“Community service”? Yep, mandatory (Update: they’ve revised)

by Walter Olson on November 7, 2008

Well, that didn’t take long. Coyote spots language on the Obama transition site that seems to make explicit what was left studiously vague during the campaign:

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.

Update 12:15 a.m. Saturday: After my post was linked by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit (thanks!) and began drawing thousands of visitors, the Obama website administrators at change.gov silently replaced the “require” language with something new and different:

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.

Robert Bidinotto noted the switch and Mike LaSalle saved the original page as a PDF for those who didn’t see it the first time. Glenn Reynolds did a second post taking note of the substitution and quoting the witty comment of reader Nancy Anne Potts: “Looks like the change.gov site is true to its title – it changes!” More: Acre of Independence. Update Monday: transition yanks entire “Agenda” from web, this section and others.

{ 10 trackbacks }

OpenMarket.org » Archive » Forced Labor for Community Organizers
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Daily Pundit » And the Meaning of That Is “Slavery”
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"Community Service" Yep, Mandatory. - U.S. Politics Online: A Political Discussion Forum
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Welcome Instapundit (and Change.gov!) readers
11.08.08 at 12:35 am
Mandatory community service « Internet Scofflaw
11.08.08 at 2:25 am
Obama calls for a requirement that students complete community service. - Page 46 - ThePhins.com
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National service: Ben Smith (Politico) misses the story
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The Youth Corps at The K. Ryan James blog
11.13.08 at 11:18 am
November 14 roundup
11.14.08 at 8:25 am
Career opportunities: The fatal conceit of national service « The Arizona Desert Lamp
03.27.09 at 4:53 pm

{ 97 comments }

1 Robin 11.07.08 at 11:36 am

How they rectify “When you choose to serve –” with required to serve I don’t know.

Compelled virtue is just compliance.

2 Metricula 11.07.08 at 11:38 am

Did they not read Clockwork Orange? :)

3 James 11.07.08 at 12:03 pm

This is a poor summary of Obama’s policy proposal on community service.

That proposal doesn’t require anyone to perform community service. It calls for middle schools and high schools to develop their own community service plans, and for college students to be offered a tax credit in exchange for community service.

4 SPQR 11.07.08 at 12:12 pm

Better brush up on 13th amendment law.

5 James 11.07.08 at 12:34 pm

I’m opposed to national service requirements, but if compulsory military service doesn’t violate the 13th amendment, how would civilian service do so?

6 SPQR 11.07.08 at 1:09 pm

James, case law excluding conscription recognizes the difference between the purposes of compelling military service for the nation, and that of compelling people to perform ordinary labor.

7 Sandy 11.07.08 at 1:17 pm

Worse, healthcare professionals, even retired, are planned for national health service to make sure people in their communities are all eating, exercising, taking medications and following the Surgeon General’s “preventive health” prescriptions. The term preventive health is a euphemism for lifestyle control. Look closely at the slogan “wellness care, not sick care,” as that’s where you’ll find some of the most unsettling, intrusive and bogus interventions and mandates being planned.

8 James 11.07.08 at 1:36 pm

SPQR, it’s true that caselaw often distinguishes between military service and ordinary labor. But that hardly demonstrates that civilian national service would fall under ordinary labor.

After all, caselaw supports not just compulsory military service, but also jury duty and other forms of civilian service.

9 Don Quixote 11.07.08 at 1:38 pm

Socialists are, by their very nature, believers in compelling others to do the bidding of a centralized authority. So why does anyone find all of this surprising? It’s what you voted for when you voted for “change” and “hope.” We’re all stuck with it for the next 4-8 years, maybe longer. So you’d just better get used to the idea of spending one work week a year working directly on a government project of some sort, and hope it’s not something like picking up trash along the interstate.

10 Scott 11.07.08 at 2:35 pm

Well, I’d rather spend time in jail than perform “volunteer” work for Chairman Obama.

11 Markagelo 11.07.08 at 2:48 pm

So what I was just required
like others to do jury service ?

I’ll admit that place is full of waste
ready for a crash & just like wall street
the riders on the gravey train are oblivious.
Everybody working in the court system seems
to have a cavalier manner almost like they
are Hollywood performers.

