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Rahm Emanuel: Time for a new contract with America.

Rahm Emanuel is widely rumored to be Barack Obama's choice for White House Chief of Staff. As a Chicagoan, I've seen a fair amount of news coverage of this local congressman. The picture that emerges is remarkably consistent: very smart, very substantive, and very partisan -- as one person put it, a man with a sharp mind and sharp elbows.

I doubt that Obama could find a more competent chief of staff, someone who would be part administrative director, part policy wonk, and part Karl Rove.

We know a lot about Barack Obama's agenda, but what about Rahm Emanuel's? He laid out his "Plan for America" in a 2006 book with Bruce Reed.

Excerpt from Emanuel and Reed's The Plan/Big Ideas for America:

America has plenty of unfinished business, and all of the reforms we'd like to see — some of which appear in this book — would make for a very long list. But if we're going to turn the country around, we need a bold agenda that can be counted off on one hand:

1. A new social contract — universal citizen service, universal college access, universal retirement savings, and universal children's health care — that makes clear what you can do for your country and what your country can do for you.

2. A return to fiscal responsibility and an end to corporate welfare as we know it.

3. Tax reform to help those who aren't wealthy build wealth.

4. A new strategy to use all America's strengths to win the war on terror.

5. A Hybrid Economy that cuts America's gasoline consumption in half over the next decade.

THE PLAN

A new social contract, or what you can do for your country and what your country can do for you

The economy of the twenty-first century demands new skills and will require all of us to live up to new responsibilities. We believe that four mutual obligations that follow should represent the first terms of a new contract between the people and their country.

Universal Citizen Service

If you forget everything else you read in these pages, please remember this: The Plan starts with you. If your leaders aren't challenging you to do your part, they aren't doing theirs. We need a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us by establishing, for the first time, an ethic of universal citizen service.

Universal College Access

We must make a college degree as universal as a high school diploma. More than ever, America's success depends on what we can learn. We have an education system built in the last century, with a school year left over from the century before that. In this new era, college will be the greatest engine of opportunity for our society and our economy. Just as Abraham Lincoln gave land grants to endow our great public universities, we will give the states tuition grants to make college free for those willing to work, serve, and excel.

Universal Retirement Savings

From now on, every job ought to come with a 401(k). An aging society cannot afford to keep saving less and risking more. We need new means to create wealth, based on the needs and responsibilities of twenty-first-century employees and employers. Employers should be required to offer 401(k)s, and workers will be enrolled unless they choose otherwise. If they switch jobs, they can take these accounts with them. When their paycheck goes up, so will their savings. Instead of a work force in which only half the workers have retirement savings plans, every American will have one.

Universal Children's Health Care . . .

A return to fiscal responsibility and an end to corporate welfare as we know it . . .

Tax reform to help those who aren't wealthy build wealth . . .

A new strategy to win the war on terror . . .

A hybrid economy that cuts America's gasoline use in half . . .

Ask what you can do for your country

The premier component of the new social contract The Plan promotes between citizens and their government is universal citizen service. . . .

John Kennedy was right: A nation is defined not by what it does for its citizens but by what it asks of them. If your leaders aren't challenging you to do your part, they aren't doing theirs. We need a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us by establishing for the first time an ethic of universal citizen service. All Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 should be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic civil defense training and community service. This is not a draft, nor is it military. Young people will be trained not as soldiers, but simply as citizens who understand their responsibilities in the event of a natural disaster, an epidemic or a terrorist attack. Universal citizen service will bring Americans of every background together to make America safer and more united in common purpose.

Chief of staffs don't set policies, presidents do. Nonetheless, both Obama and Emanuel have proposals to use universal service for young people to remake American society, though their plans differ. If Emanuel ends up running the White House staff, one should expect a universal service proposal that is, at a minimum, competently worked out and well presented.

DG:
{We must make a college degree as universal as a high school diploma. }

Foolish. most folks don't need or want a college degree. Expand that to include community college vocation training, and I agree. Rahm is a prisoner of his upper-middle class Jewish cultural outlook.
11.5.2008 1:07pm
calmom:
Will the universal citizen service be known as the "Obama Youth".

Who do these guys think they are?
11.5.2008 1:10pm
Vermando (mail) (www):
Ah yes, all those things I didn't take seriously the past few months, now we get to see which ones they were actually serious about.

I hope this 3 months is not one of them.
11.5.2008 1:11pm
guest:
I would agree with the above commenter. The idea that 'everyone' needs a college degree will only delay the time at which those obviously ill-suited to gain knowledge within the ivory walls can start working and being productive members of society.

The rest of the 'contract' reads like a utopian wish list whereby the government controls service, college access, healthcare and retirement and whatever else might be added on later. The policy implications of such a wish list will be very enlightening in the coming months.
11.5.2008 1:13pm
DangerMouse:
Why is anyone surprised by the quest for universal citizen service? Haven't any of you read Liberal Fascism yet?
11.5.2008 1:16pm
Donny Darko:
Let's hope they come for the children of libertarians who supported Obama first.
11.5.2008 1:18pm
Very Scared:
One thing on which I'm willing to bet a month's salary: Obama is going to reinstate the draft under cover of some type of "universal service act."

