Social Security

Serve the (Old) People

National Service or Generational Welfare?

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“Ask not what your country can do for youâ€"ask what you can do for your country.” If only John F. Kennedy could have known what his 1961 call to service would become: a rallying cry for generations of rich, middle-aged men convinced that the nation’s youth are lazy, unpatriotic ingrates.

Normally, we can shrug off such nonsense and chalk it up to nostalgia (“Ah, for the days of Camelot!”) or the positive correlation between age and irritability. But having endured a primary campaign rife with candidates and pundits of both parties yapping about how putting me to work for almost no pay is in the nation’s interest, I’ve stopped laughing. This national service fever must stop.

The most earnest (and turgid) call for national service this election cycle comes to us not from a candidate but from Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel. In a cover story last September, Stengel declared that dramatically expanding our national service programs would cure an astounding number of social ills. Stengel doesn’t want to mandate participation, but he is quite clear about who should save America: not Time’s senior staff, but young people, for whom service will prove “a countrywide rite of passage.”

In an equally earnest speech last December, a very Kennedyesque Barack Obama fleshed out his own vision of a national service utopia. His version is (relatively) benign: It isn’t supposed to be mandatory, and only parts have a whiff of “get off your asses, young punks”â€"namely, his proposal to knock $4,000 off college tuition for any student who agrees to perform 100 hours of community service annually. He does flirt with compulsion, though, setting “a goal of having middle and high schoolers contribute at least 50 hours a year to community service.”

Although Obama and Stengel steer clear of overt calls for conscription, other presidential candidates were happy to beat that drum. Former Democratic contenders Chris Dodd and John Edwards each made national service a campaign centerpiece and floated the idea of requiring public high school students to perform community chores as a prerequisite for graduation. Imagine the Democrats’ utopia: millions of uninspired teenagers skipping homework to perform involuntary servitude. Can’t you feel the civic pride?

As for Republicans, boy, are those guys about to nominate a national service militant. John McCain envisions a robust program of servitude as a crucial part of his creepy crusade to wipe out cynicism about government institutions. With Obama heading full sail toward his party’s nomination, the coming McCain-Obama contest holds great promise for those who hope to see the day when youth are expected to perform nearly free labor as a matter of federal policy.

National service proponents never really explain why young people are uniquely suited for their schemes. Rather, they rely on the common assumption that kids should be put to work because, well, they’re kids!

Nearly all the national service proposals also target a particular kind of young American: the less than wealthy. Obama’s $4,000 tuition forgiveness and other such college fee incentives are far too small to entice the rich to serve. Poor children are far more likely to seek free public education than wealthy ones, and programs such as Dodd’s or Edwards’ would force students most likely to be at the receiving end of community service into community service.

Politicians usually embed these ideas in ennobling, Kennedyesque rhetoric about serving your country. I’d be more inclined vote for a candidate who says something like this: “As president, I’ll try to put your kids to work as soon as they’re out of the house. Not for full pay, of course, or anything resembling fair compensation. When Junior hits his formative years around high school and college, my administration will dangle all kinds of incentives that amount to a fraction of what you, a fully grown adult, would get for doing the same work.”

At least you couldn’t fault him for his honesty.

Paul Thornton
is an assistant articles editor at the
Los Angeles Times editorial page.

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  1. I know everyone around me groans when I mention fascism, orwell, or anything like that, but jesus, I can’t help it when everyone is doing stuff like this.

  2. *groan*

    16-year-olds having to take care of elders is neither Fascism nor Orwellian.

    There, you happy? 🙂

  3. 16-year-olds having to take care of elders is neither Fascism nor Orwellian.

    Hmm…maybe not.

    But it’s pretty fucked up.

  4. But it’s pretty fucked up.

    No doubt.

    I just wish that people would use words so as to preserve their specific meanings. The more a person screeches “that’s Fascism!” when it isn’t, the less useful the word ‘Fascism’ becomes when describing things.

  5. Nice. Thanks for doing us a national service!

  6. The funny part of these schemes is that a generation who’d have rebelled at such an idea have suddenly found a virtue in compulsory service. Convenient, no?

  7. As high as FICA taxes are ,don’t you think people are giving enough.Being self employed I pay a rate of 14.93%,far higher than my father ever did .I’ll never collect all of that money.We all know that today’s workers are paying for the S.S. of those retired.Is it not enough to take some of their wages but also their labor?

  8. only parts have a whiff of “get off your asses, young punks”

    I was quickly skimming the article when I realized the words “whiff ” and “asses” should not be in any close proximity of each other.

  9. I still remember how appalled I was to discover that Connecticut students have to do I-forget-how-many hours of community service if they want to get their diplomas. Unpaid involuntary work is slavery, no matter what bullshit platitudes you wrap it in.