12 matt 11.07.08 at 4:42 pm

wow not even officially in office and we allready have him plotting the downfall of western society . and all this time i thought it would be music you disagreed with or comics or games. the poioint is why dont we let him take the oath of office before cmpalining about the work hes doing as president

13 Matt 11.07.08 at 5:35 pm

James, how is it a bad summary? Unless Obama’s own “Change” website is wrongly stating his policy it seems the summary is verbatim from the website.

“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.”

Emphasis on require added by yours truly.

14 Ignorance is Bliss 11.07.08 at 5:52 pm

It took Nixon to go to China.
It took John McCain to normalize relations with Vietnam.
It took an African American to reintroduce slavery.

15 MagicalPat 11.07.08 at 5:53 pm

As I see it, I already work for the government till mid May. No need to make me put in an additional two hours a week.

16 betsybounds 11.07.08 at 5:55 pm

James et al.,

What do you not understand about the all-volunteer military that we have?

17 Dean 11.07.08 at 5:55 pm

I’m surprised it’s community service, and not the “civilian military” service he was talking about before.

I’m pretty sure all those college kids I saw dancing in the streets didn’t realize that’s what they were in for when they voted for the Democrats.

Nice thing is, it’ll undoubtedly create a lot of Republicans in the college ranks.

18 The details 11.07.08 at 5:56 pm

The language quoted above contradicts something on another page at change.gov as well as his previous materials. Details at my name’s link. And, BHO’s new Chief of Staff supported mandatory service in a 2006 book.

19 John 11.07.08 at 5:56 pm

Matt, obviously a victim of public education, is ready to volunteer. Excuse me, in his case, “vuluntier.”

20 level3 11.07.08 at 6:04 pm

It’s a great idea.
Finally give every teenager in the country a reason to hate Democrats: forcing them to work. Even the college money will be seen as forced labor, why not jsut give the money for nothing?
Quite a lot of Young Republicans were born in schools that implemented socialist policies of “group homework” [in which the smart kid did all the work while the others "shared" his high marks] and “emotional intelligence” [telling the smart kids that they are no more special than the kids who are good at talking a lot, or feeling others' pain]

More socialist BS in schools means more Young Republicans! Bring it on!

21 pst314 11.07.08 at 6:08 pm

James, think of it like this: Obama wants to militarize our society. You might want to check the long history of progressive military rhetoric–moral equivalent of war, mobilization, cadres, etc, etc. It goes back over a century.

22 Corky Boyd 11.07.08 at 6:11 pm

You have to go through what else has been promised by the Messiah. Affordable college tuition. When you join the Komsomol er correction, Progressive Youth, and give the required public service, after a little indoctrination of course, you will receive a discounted tuition.

So yes it is voluntary, but mandatory if you want the benefits.

I don’t think we need reach across the aisle Republicans, we need folks who stand for individual liberties.

23 Poulette 11.07.08 at 6:14 pm

I am already compelled to “volunteer” 113 days of my labor to the government… until Tax Freedom Day. Now they want to add on top of this? It’s just a new way to tax children before they’re allowed to begin cashing a paycheck.

24 equitus 11.07.08 at 6:19 pm

Wow. It used to be that community service was a form of punishment for minor offenses. I guess we’re all guilty by default, now.

25 mrsizer 11.07.08 at 6:20 pm

James, it seems like pretty good summary to me: It is a direct quote from Obama’s page (I double-checked), not taken out of context, and it uses the word “required” not “get a credit if you do”.

It also sounds very expensive. All of this service is going to need to be tracked so one knows when the requirements have been met, which means much infrastructure both physical and bureaucratic. And the general overhead of the several new Corps: Classroom Corps, Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps.

And what on earth is the Clean Energy Corps going to do? Wash the solar panels in the desert? Anything useful in the energy sector requires a real, technical education.

26 Annony 11.07.08 at 6:21 pm

Note the “all ages”. Slavery is back.

27 Frank 11.07.08 at 6:21 pm

I can give you several rather graphic descriptions of what commissar Obama can do with his compulsory service.

28 AnAverageAmerican 11.07.08 at 6:26 pm

I’m not a lawyer and cannot cite any case law on the subject, but jury duty is a citizen’s civic responsibility, and a citizen’s right to a trial by jury is contained in the VI Amendment to the Constitution.

If you think jury duty is a form of slavery, or government coercion of your labor, I recommend that if you are indicted of a crime you volunteer to be tried by a tribunal of the Obama activist judges to be.