This will be very easy if there is a new attack on the US; in the meantime they'll lay the groundwork with something like this.

Honestly, as much as it will upset me to see this happen, I'll have a hard time feeling sympathy for people who should have seen this coming.
11.5.2008 1:21pm
Doc W (mail):
Scary stuff. I'd almost prefer that Obama push the whole agenda right from the start, which will help to organize whatever opposition might still exist to Big Brother in this country. But how'd we get here? Bush and the neocons. When I think about the bright prospects that existed for this country 8 years ago and how Bush trashed the limited government, ficscal responsibility and humble foreign policy platform he ran on, and what his monstrous about-face has wrought...ok, it's best for my stomach that I don't think about it too much.
11.5.2008 1:24pm
Nunzio:
I plan to volunteer to serve as a board member of Freddie Mac, just like Rahm did.

Universal health care for children is a good idea. Universal college is a very bad idea. To be successful in most jobs, college is unnecessary. And with the advent of continuing education, especially through the internet, the non-economic benefits of college are easily attainable.

This mandatory service idea is just stupid.
11.5.2008 1:31pm
The Unbeliever:
A new social contract, or what you can do for your country and what your country can do for you


WTF, can't he even get his hero worship right? Kennedy said ASK NOT what your country can do for you! He didn't say "try to get something out of your country by promising universal service in return".

Why mangle the sentiment now? What "country doing for you" program is so important that he wants to toss Kennedy's formulation out the window, while still borrowing from its mystic?
11.5.2008 1:32pm
EricPWJohnson (mail):
Ahhhhh

Let em try to pass the gazillion dollar college for everybody and mandatory boot camp

Love to see the MSMers spin this one and the enlightened here
11.5.2008 1:33pm
The Unbeliever:
(Preview is your friend. "mystic" should be "mystique" in my above post; I doubt anyone is trying to get a hold of Kennedy's favorite astrologer/palm reader.)
11.5.2008 1:34pm
wfjag:

We must make a college degree as universal as a high school diploma.

In some places, 25% of the students don't finish High School. And, judging by some interviewees, it appears possible to receive a H.S. diploma and not be able to read simple English (small town newspaper level, not the NYT), write a grammatical three sentence paragraph, or do simple math. Maybe we should fix the basics, first.
11.5.2008 1:37pm
FWB (mail):
First off, we have already made it a requirement that all universities receiving fed funds have to admit anyone who wishes to attend. In response we have 65% flunkout rates at many universities.

Second, when "everyone" has a college degree, college degrees will have the value of the HS diploma. What's next? universal post graduate degrees

Government mandates, programs and entitlements have destroyed work ethics and volunteerism in the US. I'd like to see these folks be the first to volunteer to do "service" for their country. Sure sounds like AH or Stalin to me. If government hadn't made everyone think they wer entitled to things by virtue of being born, we might not have the problems we have. College students today often have the expectation that grades, and a great job, should be given to them without any effort on their part.

An interesting point made about the "Bush" versus "Kerry" states was that "Bush" states out give to charity when compared with the "Kerry" states. Kind of a pattern there. But then it will be OK when the government takes your hard earned money and spreads it around. Reminds me that taking money from one private party and giving to another violates something in the Constitution, like the 5th. Read Cooley, Tucker, Story, and the other early writers on the Constitution. But then we know better today cause we're so much smarter than those hicks from the 19th century.
11.5.2008 1:38pm
Randy R. (mail):
DG:: "Foolish. most folks don't need or want a college degree."

I don't think the plan is to require people to attend college, only make is available if they want to. Since college is generally available to most any one now anyway, I dont' see this as a huge expansion. I agree it should be expanded to include trade school, though.
11.5.2008 1:39pm
DiverDan (mail):

We must make a college degree as universal meaningless as a high school diploma.


This is undoubtedly what he meant, given how Democratic "reforms" have dumbed-down American public education during the last half-century. (For anyone who cares to dispute this, try and see how many current high school seniors have the reading comprehension to read an 8th Grade McGuffey Reader from the 19th Century.
11.5.2008 1:41pm
Boose:
Man, I need to learn how to avoid politics for the next 4-8 years.
11.5.2008 1:42pm
FWB (mail):
Please show us where in the Constitution the government is granted the authority to require reirement programs, etc. It's not the general Welfare clause cause that applies ONLY to the body-politic the United States of America. It's not the commerce clause, cause the commerce clause covers only foreign nations, states, and indian tribes, and very obviously leaves out "the People". It's not the preamble cause those are just statements of purpose not authorities delegated. Oh yeah, it must be between the lines where only "special
persons can find it.
11.5.2008 1:42pm
von Neumann (mail):
Isn't Universal Citizen Service another name for Involuntary Servitude?
11.5.2008 1:45pm
Anon #319:
I recognize that the draft has been held to be constitutional, but aren't there some 13th Amendment problems with a universal service plan? Anybody?
11.5.2008 1:46pm
Donny:
No one is proposing a universal requirement of service. They are proposing the creation of universal service options offered in exchange for college tuition assistance, etc.

