Rahm Emanuel and compulsory universal service

by Walter Olson on November 11, 2008

We said something relatively nice yesterday about the president-elect’s incoming chief of staff, but there’s no way to sugar-coat one of the less appealing items on the Illinois congressman’s record: his vocal advocacy of mandatory national service. From his 2006 book The Plan: Big Ideas for America, co-authored with Bruce Reed, currently the #1 selling book in several political categories at Amazon and #91 overall:

It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service.

(J.D. Tuccille, “Obama’s chief of staff choice favors compulsory universal service”, Examiner, Nov. 6).

Some think we’re being alarmist in wanting to know more about the episode late last week (blogged here, here, and here) in which the Obama transition site posted (and soon thereafter silently retracted by alteration) a policy statement indicating that its plan would require participation in community service. After all, pointed out one correspondent, the issue had come up repeatedly before the election, and the Obama campaign had given assurances then its plan wasn’t going to be compulsory. What were the odds it would introduce a major policy change so quickly and stealthily after winning? Unfortunately, that doesn’t put an end to the issue. As everyone knows, all winning candidates pay concessionary lip service during campaigns to views that their key people may not share in private (cf. Goolsbee and NAFTA). Those discrepancies often foreshadow later deviations of policy from the line taken during the campaign. We may hope last week’s web posting reflected nothing more than a staff mix-up, quickly corrected, as opposed to some staffer’s relaying in all innocence a view of the issue formed by listening to internal campaign discussions. But wouldn’t it be better if the transition itself went public with such a reassurance?

{ 2 trackbacks }

Compulsory Service : [H] Hegemonic Pundit
11.11.08 at 1:01 pm
Career opportunities: The fatal conceit of national service « The Arizona Desert Lamp
03.27.09 at 4:50 pm

{ 3 comments }

1 Chris 11.11.08 at 1:46 pm

I hadn’t heard of this until now. That’s a little worrying.

2 Dr. Mary Johnson 11.11.08 at 7:33 pm

I’m trying this again (my first comment did not post).

Before making such civilian service “mandatory”, Obama and his merry-band-of-do-gooders would do well to closely examine the civilian public service programs (usually loan-repayment-for service) already operating . . . and FIX the problems that make them little more than indentured servitude (especially in medicine).

You do that by chatting up those of us who have done the dance and been burned – NOT by listening to “yes” men and women.

The government has a DISMAL record of protecting its own – even as it supposedly helps them.

3 Barney Fine 11.11.08 at 10:32 pm

Is this like a draft, to tie into Party Politics ?
As to indentured service suggestions, does Walter know what % of the federal budget of $ 3 trillion is now expended on the civilian federal employee work force ?
hopefully he should.
It is very little.(as a % of the annual federal budget/ year)
That is the great Reagan blunder.
His first speech in Jan. 1981 was to say, Government is the problem. He did that when he was the head of the Government(USA–FED GOV), then for the next 8 years balanced not one federal budget, and grew expenditures of the federal government by a significant %, with added red ink.
This emblodened Cheney and Bush to grow the national debt up to $ 10 trillion.
Actually, the GOP is no longer even operating as a conservative ORG, it is a joke, it looks at Federal expenditures as to what can be harvested for PAC kick back $$$(some race to say in power).
It is a bad idea to have complusory federal service, the USA does not need some draft thing in the civilan zones.
Sure, putting America first is important, don’t the fewer, and fewer of taxpayers, who actually pay taxes, do that, when they mail their checks to the IRS.
Civics has many attributes, voting, paying taxes, and even questioning errant proposals made by politicians, who put Party first, and not the overall country, or the economy, or the state of sane National Affairs

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