29 H. Lime 11.07.08 at 6:29 pm

I will not perform mandatory “community service” and I will also not pay reperations, which will also re-surface under his administration. Not because he is black, but because he is a leftist who shares the common leftist ideology that America has been more a source of evil than of good.

30 rasqual 11.07.08 at 6:29 pm

The issue here is compulsory service for minors.

I subscribe to Locke — not Plato — on the role of parents and the state in a child’s life.

This is an administration that favors choice when it comes to killing the unborn, but not choice for education (vouchers) once they’re of school age. For a party that so often speaks of “empowerment,” empowering parents (especially poor-off ones) doesn’t seem to be of much concern — despite the fact that this would hold schools accountable and obviate much of the accountability the new administration wants to establish between local schools and, for crying out loud, Washington.

Why not to the parents?

NEA, of course. That, and the administation’s plans represent the final stage of the “long march through the institutions,” where primary schools come in for the kinds of indoctrination we’ve seen in the universities.

Combine that with making the masses dependent (a government that can give you everything can take away everything) and, insanely, GRATEFUL for all this, and you have a mess.

31 Bill 11.07.08 at 6:30 pm

“That proposal doesn’t require anyone to perform community service. It calls for middle schools and high schools to develop their own community service plans, and for college students to be offered a tax credit in exchange for community service.”

And if the student has to take (and pass) Calculus 2 before a certain window in the program of study? What if he or she lands a great opportunity for cooperative education or job shadowing at high school or college level? Can he or she get a waiver? Of course it means creating a peakaboo transcript in violation of FERPA, so that just means that these promising hard working students (and school IS work!) will be out in the cold. Education, especially college education, should focus on professional development, not creating an underpaid (or free) workforce for political hacks and organizations that make said hacks list of acceptable volunteer reporting stations.

I’m all for young people volunteering. But I’m militantly opposed to having it being pushed, shoved or “gently nudged with incentives.” For some their service is private, sometimes intimate, personal choices that honestly are no one’s darned business. And by having schools develop programs, the metric for success (which will mean a reward no doubt), success means optimizing participation and participation is warm bodies, so these “voluntary service” programs can easily come with a friendly twist of the arm. (I had my arm twisted in high school with one of these programs, a scholarship program, in the mid 80s where the local schools were obviously competing for the number of “winners.”) And with such “‘strongly encouraged’ voluntary programs” the actual value of the service to the participant is reduced to zero (or even a negative value). It’s no longer a personal lift, it’s a duty — that all too often calls for someone to use another (the object of the service) for personal gain to get the tax credit, state scholarship or a good college recommendation from the guidance councilor. A good thing becomes nothing short of cynical state-enabled exploitation.

32 Don 11.07.08 at 6:30 pm

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to form and define the militia which it does under Title 10 USC. Subsection of that is para 311. Note well (b)2 -

311. Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

The draft is a term used often in misrepresentation of service when in fact it is the selective activation of the militia for federal duty. If you are male between 17 and 45, you are already enrolled. It’s part of a contract that begins “We the People..”. No other obligation as put forth by those promoting ‘community service’ exists in that Constitution.

33 Adriane 11.07.08 at 6:31 pm

Military service, even when drafted, and jury duty both are compensated to the individual for his time served, however unwillingly.

The children would have to be monetarily compensated for their time.

34 New Frontiersman 11.07.08 at 6:32 pm

Congress has a specific power to call the militia into arms, and there’s no reason to believe the 13th Amendment was intended to eliminate that power. Every version of the draft has limited the persons drafted to persons defined by Federal law as members of the militia; that is, has constituted calling the militia into service. Similarly, the jury is specifically established by other constitutional provisions, and there’s no reason to believe the Thirteenth Amendment was intended to apply to jury service.

However, Congress has no specific power to demand non-military labor from the people of the United States, and the Thirteenth Amendment was understood at the time of its adoption to specifically prohibit governments from doing so (see various state-level attempts to compel labor).

35 sbtx 11.07.08 at 6:34 pm

“This is a poor summary of Obama’s policy proposal on community service. That proposal doesn’t require anyone to perform community service.”

It is a direct quote taken from Obama’s transition website. Does that mean his transition website contains a “poor summary” of his plan? Because it does “developing a plan to require”:

http://change.gov/americaserves/
“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.”