  10. The funny part of these schemes is that a generation who’d have rebelled at such an idea have suddenly found a virtue in compulsory service.

    Would have rebelled? Remember people burning Vietnam draft cards (well, remember seeing footage of it), or skipping out to Canada? The 60’s would have been far less tumultuous had there been no draft.

    The baby boomers are the biggest, shittiest scumbag hypocrites ever to walk the fucking earth. We’re talking about fucking assholes who push for endless nanny regulations from bike helmets to padded playgrounds while simultaneously blathering about how when they were kids everything was fantastic and they rode their bikes without protection and played outside with their friends with no adults until 9PM and so on.

    These fucking shits are a scourge and need to die out. Of course, they’re going to spend all our money to stay alive for a few extra years as they go. Thanks, dickheads!

  11. The baby boomers are the biggest, shittiest scumbag hypocrites ever to walk the fucking earth.

    You know, I once told my parents this (they being towards the beginning of the BB generation). They wholeheartedly agreed. I think my mom’s exact words were “yeah, we sold you out, didn’t we.”

  12. I doubt that today’s students even have the time to attempt this between classwork at home and other school-mandated obligations.

  13. The baby boomers are the biggest, shittiest scumbag hypocrites ever to walk the fucking earth.

    You may want to see an anger management specialist, Epi. And don’t skimp on the shrink.
    You have some serious issues.

  14. Anything that makes young citizens feel more like they slaves they already are will be good long-term. It’s harder to be a Young Collectivist when you’re mowing someone else’s lawn for free.

  15. Born in 1957, I am technically a boomer. However, the people that you are pissed at are generally from the first half of the boom, 1945 to 1950 or so.

    Growing up after that group was like following behind a horde of locusts.

  16. I doubt that today’s students even have the time to attempt this between classwork at home and other school-mandated obligations.

    They’re forced to squeeze it in somehow. Once, when I was working for a little daily paper and it was a super-slow news day, I wrote a little piece about how a local church was having–I forget what they called it (a “Temporary Famine” or something), but the kids would be locked inside the church for 30 hours, with plenty of games to play but nothing to eat, and at the end of the 30-hour fast they’d all gorge on pizza and this was supposed to Do Something About World Hunger.

    So I’m grilling the minister to get enough details to fill my allotted white space, and he said “Don’t forget to mention that this counts toward the students’ community-service requirements.”

    Even ignoring the whole “this is slavery” argument there’s a million other things wrong with community service, like the fact that a religious kid can meet his requirements by hanging out and playing games for a day and a half (had it been me, I’d have snacks smuggled inside my enormous purse), whereas an atheist kid gets stuck cleaning debris off the side of the road or something.

  17. Much of the call for national service must be based in an attempt to combat the me-me-menness that has developed in our society. There was a time when people would bring each other casseroles and take care of each other’s kids when the neighbor needed it. Much of the neighborhood-based safety net is gone now.

    There are at least two reasons kids are specifically targeted: kids live and eat largely for free, and, far more importantly, kids who volunteer turn in to adults who volunteer.

    Other advantages include exposing kids to people whose lives are different than their own in the formative time when they decide if they’re going to be a stockbroker or rural doctor when they grow up, building compassion for people with different life experiences, and teaching things that can’t be as easily learned anywhere else: compassion, flexibility, setting aside judgment, and so much more.

    And, frankly, volunteers will tell you that they get more out of their service than they give. It’s good for your health, it makes you a better thinker, it gives yo a chance to learn thing you might not have the chance to know about otherwise. It lets you feel good about what you leave behind in this world.

    Social engineering? I sure hope so.

  18. Compulsory service as part of a voluntary, service-related organization like the Boy Scouts is a good thing.

    Compulsory service as part of mandatory public educatoin is a terrible thing.

  19. …the coming McCain-Obama contest holds great promise for those who hope to see the day when youth are expected to perform nearly free labor as a matter of federal policy.

    While I agree this national service push is garbage, I wouldn’t call anyone offered $40 an hour in exchange for national service ($4000 for 100 hours) “nearly free labor.”

  20. “my administration will dangle all kinds of incentives that amount to a fraction of what you, a fully grown adult, would get for doing the same work.”

    Actually, by my calculations Obama’s plan would be the equivalent of $40/hr which is certainly more than any high school graduate could expect to earn in today’s market, and more than most Americans will make at any stage of their careers. Plus it may help to treat the self absorbtion most of them suffer from at that point in their lives.

  21. Plus it may help to treat the self absorbtion most of them suffer from at that point in their lives.

    Ah, but what kind of wages do you think they’ll expect once they graduate AFTER receiving $40 an hour for community service activities?

