February 18, 2002 - Human Events: Freedom Corps promises federal waste

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Freedom Corps promises federal waste

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Freedom Corps promises federal waste

Feb 18, 2002 - Human Events Author(s): Bovard, James

Bush Brings Back the Era of Big Government

In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush proposed to create a new USA Freedom Corps-composed of AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and other government subsidized-volunteer programs. Bush said he was creating the USA Freedom Corps "to capture the magnificent spirit of the country." However, unless one believes that bureaucratic waste and federal charades in the name of freedom are America at its best, Bush's proposal is a dismal signal of how he has succumbed to Washington business as usual.

AmeriCorps is already one of the most colorful boondoggles the federal government provides taxpayers. (See my recent piece in HUMAN EVENTS, "It's Time to Torpedo AmeriCorps," Dec. 10, 2001.) Bush proposes increasing spending for AmeriCorps and similar type new programs by 41 % next year-up to $230 million more.

The Bush Administration is so anxious to expand AmeriCorps that the President cannot even keep his numbers straight for more than two days in a row. In the State of the Union address on January 30, Bush announced plans to expand AmeriCorps by 25,000 members. Two days later, Bush announced: "Our goal is to expand AmeriCorps by 200,000 volunteers this year."

The confusion over numbers is not surprising-since AmeriCorps for Bush is primarily a highly visible symbol of compassionate conservatism. Presumably, the more Americans are paid to walk around wearing AmeriCorps' gray hats and t-shirts, the more virtuous the nation will become.

The specific plans for the expansion are dubious, if not ludicrous:

* Bush will have AmeriCorps members launch Operation TIPS-the Terrorist Information Prevention System. This program, like other AmeriCorps operations, will likely be evaluated based on raw numbers- how many tips were received, not whether any of the tips resulted in the discovery of real crimes. This will do little more than generate new floods of bogus alarms, swamping law enforcement with bad leads. The administration's formal proposal for the expanded program promises: "Every participant in this new program will be given a Citizen Corps Operation TIPS information sticker that could be affixed to the cab of the vehicle or placed in some other public location so that the toll-free reporting number would be readily available to report any suspicious activity."

If those stickers do not become the final nails in the coffin of al Qaeda's nefarious ambitions to destroy America, nothing will.

* Another example the Bush Administration offers of tasks for new recruits is to "do mounted patrols in parking lots at high school football games," as is already done by volunters for the police department in Henderson, N.C. For this we need a national program? The emissions from the horses' rear ends are the only real thing likely to be produced by such photo opportunities.

* Bush seeks to create a new layer of bureaucracy to somehow revolutionize "citizen service." The administration proposal states: "The USA Freedom Corps will have a Council and Office within the Executive Office of the President. The Council will be chaired by the President and include the heads of key departments and agencies with public service programs and components. The Office will be headed by an Assistant to the President, reporting directly to the President, and will include a staff to help coordinate the service initiative This is nothing more than adding new deck chairs to the Titanic.

There is no way the current program can overcome the incentives that guarantee its inefficiency.

AmeriCorps chief Les Lenkowsky promises that Bush's reforms will require "organizations that use AmeriCorps members ... to demonstrate measurable results, or risk losing them." It is ludicrous to promise that AmeriCorps programs will be evaluated according to what they actually achieve. This has been federal law since 1994, and AmeriCorps has always scorned it. Worse, the Bush proposal is replete with promises to "double" the number of people in this program or "triple" the number of people in that activity. Raw meaningless numbers will be the measuring rod in the future, as in the past.

Bush promises, "The USA Freedom Corps will promote a culture of responsibility, service, and citizenship." This is almost verbatim what Clinton promised about the original AmeriCorps program. Bush's expansion, like Clinton's initial program, will do little more than swell the number of government employees standing around with their hands in their pockets.

It is a travesty to use the name "Freedom Corps" for an organization of scores of thousands of government employees who often do little more than contemplate their own moral superiority. And the new name is ironic. AmeriCorps officials have been hypersensitive in the past about any comparison with the "Hitler Youth." However, the nominal analogy is much closer for "Freedom Corps." In the years after WWI, thousands of German war veterans joined the "Freikorps," which busied themselves killing leftists and intimidating Polish voters in the League of Nations' plebiscites in Upper Silesia. After Freikorps dissolved in the early 1920s, many former members joined Hitler's S.A.

(Storm Abteilung), the predecessor of the dreaded S.S.

Bush's rapturous embrace of AmeriCorps/Freedom Corps makes it appear that he has become a Big Government conservative with as little concern for taxpayers' dollars as shown by former President Bill Clinton. Instead, all that matters is the message-and since Freedom Corps will make. Americans think that Bush is compassionate, that is all that matters. And it is a message intended to make people feel more indebted to their rulers, regardless of how much money the program wastes.

Mr. Bovard is the author of Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion of Abuse of government in the Clinton-Gore Years (St. Martin's Press, 2000).

Copyright Human Events Publishing, Inc. Feb 18, 2002

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By Joe Richter on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 9:14 am: Edit Post

I am a returned volunteer and I am against the idea of Americor and believe that the Peace Corps should remain a seperate and independent agency. I am very disappointed in this big government idea.

By Carl Benander on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 10:41 am: Edit Post

As an RPCV (Kenya 1998-2000) I would be against any effort to merge PC with any other organization.I think that PC money is (mostly) well spent but the planned growth should be slow and deliberate. Once in a while, someone gets into PC that does not belong there. I am wary that a too-rapid expansion will allow a higher percentage to get in and do harm to the PC's currently good reputation.I am against Amiricorps because the current beauocracy in our nation is entirely too large and inefficient already.

By Jay T. Brennan, RPCV on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 12:33 pm: Edit Post

I agree that AmeriCorps should not be closely associated with Peace Corps. AmeriCorps appears to be paid volunteerism whereas Peace Corps is clearly not. They are completely different programs as well as all the other new "Corps" programs popping up willy nilly. It appears as usual America is trying to capitalize on Peace Corps good name. Peace Corps has been successful largely due to it's small budget and size and I believe it should remain this way, less is more. Where may I find good case studies and journal articles like Mr. Bovard's arguing for the disbanding of AmeriCorps?

By Cameron Garland on Monday, October 14, 2002 - 6:12 pm: Edit Post

All in all this is a bad idea because AmeriCorps creation appears to be the further unraveling of our government. I thought that there was an attempt to reduce govenment spending but this idea is going to have complications. The idea of creating Americorps is NOT efficient and NOT an effective solution which will only create more paranoia. What if somthing happens again an another attack is made on the United States? The police will not be able to handle the paranoid influx of calls made from people thus making it far easier for terrorists to do more damage. What happened to our government? Sadly I believe if the American people do not have a say-so in what the government does then Rome will have lasted longer as a government.

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