36 Prvate Joe 11.07.08 at 6:38 pm

Anybody who was in the military draft knows exactly how effective asking the unwilling to perform any meaningful work will be.

It will be fun to watch when reality sets in.

37 Dan Irving 11.07.08 at 6:39 pm

Matt@13

If a man walks up to you with a gun and says,”I’m going to shoot you.” Do you just stand there and wait for him to do so?

38 gitarcarver 11.07.08 at 6:41 pm

wow not even officially in office and we allready have him plotting the downfall of western society .

So you would wait for a law to be enacted to complain about it to a legislative representative?

If the President elect is saying that he is going to go against the Constitution, you don’t think that is worthwhile to talk about or even plan opposition to it now?

If it is not proper and right to look at his proposed policies, then why did we have debates and speeches about the policies that each candidate would put into place? Since when does being elected give one a pass on the policies they wish to enact?

By the way matt, no offense, but if you are going to try and go for sarcasm and attack others, you might want to try using a spell check and proper grammar.

39 apb 11.07.08 at 6:45 pm

Obama-jugend!

40 Chaz 11.07.08 at 6:46 pm

We’re gonna be pickin cotton come end of next year.

41 Sarge 11.07.08 at 6:48 pm

How about this, ‘matt;’

Why isn’t he waiting until he’s sworn in before he starts trying to remake the Constitution?

42 slavemaster 11.07.08 at 6:51 pm

Well, I guess if there’s anyone who knows the advantages of institutional slavery, it would be Barack Obama, since, you know, he wants to get even with whitey for all those lost years.

43 ASimpleDad 11.07.08 at 6:53 pm

Um, Matt, how about because he is publishing on a GOVERNMENT website (note the .gov extensions) that he will be REQUIRING labor of people. That’s a pretty big deal in a FREE society. Forced government labor, as stated by HIS GOVERNMENT website (that’s for James who tried to play it off as poor wording. It was Obama’s people that picked the wording, not someone elses summary). Just wow. Anyone else notice the use of Google Analytics? Are government websites really allowed to gather statistics and tracking on people using outside, non-government servers?

44 Bob W 11.07.08 at 6:53 pm

I strongly disagree with the compulsory aspect of the program in this post here.

Matt, his official website states that his administration is going to implement a government mandate for students to serve 30-100 hours per year of community service, it’s not idel speculation. The best time to argue with a policy is BEFORE it gets implemented, no?

45 justacommenter 11.07.08 at 6:54 pm

“…ompelling people to perform ordinary labor.”

You mean slavery, right?

Let’s call this crap what it is and have enough with the euphamisms. Obama wants to enslave us. Period. We need to prune the tree of liberty.

46 sbtx 11.07.08 at 7:00 pm

“So what I was just required like others to do jury service ?”

Requiring someone to perform community service is not the same as jury duty. Jury duty is understandable considering we are guaranteed the right to a jury trial. Receiving community service is not a guaranteed right. At least not yet.

47 RJ 11.07.08 at 7:01 pm

Anybody want to guess how much of that “community service” will end up being done for organizations like ACORN?

48 Bob 11.07.08 at 7:09 pm

Are we venturing out onto slavery’s slippery slope. Of course they’ll not call it that…community service sounds better.

Slavery for everybody, or will “people of color” get a pass because they’ve been exploited enough? If they do get a pass, then it’ll be a black President instituting White Slavery….er…community service. Turnabout’s fair play, I guess.

I suppose property seizure will follow. They’ll call it Reparations. I’m sure law prof. Obama will find enough penumbras and emanations in the Constitution to justify all this. Anyone who objects will be a racist, obviously.

He’s counting on you to say, “Well that’s not so bad. Might even be a good idea.”. Remember, it’s only the first step; more will follow.

49 Chris Wysocki 11.07.08 at 7:11 pm

We are all Zeks now.

John Derbyshire asked on NRO, will we be required to build our own camps?

50 justaskin 11.07.08 at 7:15 pm

If this is part of the Socialist attmept to be “fair”, how about requiring that all recipients of welfare perform community service? Wouldn’t that be fair? If a producer can be required to work more hours and take home less money, is he not being required to perform community service by default? If there are to be requirements placed on people to perform work, why not start with those who are not currently working or going to school. Ooops, never mind…this whole line of inquiry is rascist…I’ll find my own way to the camps, thanks.