    I can foresee a significant number of employers having to turn away graduates with unrealistic wage expectations if a program like this comes to pass…

  22. Michael Pack,

    I had to pay that self-employment tax one year. It is painful to actually write that check, I was 23 and had made about 40k that year. After that I decided I might as well work for the man, so I guess the policy is effective. They don’t want individualist coming up and competeing with the established order.

    Greenspan, the great free-marketer led the commission to double the payroll taxes during the great Reagan years. I closely read his new book hoping to get his story on what ahuge tragedy it was. Instead he goes on and on about what a great example his commission was of how bipartisian groups can arrive at good decisions and how proud he was to have been leading such a successful bi-partisian group.

    This is not long after saying that two of his closest three friends in New York are David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger.

    We have all been essentially brainwashed to beware of racist policies or concepts, yet it is extremely rare to hear anyone critique Social Security payroll taxes from the racist angle. A black male from a poverty stricken household has a much lower lifespan than a white woman from a upper income household….such a black man has a life expectancy of only about 65 years of age whereas a upper income white woman or asian man can expect to live close to 80. so the black man can expect to pay the full payroll taxes(which doubled under the reagan adminstration) and are currently about 6.5%(matched again by the employer) on all income up to 97k a year(the cap was 70k only 7 years ago)….then this man can expect to die when he is supposed to start receiving income…meanwhile rich white people can collect for 20 or 30 years after having a big portion fo their income expempt from the income threshold throughout their lives…why do lower income people accept this racist program?

    waiting for the pro-SS tax crowd to call me a conspiracy nut 3,2,1…

  23. Much of the call for national service must be based in an attempt to combat the me-me-menness that has developed in our society. There was a time when people would bring each other casseroles and take care of each other’s kids when the neighbor needed it. Much of the neighborhood-based safety net is gone now.

    Because the parents of today’s me-me-me kids would call Child Services on any adult who dared tell their offspring “It’s three hours past sundown. Shouldn’t you be home now? Where are your parents?”

    There are at least two reasons kids are specifically targeted: kids live and eat largely for free,

    Because food is provided by their parents, who are perfectly free to grow a backbone and assign to their children these things called “chores.” I have no problem with a parent ordering his child to mow the lawn in front of his house, but that’s a damned sight different from the government ordering a kid to mow the lawn in front of City Hall.

    and, far more importantly, kids who volunteer turn in to adults who volunteer.

    So it’s okay to force kids into slavery if you think you’ll be more likely to get free stuff out of them later? As has been said, today’s kids are already being forced to make Social Security payments they will never, ever get back. They’ve done enough for the older, richer, more-established generation already.

  24. National service programs are voted on by people that will not be coerced into service and are inflicted upon a generation that cannot vote today.

    There is no way to paint this as anything but indentured servitude. The payscale is not relevant.

  25. The ancient Egyptians had a community volumteer system and to this day we marvel at the monumental accomplishments of those “volunteers.

    As a former young person I have to say “fuck this shit”!

  26. You may want to see an anger management specialist, Epi. And don’t skimp on the shrink.
    You have some serious issues.

    Thanks for the input. It really means a lot to me.

  27. Much of the call for national service must be based in an attempt to combat the me-me-menness that has developed in our society. There was a time when people would bring each other casseroles and take care of each other’s kids when the neighbor needed it. Much of the neighborhood-based safety net is gone now.

    My wife and I and children still do that for our neighbors and so do many of our other neighbors. But not for the assholes who keep kids’ fribees and whatnot. I think if you are nice then people will be nice to you, and if you’re an ass then people will notice you’re dead when they see lots of ants crawling in and out of your door. And I don’t see anything wrong with that, it’s primal human-ess. There must be a cost to antisocial behavior or society will break down.

    There are at least two reasons kids are specifically targeted: kids live and eat largely for free, and, far more importantly, kids who volunteer turn in to adults who volunteer.

    Volunteer, yes. But do you willfully ignore that being forced to “volunteer” for something is not volunteerism and will likely have the opposite effect that you are hoping for?

    Also, who lets their kids’ live for free? Nobody I know. They’re mowing lawns, doing recycling, cleaning their rooms, getting good grades. That’s work.

    teaching things that can’t be as easily learned anywhere else: compassion, flexibility, setting aside judgment, and so much more.

    If not easily learned, where did you learn it? Were you forced to work for some old scumbag who aliented himself from all family and friends decades ago? No, you learned where my children are learning it, interacting with their familiy, friends and in their communities.

  28. Betty,
    I have a negibor based safety net, it comes from helping them out whenever I can(yardwork, cookies, BBQ’s) over the years, playing and supervising our kids as they play together etc.

