Democratic presidential frontrunner Pete Buttigieg is calling for a vast expansion of “national service” to enlist a million young Americans to perform federally approved activities. Buttigieg says his program will “repair the social fabric in our nation” and “build social capital.” But Buttigieg’s “call to service” could quickly become a “summons to submission.”
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, wants to create “a universal, national expectation of service for all 4 million high school graduates every year.” Buttigieg declares, “The goal is for ‘where did you serve?’ to be as important a question at a job interview as ‘where did you go to college?’” What right does any politician have to decree the questions by which young Americans are judged?
If the duty to “serve” is “universal,” it won’t be voluntary. Buttigieg seeks to create a program that would be morally obligatory without being legally compulsory – at least initially. One critic derided Buttigieg’s plan as a “Shame Corps” that young people would feel browbeaten to join, while a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democrat, derided it as a “glide path to the draft.” Former Rep. John Delaney made a one-year mandatory service requirement for every 18-year-old a keystone of his short-lived Democratic presidential campaign. Compulsory service for all young people is also being floated by the congressionally created National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. The more people who enlist in Buttigieg’s salvation scheme, the easier it becomes to make the program mandatory for everyone else – in the name of fairness. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $50.00 (as of 01:10 UTC - Details)
Buttigieg’s visionary plan will appeal to people looking for a job in lieu of actual work. Buttigieg’s “New Call to Service” notes that there are over 100,000 nonprofit organizations with “annual expenses over $500,000 – a good proxy for the capacity to host at least a couple young people doing a year of service.” “Hosting” sounds more like babysitting than hard labor. The Government Accountability Office thumped AmeriCorps for failing to “demonstrate results” and ignoring “the quality of service provided” by its members.
AmeriCorps, a program with the unctuous motto “Be the Greater Good,” is the model for Buttigieg’s plan. Buttigieg wants to vastly expand AmeriCorps — which currently has roughly 75,000 members — to multiply its good deeds across the land. But that program (which the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to abolish) is renowned for shoveling out money far and wide while asking few questions. The agency’s inspector general condemned it in 2014 for “shocking waste of taxpayer funds, lax oversight, unauthorized contractual commitments and widespread noncompliance with rules, regulations and sound contracting practices.”