51 daniel 11.07.08 at 7:37 pm

I think my child’s community service will be to stand by the school door in the morning protesting government forced labor and petitioning for slavery to again be made illegal. That seems to be a valuable community service.

52 Trouble 11.07.08 at 7:52 pm

I think we need a new slogan for national service. How about, “Strength through Joy!”

Oh wait….

53 Glen 11.07.08 at 8:00 pm

I will spend my time in jail eating off the government and watching TV. No, I will not serve any community services; services that I have already paid for. Did you read in todays paper that gun sales have been extremely strong this week? There is a reason for that.

54 Rodney 11.07.08 at 8:01 pm

I’m just an engineer and not a lawyer, but don’t they justify conscription due to Congress’constitutional mandate to raise armies? Army’s break things and kill people, they don’t clean bedpans. The juror analogy doesn’t seem to work very well. It’s a random lottery and you can get out of it easily.

55 Jerry 11.07.08 at 8:02 pm

If the President elect is saying that he is going to go against the Constitution, you don’t think that is worthwhile to talk about or even plan opposition to it now?

Come on, all he’ll need to do is whip up a signing statement and he won’t be bound by the constitution or any other pesky law. Worked for W.

56 KjO 11.07.08 at 8:05 pm

A] I am glad to see that the government knows better than parents how kids should spend their time
B] Who decides what service meets the required 50 hours. What if a high school student supports a ban on abortion because they life begins at conception so they want to work with a pro-life non-profit group. Will that be approved as community service?
C] When did I start living in a country where the government started mandating how I should spend my time? No matter how much people disliked Bush he never told people how to live their lives.

This is a very slippery slope.

57 Roark 11.07.08 at 8:07 pm

Mr. Obama,

Good luck trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do without using military or police action. That’s what it will come to sir if you choose to go down this path.

I work for myself and no one else. That’s my right – as an American. I know things like basic freedoms annoy the hell out of liberals but they either need to get ready for a fight or learn to accept they do not own me with fuzzy language and calls for “community”.

58 Percy 11.07.08 at 8:15 pm

Perhaps we can dragoon some honor student to teach matt proper spelling and punctuation.

59 Seerak 11.07.08 at 8:19 pm

I’m opposed to national service requirements, but if compulsory military service doesn’t violate the 13th amendment, how would civilian service do so?

It does, but that isn’t the real problem — that’s the the philosophical rationalization used to justify the draft: the concept of “duty”. That is the moral premise to check, if you really wish to oppose servitude. But central as it is to the rationalizations involved in the Supreme Court case permitting military conscription, you aren’t going to be able to make any headway against the Obama servitude plans without working to reverse that 20th century equivalent of the Dredd Scott decision which establishes the precedent.

The Left has known this ever since that decision went down, and the day may soon be coming for them to make use of the legal weapon the conservatives have handed them.

It’s time to reject “duty” and the ethic of servitude from whence it comes, and stand up for the principle of individual rights.

60 Nathan 11.07.08 at 8:36 pm

Jerry: two wrongs don’t make a right. President Bush infringed liberally on civil liberties, which is part of why his party was defeated Tuesday. This is the sort of thing I’d like Democrats to repudiate, not embrace as their own.

I volunteer in my community, but the idea of being _told_ to do it by the government is revolting. How I spend my time on this Earth, provided I’m not hurting others, is absolutely none of the federal government’s business.

61 Curtis 11.07.08 at 8:56 pm

well, I suppose if they PAY the Volunteers that it won’t violate the Geneva conventions on forced labor of prisoners.

Service to the State!

62 Rich 11.07.08 at 9:00 pm

I have to agree with Matt. Isn’t it a little early to start criticizing Obama. I mean we’ve waited until after the election. Why can’t we all just wait until Obama has served his term as President for life before we start criticizing him?

63 Dave Everson 11.07.08 at 9:04 pm

Didn’t we fight some sort of war over involuntary servitude? Just wondering…

64 NC Reader 11.07.08 at 9:10 pm

Interesting — the first time I clicked the link I got a page saying was is quoted here — service is required. However when I went to that page from the change.gov homepage I got this page that says “….. 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.”

Now when I click the link I get the “new” page yet when I find the cached page on Google it has the original “required” wording.

