on Civic Service to study methods of improving and promoting volunteerism and national service, and for other purposes."