    If you want to teach kids something other than “me-me-meness” would you force them to give stuff away? no you’d teach them by example. The government can’t teach this by example it can only attempt to teach by force and that is not going to work. Everyone with a brain knows it will actually work to the negative by increasing reliance on the government to take care of lots of stuff and to expect the governemnt to rob from some people to pay the “volunteers”. The great talent in this system will become the ability to write grant request and lobbying techniques to get “good charities” funded with more money. Charities will come to be judged not on how much they help people in the long term, but on the marketing usefelness for whatever politician can get his name attached to the project. Total corruption of the social fabric ensues. Your libertarian purity score is about -5 if you can’t see these truths.

  29. I think if you sign up for medicare and social security you should sign away all property and cash back to the system, just like if you were going on medicaid. It’s for the fucking poor, so if the state is going to foster their lazy asses they shouldn’t have luxury homes in south florida att he same time.

  30. And, frankly, volunteers will tell you that they get more out of their service than they give. It’s good for your health, it makes you a better thinker, it gives yo a chance to learn thing you might not have the chance to know about otherwise. It lets you feel good about what you leave behind in this world.

    Kids who are forced are not volunteers. Using a word that means “by choice” to refer to something forced is lying.

    Maybe we should force you to volunteer, Betty? How about that? Maybe as an outhouse cleaner, or as a firefighter?

  31. “Compulsory volunteering” is pretty damned Orwellian. Doesn’t quite have the snappiness of the original three, but real life didn’t have Eric Blair’s editor.

  32. John McCain envisions a robust program of servitude as a crucial part of his creepy crusade to wipe out cynicism about government institutions.

    Wow. Talk about unintended consequences. Make every teenager in the U.S. do time working for a government agency. The problem is, working inside the government doesn’t “wipe out cynicism about government institutions.” If anything, it does the opposite. Think of the effect of a new generation of voters who have, in their formative years, been involuntarily exposed to the reality of government bureaucracy.

    This may actually be the best idea to come out of the 2008 campaign.

    Imagine the Democrats’ utopia: millions of uninspired teenagers skipping homework to perform involuntary servitude.

    And I bet they’ll make them join the union, too.

    Much of the call for national service must be based in an attempt to combat the me-me-menness that has developed in our society.

    Except that the people calling aren’t the ones who will be serving. How does volunteering someone else combat “me-ness?”

    There was a time when people would bring each other casseroles and take care of each other’s kids when the neighbor needed it. Much of the neighborhood-based safety net is gone now.

    Not where I live. We’re on a list to deliver a meal to a member of our church right now. And the places community assistance efforts have vanished, it’s largely because the government has stepped in to provide it and the community can’t compete.

    And, frankly, volunteers will tell you that they get more out of their service than they give. It’s good for your health, it makes you a better thinker, it gives you a chance to learn things you might not have the chance to know about otherwise. It lets you feel good about what you leave behind in this world.

    Betty, amen. I’m a lifelong volunteer, s are my grown kids. I also support the volunteer programs we have at church to give our community youth a chance to learn the same lessons.

    But being coerced to do community service as a graduation requirement isn’t “volunteering” and doesn’t carry the same intrinsic rewards. These young people are more likely to develop the “never volunteer” attitudes you see in many former military draftees.

    Other advantages include exposing kids to people whose lives are different than their own in the formative time when they decide if they’re going to be a stockbroker or rural doctor

    RTA. Future stockbrokers and doctors aren’t the target audience. “Nearly all the national service proposals also target a particular kind of young American: the less than wealthy.”

  33. I think if you sign up for medicare and social security you should sign away all property and cash back to the system, just like if you were going on medicaid. It’s for the fucking poor, . . .

    Perhaps you should take some time to actually learn what SS, Medicare, and Medicaid actually are before posting angry missives.

    While SS and Medicare are certainly fucked up, they have never been means tested (e.g., “for the poor”).

  34. The cynical side of me thinks maybe this WOULD be a good idea after all: make all of America’s non-rich kids do a stint of unpaid forced labor picking up trash, mowing government lawns and keeping the sidewalks clear in the winter, and maybe THAT will cure them of any “government is your friend” delusions they’ve got.

  35. I wouldn’t call anyone offered $40 an hour in exchange for national service ($4000 for 100 hours) “nearly free labor.”

    Except it’s $4K by-and-by when the “volunteer” gets around to going to college. Given current college costs plus tuition creep, they’ll be lucky to actually earn $4/hour.

  36. Full disclosure, as this seems to be a conversation I’ll try to put down after this comment but probably won’t succeed: I lead volunteers, professionally. I am a volunteer and I give my time to organizations that support people who are sick, kids interested in art, the environment, and volunteers.