Looks like they caught their “mistake”. Now will the real plan please step forward — goal or required. (Although the way government sets goals, they often wind up looking like requirements so maybe the two aren’t all that different.)

Ugh! I see card check made the page too. He may be the president elect but I don’t have to like his plans!

65 Larry 11.07.08 at 9:13 pm

So.. The first Black President of the United States wants to violate the 13th Amendment?

The Irony, she makes the head asplode..

66 Toads 11.07.08 at 9:54 pm

This might have quite the opposite effect of what the leftists are hoping.

Let me tell you how I became a strong conservative (previously a ‘neutral’ on politics).

When I started my MBA program (in 1999, age 25), part of our 1-week orientation included a day where we have to go do ‘community service’ in ‘poor areas’ (inner city Detroit, in this case). My task constituted giving out free boxes of cereal to welfare recipients.

I immediately noticed that all of the women were fat, arrived in cars, and were free on a weekday afternoon. Their faces exuded ‘entitlement’ rather than ‘gratitude’.

After we returned to the University, we had to each share how we felt about interacting with those ‘less fortunate than us’. Note that many of the students were International students, from countries where serious poverty is pervasive, and the poor people are actually emaciated and in tattered clothing. Me, and a few others, lied about how it was ‘eye-opening’ and ‘sobering’. Afterwards, we bitched/laughed about how absurd the whole thing was. I actually apologized to some of the Indian/Brazilian/Chinese students about the silliness of the American definition of ‘poverty’ being foisted on them. They, having been in the US for only a few days up to that point, were baffled by the whole surreal spectacle.

That essentially put me on the path to conservatism. I am a firebrand self-reliance advocate. This is exactly the opposite of what the creators of that module of our MBA orientation may have hoped for.

67 Mike 11.07.08 at 9:58 pm

The Obama-Jugend. That neat “O” salute is fitting.

68 AK 11.07.08 at 10:03 pm

James:

Good questions re: the 13th Amendment. The answer is, as it usually is, “original meaning.”

The draft doesn’t violate the Amendment today because the folks who ratified the 13th Amendment didn’t think that it did back then. Same thing for jury service.

But there was no such thing as ACORN registration drives, or that kind of “community service” back then.

69 SPQR 11.07.08 at 10:24 pm

No, Jerry, you are misrepresenting the way that W used signing statements.

70 SPQR 11.07.08 at 10:32 pm

Matt, I didn’t know that Barack Obama had issued a decree that proposals that he’d put on his own website could not be discussed until January 20th, 2009.

The thing we are reacting to is the explicit mandatory nature of his proposal. “Work Will Make You Free” sounds better in the original german.

71 Robert Bidinotto 11.07.08 at 10:34 pm

You may be interested to know that after the publicity, the Change.com website altered the language on the web page from “require” to “setting a goal.”

If you want to see the original language, plus links to online cache images, then compare with the NEW, sanitized language, go here:

http://bidinotto.journalspace.com/?entryid=804

72 Jerry 11.07.08 at 10:40 pm

No, Jerry, you are misrepresenting the way that W used signing statements.

Not that much. But I was being sarcastic (easy to do with the many ways W tried to subvert the constitution). I don’t expect that any service goal would be required, certainly not if the courts rule otherwise.

73 Nathan 11.07.08 at 10:44 pm

Jerry,

Is it your idea that because Bush subverted the Constitution, it’s okay for Obama to do it too? I don’t see why anything Bush did or didn’t do is relevant here.

74 Roger Godby 11.07.08 at 11:21 pm

While I agree with #11′s sentiments–jail time over Obama time–the results are the same: picking up trash along the side of the road. Since Comrade Obama’s plan if for juveniles, picking the passive resistance cum incarceration cum raod crew route at least won’t result in a lasting criminal record.

75 SPQR 11.07.08 at 11:26 pm

Well, now Obama’s website is magically changing, that’s the only change we’ve caught Obama actually accomplishing.

Jerry, actually you are that much. Matches that whole “subverting” the constitution silliness.

76 Toads 11.08.08 at 12:17 am

Again, I really think that putting young people through shitty experiences, in return for nothing, will create a generation of free-market conservatives and militant libertarians.

77 RJR 11.08.08 at 12:29 am

This was discussed at length weeks ago on one of the law blogs (Volokh?).

