If ever you wanted to see the inner workings of an unfocused mind, particularly one plugged into the zeitgeist of the country's momentarily dominant political ethos, you could do worse than reading the output of California's most overrated columnist, the L.A. Times' Steve Lopez. Here Lopez makes the following assertions about National Service, apparently without irony:
* FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps "kept service strong and unemployment low during the Great Depression." (The Corps was created in 1933; unemployment averaged 18 percent for the ensuing six years, and was higher in 1938-40 than it was in 1937.)
* The California Conservation Corps, with significant goosing from an Obamatastic federal government, might just help the Golden State "become the capital of the clean energy industry, using service agencies to recruit and train kids beginning in middle school and high school," which will help them "be linked along the way with clean energy employers who might later hire them."
* Even though "it's a huge cost," and the federal government is "throwing money around like there's no tomorrow" (as Lopez approvingly quotes once-and-future California governor Jerry Brown), that just makes the case for AmeriCorps that much stronger in a world of Wall Street bailouts. "If there's money for them," Lopez concludes, "then why not for our youth, now that they're lined up and ready to march?"
To paraphrase reason Contributing Editor Julian Sanchez from five years back, if the kids are indeed "lined up and ready to march," I'm pretty sure it ain't my tax dollars that's preventing their little legs from stomping in unison. And as Paul Thornton pointed out in our pages this spring, candidate Obama spoke of "a goal of having middle and high schoolers contribute at least 50 hours a year to community service." Also, 18-year-old women under an Obama administration can look forward to the patriotic pleasures of mandatory "selective" service.
There's a l-o-n-g list of Obama National Service ideas up over at The New American. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, called for "universal civilian service" in his book of two years ago. Meanwhile, some are floating the idea that Obama appoint ex-rival John McCain as Service Czar (a prospect I'd put money on), and Arianna Huffington, for one, is keeping the president-elect's feet to the fire on this, one of his most oft-repeated campaign promises. "Obama must turn his words into action and follow through on his promise to emulate FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, JFK's Peace Corps, and LBJ's Vista," Huffington wrote today, adding: "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."