    The point is to build a sustainable system, one that lifts us all up and continues to do so. I don’t know where this idea came from that national service only benefits the elderly. As much as it’s not OK that a famine-off counts as that service, it’s great that most kids engaged in compulsory service are able to pick from a variety of interests to help out: combating hunger for real, animal welfare, homelessness issues, and, if they, choose, elder care or mowing the lawn in front of city hall–activities that have impact outside their little bubbles of existence.

    Fact of the matter is that none of us would be sitting where we are if it weren’t for volunteers working outside of their own self-interest, whether informally or formally. Compulsory community or national service is not, technically, volunteerism, but it fosters that spirit that will lift us up.

    Not to mention that a good argument can be made that we dismiss volunteerism as valid and important work because we perceive it as “women’s work.”

    The good news for folks who feel like I do is that this young generation is shaping up to be the most service- and civic engagement-oriented yet, no matter how much us 30+ folks balk at it and tell them they’re lazy.

  37. Baby boomers really are a bunch of spinless whiny fucks. I blame them for the me-me-meness. When they were young, their mantra was “trust no one over thirty.” Now that that are retiring, they seem to want to criminalize anything that doesn’t go their way and now they want young slaves to take care of them.

  38. Ah, I should have paid more attention to the surroundings–I linked here from another blog and didn’t realize.

    Libertarians.

    Smell ya later.

  39. Kumbaya, Betty, Kumbaya

  40. Betty is funny. She has zero problem with forcing people to do the things she wants them to do, no matter what their wishes are. I can only hope someone does the same to her.

  41. I’ve worked with many foreign nationals over the last two decades. This includes both Russians and Israelis that have peformed compulsory national service. They do not say:

    Compulsory community or national service is not, technically, volunteerism, but it fosters that spirit that will lift us up.

    As far as I can tell, if fosters nothing more than a lot of animosity.

  42. Betty,

    You and your bolded sentences frighten me. I hope my children and I never encounter you.

  43. I think its a bad idea to expose young people to governmental bullshit first-hand. Yes, some may be turned off by it and develop a more libertarian outlook, but I fear most would simply learn how to work the system.

  44. “Fact of the matter is that none of us would be sitting where we are if it weren’t for volunteers working outside of their own self-interest, whether informally or formally.”

    Actually that is not a “fact” but merely your opinion.

  45. The broad generalizations here about an entire generation of individuals is breathtaking,
    and not in the good way. It’s ironic that “spinless [sic] whiny fucks” are calling their elders
    “spinless whiny fucks.” I wonder what they would call the generation that actually created many of our social programs? Besides “dead” I mean.

  46. Poor ed, he must be a baby boomer and he’s sensitive. Too fucking bad.

  47. ” I wonder what they would call the generation that actually created many of our social programs? ”

    I’d say “socialists” would do quite nicely.

  48. If the second coming of the Great Depression is truly on us, there were worse programs in the New Deal than CCC, at least in terms of don’t-starve make-work.

    If the government sets a minimum-wage floor by a national (voluntary) CCC-like program, there doesn’t need to be a minimum-wage law… hmm…

  49. Poor ed, he must be a baby boomer and he’s sensitive. Too fucking bad.

    Yeah it couldn’t just be because blaming shit on baby boomers is plain stupid. Nah.

  50. Libertarians.

    Smell ya later.

    I guess Betty’s leaving us till she can return with some servitude cops to point some guns at us till we understand how we’re being “lifted up.”

  51. it makes you a better thinker….

    Oh I don’t know Betty….it doesn’t seem to have helped you much.

    Smell ya later.

  52. I can’t believe that replaced “Goodbye.”

  53. “The funny part of these schemes is that a generation who’d have rebelled at such an idea have suddenly found a virtue in compulsory service. Convenient, no?”

    Rather than “get off yer asses, punks”, a national service program is more about “get over your goddam self” campaign.

    I think it is a frank admission by baby boomers that they failed as parents and realized it ten years later when their kids started having kids.

  54. I wouldn’t call anyone offered $40 an hour in exchange for national service ($4000 for 100 hours) “nearly free labor.”

    From the article –

    … his proposal to knock $4,000 off college tuition for any student who agrees to perform 100 hours of community service annually.

    You do recognize the difference between annual requirements and total requirements don’t you?

  55. “The cynical side of me thinks maybe this WOULD be a good idea after all: make all of America’s non-rich kids do a stint of unpaid forced labor picking up trash, mowing government lawns and keeping the sidewalks clear in the winter, and maybe THAT will cure them of any “government is your friend” delusions they’ve got.”

    Agreed. This was my first reaction. But my cynical side believes that this will still not cure them.

  56. “a goal of having middle and high schoolers contribute at least 50 hours a year to community service.”

    I often laugh at the exaggeration equating all public schools with prisons. I might have to stop doing that.