The choices to serve will exclude Sunday school / synagogue nursery duty and similar volunteerism. The “community service” must be a type approved by the government. Private school and home schools would not be included.

This would create an unbelievably huge bureacracy of record keeping and supervision.

To add this burden financially and time wise to school systems is bizarre and very ill conceived.

As someone over there (Volokh)commented — there is irony in that the first “black” president wants to reinstitute slavery in a federalized form.

If I had a kid in school I would refuse or pull the kid out.

I do have a college age kid who I would have refuse the bribe.

This is social engineering at its worst.

78 Bill 11.08.08 at 2:23 am

“The choices to serve will exclude Sunday school / synagogue nursery duty and similar volunteerism. The “community service” must be a type approved by the government. Private school and home schools would not be included.
This would create an unbelievably huge bureacracy of record keeping and supervision.”

This was part of my point earlier.

a) accounting for participation would require more “transparency” of student records to non academic eyes. While they can jiggle things to avoid the letter of FERPA they could be dancing right at the corners of the box spirit wise.

b) if it’s true that the state must identify the list of acceptable benefactors of volunteering, then that not only removes the spectrum of choices to an enlistee/conscript, thus eroding the spirit of volunteerism, but also makes it prey to rabid politicization. The earlier dig on ACORN by AK and RJ isn’t an unreasonable forecast.

This is beyond a dumb idea.

79 Bill 11.08.08 at 3:22 am

poop that should read “list of acceptable beneficiaries…” (or should I say pay-me-backs)

80 matt 11.08.08 at 10:44 am

why thank you john so happy we are ready to boil this down to petty insults

81 maggie 11.08.08 at 12:30 pm

Folks,
Re: The record keeping for the community service will fall on teachers and guidance counselors at the middle and high schools. We have more and more dumped on us every year! We already are required to track the progress of special ed students after high school graduation – after high school graduation! Why is that the responsibility of the school system? Federal Law, NCLB.

82 huh?! 11.08.08 at 1:50 pm

wait a sec, can he really mandate this?! it can’t possibly pass, can it? I mean, it can snowball from here, from school kids to working people, forced to take time off to do community work? or a parent forced to do service elsewhere? (peacecorp?) and what kind of community work is he talking about? are we gonna lay off gov’t workers and go scrape up roadkill for a few days? pick up dog crap in the parks?

I grew up a 4h kid doing volunteer community svc…. now it sounds like mandatory volunteer work. hmm… dr. obvious??

83 gitarcarver 11.08.08 at 2:31 pm

Re: The record keeping for the community service will fall on teachers and guidance counselors at the middle and high schools.

In Florida, there already is a requirement for “community service” in order to pass to the next grade or graduate. It is up to the students to present a paper with the hours worked, where, and have a signature from a verifable source as to the veracity of the paper submitted. It is, quite simply, a pass / fail thing for the teacher. In that the papers aren’t returned at the same time, the amount of time spent by the teachers is not that great.

That being said, the idea itself is still wrong. When, where, and how I choose to volunteer is my choice and my choice alone. If the government is requiring it, it is not “volunteerism.”

84 Bill 11.08.08 at 3:13 pm

I agree, kids that want to should volunteer. I will not see my kids “forced” into service. This is not the People Republic of America

85 EW 11.08.08 at 5:28 pm

Yea, i have been hearing a lot about this. And there is NO WAY that Obama and his administration could force people to “volunteer” / do community service. The liberal illuminati want us to think that Obama is for the young people but i tell you what, this would be a real fast way to tick off those young people. I think it would be a good idea to give incentives for people to do community service. They and get people involved but there is no way you can force them.

86 Kyle S. 11.08.08 at 10:07 pm

Obama / Change.gov pulled a very similar “switcheroo” regarding his plan to provide “middle class tax relief”. First I saw it yesterday this tax relief was to be funded by imposing “windfall profit taxes” on oil companies. But now the tone has been significantly softened.

Change.gov was quietly modified in the same way as the “america serves” plan.

Anybody out there happen to get a screen shot of this?

87 Kyle S. 11.08.08 at 11:15 pm

ENTIRE Change.gov Agenda has been taken down. Been down since at least 10:15pm EST.