  57. “Smell ya later.” You know, Betty, if you find Nelson Muntz to be quoteworthy, consider the real possibility that you lack the intellect to be trusted with the charge of any living creature more complex than an alga. Seriously.

  58. Betty says “I lead volunteers professionally”
    and she wants to pass laws requiring more “volunteers”. Wow she is really selfless, I don’t think I have ever heard of sucha altruistic soul.

    I was thinking, if two years of mandatory national service doesn’t get those slackers to respect the grandness of our collective and the sacredness of the motherland, then maybe we could up the commitment to 10 years. This would have the added benefit of helping young families delay child rearing some as well. If we are going to get the world population down to 500 million we need to stop having so many babies. Once we have 10 or 15 years of mandatory volunteering I am sure we can get people to understand that thier sacrfices will be for their own good.

    To all the jerks, lay off Betty, I run prisons professionally and I am in favor of stricter drug laws so I can get more prisoners to rehabilitate.

    I can sympathize with Betty and her wonderful ideas on social engineering.

  59. $4,000 tuition credit for 100 hours work is $40 an hour, if tax’s were involved call it $60 an hour, where do I sign up?

  60. It won’t cure them. Once the young ones are completely out of their parents protection we can use more intensive brainwashing techniques similar to what we use to train our military. we’ve been working on this stuff for years, any anger they have will be re-directed at “non-volunteer citizens”, the selfish within their groups who make their life more difficult and priveleged upper middle income landowners who think they can do anything they want. You know, the breeders who don’t give enough of their paychecks to “volunteers”.

  61. $4,000 tuition credit for 100 hours work is $40 an hour, if tax’s were involved call it $60 an hour, where do I sign up?

    Is reading comprehension no longer taught in our public schools?

  62. It is odd, but getting rid of Betty is one of those rare occasions when I am actually proud of all the reason commentators and feel some intellectual kinship with them. Thanks guys.

  63. As a 22-year-old, I’d like to suggest that all 21-year-olds perform two years of mandatory service. Surely that is sensible.

  64. I’m interested in getting a security contract with the national volunteering programs. Some of the volunteers might try to run off at night. I’d be willing to use my security company to help the government make sure no one escapes from the volunteer labor camps. This would have the side benefit of helping giving good jobs to Iraqi veterans with PTSD!

  65. I am sick of seeing MTV make all their extravagent profits off of reality TV shows. My company could install cameras in all of the camps where we could film the 21 year olds activities, this would be needed for security purposes anyway, but we’d also be able to create some highly rated reality based public TV! The profits from this investment could be put back into more volunteering camps and more security for our youth at the camps.

  66. Compulsory community or national service is not, technically, volunteerism, but it fosters that spirit that will lift us up.

    In case anyone mistakenly thinks it has anything to do with volunteerism, our local schools have compulsory community service, and voluntary hours (put in through church or scouts) DO NOT COUNT! I don’t think it hurt my kids, learning to be cynical about the government is a good thing.

  67. A step in the right direction is the National Call to Service program. It allows people to join the military for a 15-month active-duty commitment.

    The problem, of course, is that you are on the hook for reserve duty for the next 8 freakin’ years. Shorten that to 4 years and maybe people would sign up. Oh yeah, there’s also that whole “uncontrollable lust for war” thing our presidents tend to have.

  68. Hot off the presses:

    Windham [Maine] students may be required to complete 40 hours of community service to graduate, although feelings around town are mixed if it’s appropriate to enforce good deeds.

    Jake Noble, 78, said forcing people to do community service is supposed to be a punishment, not an act of compassion.

    “What I think a lot of people are missing is that it’s not volunteering, it’s community service,” said Allison Johnston, 18. … “It’s 10 hours a year,” she said. She doesn’t think that’s a lot to ask and it will help improve Windham.

    Interesting to see the geezer get it while the liberal brat is stuck on stupid.

  69. stuart,
    I really think your kids ability to think critically about governemnt is evidence of fine parenting. I fear that the less well off kids would not be as robust.

    There is something to be said for the vaccine affect though. I went to a horrible public school in Alabama for first grade and it certainly didn’t turn me into a statist.

  70. See, people like Betty are one of the many reasons I’ve grown skeptical of libertarianism. Let me draw some parallels with communism (yeah, yeah, go ahead and drink…) – communism would work great, if everyone were truly interested in the common good, and agreed what the common good was, and was willing to unselfishly work for it. Except that they don’t, and they aren’t.

    Libertarianism, likewise, would work wonderfully if everyone were interested in liberty, and agreed on what constituted liberty and was respectful of others’ liberty. Except that they aren’t, either. There are people who don’t value liberty and private property (at least *your* liberty and private property), and have incentives to take them away from you. And, according to “Libertarian Principles”, there really isn’t a damn thing you can do about them, until it’s too late (see Betty).

    You hear a lot of talk about our founding fathers and the Federalist Papers, and the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, and how these things were instrumental to securing liberty. What gets left out frequently is the most important thing of all they did to secure their liberty. Namely, THEY PICKED UP THEIR FUCKING GUNS AND SHOT THE FUCKERS WHO WERE TRYING TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM THEM, THEIR RIGHTS AND LIBERTARIAN PRINCIPLES BE DAMNED!!

    Until libertarians accept that that’s the only way anyone has ever secured and kept their liberty, all the hot air about the NAP and libertarian principles amounts to pissing into the ocean. Prepare to be at the mercy of the Bettys of the world.

  71. I had to complete a community service requirement to graduate from the college-prep program I was enrolled in at a public high school. They eventually dropped the requirement for me because I worked as an office aid for an hour a day to avoid having a class that period. Lesson learned.

  72. I had a service requirment to graduate high school and could pick from a variaties of schools/hospitals etc. I picked a high school nearby, taught algebra and history to freshmen and spohmores, puffed weed at lunch with others int he same program, taught more history, and ended up going out with one of my students.

    best class I had in high school!

  73. Why limit this to the kids? Adults and old-timers should be more civic-minded as well.

    Here’s my proposal — any able-bodied person must complete 100 hours of community service each year in order to either collect a social security check or claim the mortgage interest tax deduction. Two hundred hours if you want both.

  74. Pig mannix,
    Not a bad point. We need to shoot people like Betty…oh well, I’m going to daydream that everyone in the world is like me…or hotter, harder working female versions of me.

  75. I think only Steve Chapman and Betty should be required to go around and install ignition lock breathylzers on the cars of all public officials. They should have to do this for two months out of every year as part of their community service.

  76. the full payroll taxes(which doubled under the reagan adminstration[sic]) and are currently about 6.5%(matched again by the employer) on all income up to 97k a year

    I wish they were only this bad. FICA taxes are currently 7.65% plus another 7.65% “from the employer”. 2.9% is due on all income, with no upper limit. The other 12.4% has a cap, but that cap is one hundred and two fucking thousand dollars this year.

  77. Dr K is right,

    I used to just say 15%, because you know that portion paid by the employer comes out of the employees in either

    1)decreased pay
    2) increased costs on all the goods one buys
    3) increased workload throguh reluctance to hire more help.

    Democrats have a hard time understanding that the absolute poorest people pay what amounts to 15% in payroll taxes on every penny they make from the first hour of minimum wage work while the rich guys like Bill Clinton pay about 2.9%. Meanwhile they keep upping that cap to make sure I can’t get too far ahead of the game. The increase in that cap alone during the bush years amounts to a much bigger tax increase than any namby pamby nominal cuts he may have given us.

  78. I wonder if the “little angels” will have to pee in a cup for the honor of serving the baby boomers.

    /wouldn’t want any dope fiends being forced to volunteer, they belong in jail where they volunteer to work be slaves for the privately run incarceration industrial complex.

  79. Gabe Harris – “emocrats have a hard time understanding that the absolute poorest people pay what amounts to 15% in payroll taxes on every penny they make from the first hour of minimum wage work while the rich guys like Bill Clinton pay about 2.9%.”

    excellent point – exactly why there should not be an upper limit on the payroll tax. I’m glad you agree.

  80. There’s a Christopher Buckley book out where one of the characters wants to get rid of social security by euthanizing old people. Not my preferred solution, since I’m a little uncomfortably close myself, but an interesting proposal (joking).

  81. I would like to respond to Elemenope that all fascism starts off nice-sounding, saying people should work together for the common good and all that crap, until later the policies go awry and they decide the only way to maintain is, paradoxically, to go to war. With the exception of Hitler, who touted race war by Aryans against the world from the start, all fascist dictators (I refer to any early speeches made by Il Duce) have started out complaining of selfishness and how the people aren’t cooperating like they should, and how they’ll work to bring everyone together to achieve “great national purposes”. Not saying it will happen here, but compulsory service, even if it’s just helping out old people, is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.

  82. Betty,
    You mention that kids eat and house for free, and seem to want to remedy the situation. I’ve got a great proposal to this end: Legalize child labor. This might seem wrong, especially if you think about minor miners, but it’s sure as hell better than state-imposed slavery. And,yes, whenever you are forced to work against your will under threat of force, IT IS SLAVERY. Personally, whenever I hear a social engineering type spout their plans for solving “social problems”, I make sure I’ve got all my guns where I can access them easily, just in case the agents come.

  83. And let us do it the way it was done in old Russia! Send them to Siberia for twenty years for service. They learned what duty to one’s country meant.