88 Debbie C 11.09.08 at 4:50 am

Good God, I feel like I’m about to become a character in “Atlas Shrugged”

89 Katie K 11.09.08 at 1:52 pm

Yes, I agree that all the college students will be singing a different tune. I’m in college, and there are still not enough hours to get everything I want done.
My school has a requirement of 13hrs personal development and 13 hrs service learning in order to graduate. There are students who have issues getting these 26 hours over four years. 100 a year will make everyone extremely happy… :/

90 AlexinCT 11.09.08 at 6:03 pm

This community service program is likely to be comprised of little actual service of any kind coupled with hours of collectivist indeoctrination. Because government is organizing and running it all, they also can supervise and point out those people that the state might need to take “sepcial action” against for not “getting it”. Be afraid….

91 James 11.09.08 at 6:23 pm

There are college students who have trouble getting in 6 or 7 hours of community service each *year*?

I’m not in favor of community service requirements, but surely we can agree that most students in this country ought to be doing more volunteer work than that, on their own initiative!

92 gitarcarver 11.10.08 at 1:13 am

but surely we can agree that most students in this country ought to be doing more volunteer work than that, on their own initiative!

That would depend on what the definition of “volunteer work” is, wouldn’t it?

Does the time someone gives at the local “Committee to Overthrow the Government” office qualify as “volunteering?” Does the person who marches in protests against abortion qualify as “volunteering?” Does some part time college student who works full time, and then comes home to babysit their siblings while the parent goes to work the night shift qualify as “volunteering?” What about the kid who wants to help a local small grocery store and volunteers his time there because the owner can’t afford another person?

The point I am trying to make is that if someone is going to have to define the causes for which someone can volunteer, that definition is going to be based on their moral standards and not the standards of the person volunteering.

If the idea of the program is to help the community and expose the students to as many ideas and challenges as possible, what the student wants to experience may not be the same as someone sitting in a Washington office.

The second problem is that “volunteering” loses some luster when the person is being compensated for it. Whether that compensation is in the form of a requirement to pass a grade, get out of college, or a tax break, it is still compensation.

Lastly, in the Obama proposal (and I know you are against it) there is something wrong with a person working 100 hours and receiving a $4000 tax credit. That breaks down to $40 an hour, which is a pretty nice piece of change. There is something morally wrong, in my opinion, to someone who is being compensated more per hour for “volunteering” than someone who is bringing home $30,000 a year.

93 Todd Rogers 11.10.08 at 8:25 am

gitarcarver: Nicely stated. Would it fit the criteria of the “Plan” for community service to include volunteering at a NARAL march? Or would it also be sufficient to volunteer at NRLC (pro-life group)? How about Weather Underground re-Education events?

94 James 11.10.08 at 10:17 am

Does anyone think that political activity–whether trying to overthrow the government, or marching for or against abortion–constitutes volunteer work? Or that mandatory service requirements–for school, say, or for a criminal conviction–constitute volunteer work?

These feel like straw-man arguments to me, but maybe I’m just not familiar with advocates for those positions.

The reason I said “most” college students was precisely because I realize there are some students who are so stretched, with the need to work long hours, that they can’t volunteer even 6 or 7 hours a year.

As for Obama’s proposal, he isn’t suggesting a $4,000 tax credit in exchange for community service work. The tax credit is for higher education, and an additional requirement would be a minimum of community service.

95 Walter Olson 11.10.08 at 10:31 am

I think one reason many skeptics fear politicization, James, is that some past federal volunteerism programs, such as VISTA (later folded into AmeriCorps, I believe) did have a track record of assigning volunteers to highly ideological “community organizing” of the ACORN variety. For examples, Google “Vista” + “Sam Brown” or “Margery Tabankin” — yes, the material does date back thirty years, but sometimes old outrages die hard.

Also, we’ve reached 100 comments on this and I’m going to open a new thread momentarily on national service, after which I’ll close comments on this one and people should continue the discussion at the other.

96 James 11.10.08 at 11:03 am

Hmm … I’m not convinced that community organizing is quite the same thing as political advocacy (overthrowing the government and advocating for/against abortion were your examples).

Certainly I’m not arguing for doing that, and at a minimum tight controls would need to be in place to ensure that work didn’t involve political activities. Whether work can be said to be “ideological” is perhaps another matter.

97 Walter Olson 11.10.08 at 11:20 am

After more than 100 comments, I’m going to close this thread and encourage discussion of national service to continue here or (most recent thread at the moment) here.

Comments on this entry are closed.