  84. Z,
    I think you’re missing the point here.

  85. Born in 1957, I am technically a boomer. However, the people that you are pissed at are generally from the first half of the boom, 1945 to 1950 or so.

    Anyone find it interesting that the good ol’ days of a parent staying at home attending to their children’s every need produced a generation like the baby boomers? How is this an ideal time in American history when it produced so much turmoil in the offspring?

  86. Betty said:
    Ah, I should have paid more attention to the surroundings–I linked here from another blog and didn’t realize.

    People who object to slavery on principle rather than on consequentialist grounds.

    Smell ya later.

    Fixed.

  87. Compulsory community or national service is not, technically, volunteerism, but it fosters that spirit that will lift us up.

    /me tries to remember the last time he heard ‘slavery is okay as long as it benefits the group’.

  88. You hear a lot of talk about our founding fathers and the Federalist Papers, and the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, and how these things were instrumental to securing liberty. What gets left out frequently is the most important thing of all they did to secure their liberty. Namely, THEY PICKED UP THEIR FUCKING GUNS AND SHOT THE FUCKERS WHO WERE TRYING TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM THEM, THEIR RIGHTS AND LIBERTARIAN PRINCIPLES BE DAMNED!!

    That, and your whole post, is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Yes, they used guns. But they used their guns to attack people who were in the process of, or were threatening to attack them. What libertarian principle does that action violate?

    Absolutely zero.

    Another problem with your comment is that the “Founding Fathers” weren’t defending freedom. They still had slaves, and they made no provisions for the property rights of women. Then when some people tried to defend themselves from their tax collectors (I believe this is called the Whiskey Rebellion) they marshaled a gigantic army to go and shoot them. They weren’t defending freedom, so your point is really sort of moot as regards that particular example.

    Finally, what the hell do you think happens without ideas? People have to have ideas in order to act. The american revolution came out of the Enlightenment, not the other way around. If you think you can have any kind of freedom without the widespread acceptance of the idea, try going to Tibet and shooting your way to freedom through the Chinese military.

    Not so easy that way, is it?

  89. That, and your whole post, is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Yes, they used guns. But they used their guns to attack people who were in the process of, or were threatening to attack them. What libertarian principle does that action violate?

    And why were those people threatening to attack them?

    Because they were in violation of the law!

    If Betty gets her law, and you refuse to comply with it, I strongly suspect you’ll have “people”, primarily dressed in uniforms, looking to attack you, too. So the distinction here is – uh, what?

    Another problem with your comment is that the “Founding Fathers” weren’t defending freedom. They still had slaves, and they made no provisions for the property rights of women. Then when some people tried to defend themselves from their tax collectors (I believe this is called the Whiskey Rebellion) they marshaled a gigantic army to go and shoot them. They weren’t defending freedom, so your point is really sort of moot as regards that particular example.

    *yawn*

    Freedom is a relative concept, not an absolute one. Any time you claim a right, you’re restricting someone’s freedom. You’re claim to a right to life is a claim against someone else’s freedom to shoot you. You’re claim to a right of property is a claim against someone else’s freedom to use it. If absolute freedom prevailed, anyone else who took the idea into their head would be free to kill you for any reason, or no reason at all. How free would you like to be?

    Considering that at the time of the revolution, slavery was practiced in most of the world, and women didn’t have property rights, either, the colonists were indeed fighting for freedom, with respect to how the concept of freedom was understood and implemented at the time.

    Finally, what the hell do you think happens without ideas? People have to have ideas in order to act.

    And if they don’t act as a consequence of those ideas, what the hell good are the ideas?

    The american revolution came out of the Enlightenment, not the other way around. If you think you can have any kind of freedom without the widespread acceptance of the idea, try going to Tibet and shooting your way to freedom through the Chinese military.

    I’d point out that at the time of the American revolution, less than 20% of the population supported it. It fact, a substantial part of the population was vehemently against it, and left the country when it was obviously going to succeed. See “Canada”. Somehow, the revolutionary forces still managed to shoot their way through the British military, 80% opposition notwithstanding.

  90. The argument for National Service in a nutshell: “you’re old, and the world owes you a living…”

  91. I think your article really needs a correction, because there is an error in fact (not in opinion, I agree with you that these program ideas are wasteful at best and coercive at worst). During his little tour around the South, McCain was specifically asked if he favored any national volunteer programs, and he said that while he would expand the (useless) Peace Corps, he does not believe in any programs that REQUIRE anyone to “volunteer.” He specifically mentioned the uneven and unjust conscription in Vietnam as to why no service program should ever mandate participation.

  92. I’d rather be drafted into the US Army during a war, than have to put up with the nonsense Betty and her supporters are spouting off about.

    Screw you and your little red comrades, Betty.

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