If you guys are going to be an effective opposition party, you need to start addressing the actual proposals, instead of your own paranoid nightmares.
11.5.2008 1:50pm
DangerMouse:
I recognize that the draft has been held to be constitutional, but aren't there some 13th Amendment problems with a universal service plan? Anybody?

Liberals own the courts in this country. Do you seriously believe some words in the 13th amendment are going to stop them? They wanted to gut the second amendment. They'll gut the 13th.

Rahm Emmanuel wants to enslave all the children that survive the abortion policies of the Infanticide Candidate.
11.5.2008 1:51pm
Wayne Jarvis:
Is there currently something preventing access to a college education? What is wrong with the guaranteed and subsidized loan programs?
11.5.2008 1:51pm
Mike S..:
If universal college becomes the norm, many jobs that now require a college degree will require a Master's. For many jobs, the requirement of a college degree is not because of the material learned, but because of the sorting function provided first by the admissions office and then by the patience and work required to earn the degree.
11.5.2008 1:53pm
JohnK (mail):
"I recognize that the draft has been held to be constitutional, but aren't there some 13th Amendment problems with a universal service plan? Anybody?"


No one has ever tried to draft people for civilian service. The got away with doing it for the military because the military and the national defense get so much deference from the courts. But a universal mandate to serve in a civilian capacity has never been tried. I think it might run into serious Constitutional problems. But they will try to get away from that by saying that it is "in return for recieving government benefits".

Honestly, the Obama Youth programs scare the hell out of me. I don't have children but if I did, and I may have them in the next four years but won't be old enough to have to join the Obama Youth, I would practice civil disobedience and refuse to send my children. I think there would be millions like me. The draft was different. People feel the military is necessary and were willing to do their part, especially when there is a war on. But, no way will people be coerce into BS liberal community indocrination. If they are, then they are not worthy of their freedoms.
11.5.2008 1:56pm
JohnK (mail):
"No one is proposing a universal requirement of service. They are proposing the creation of universal service options offered in exchange for college tuition assistance, etc."

Obama has talked about community service being required to graduate from all public schools down to middle schools. It is the Obama Youth.

Time will tell. I would however assume that if he did that you would object?
11.5.2008 1:58pm
Sarcastro (www):
Never aim high! You'll never hit that pie-in-the-sky you're trying for!

Also, the thing you'll never hit is bad.

The lesson is, never try.
11.5.2008 1:59pm
Talkosaurus:
I like how when a right-leaning, smart but ultra-partisan SOB like Tom DeLay is talked about, it's always their ultra-partisanship that's brought up first and foremost. Yet when a left-leaning smart but ultra-partisan SOB like Rahm Emanuel, it's always the 'smarts' that goes first. When I hear names like Emanuel and Clair Macaskill (politicians best noted for their brand of ruthless partisanship)bandied about, it puzzles me. Through the Bush administration we heard constantly how these type of cats 'ruined the country', but Obama's similar cohorts are now 'smart and pragmatic'. Odd, it's almost like all the principled complaining over Republican partisanship is turning out to be empty partisan sniping in and of itself, a quickly forgotten 'principle' once the other side get's to wet it's beak. Gee, that couldn't be the case, could it?
11.5.2008 2:01pm
AntonK (mail):
And it would be nice if we could rid our society of divisive political polemicists!
11.5.2008 2:03pm
Sarcastro (www):
"community service" equals "Nazi youth."

Can you see a difference? I know I can't!
11.5.2008 2:04pm
Tom Perkins (mail):

Who do these guys think they are?


The winners, to whom the Constitution* is no object.

*Not to mention the great victory over the elite in the Middle ages which ended the peasant labor levee. Back to the future!

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.5.2008 2:04pm
JohnK (mail):
"Odd, it's almost like all the principled complaining over Republican partisanship is turning out to be empty partisan sniping in and of itself, a quickly forgotten 'principle' once the other side get's to wet it's beak. Gee, that couldn't be the case, could it?"


Really? You mean people like Sarcastro weren't really sincere when they said Bush was turning the US into a police state and won't complain when Dear Leader actually tries to? I am shocked.
11.5.2008 2:05pm
JohnK (mail):
"community service" equals "Nazi youth."

Can you see a difference? I know I can't!"

Yes because there is nothing fascistic or police state about forcing children to work for the state. What could possibly be wrong with that? How dare the little gutte snipes want to enjoy their freedom without paying their debt to the state.
11.5.2008 2:07pm
Oren:
Yes, let's judge a plan that we know nothing about that could be very objectionable or very unobjectionable based on our first gut reaction to the idea!

Really folks, this could come out either way.
11.5.2008 2:09pm
Reg (mail):
Ah yes, let's sell our fascist programs as "aiming high!" that's the ticket!
11.5.2008 2:11pm
Carolina:
"Young people will be trained not as soldiers, but simply as citizens who understand their responsibilities in the event of a natural disaster, an epidemic or a terrorist attack."

Huh? Three months of basic first aid and duck-and-cover drills? Can anyone think of any more useless waste of time and money?

As a libertarian, I am adamantly opposed to mandatory service of any kind, but at least citizens of countries like Israel, Singapore, etc learn valuable skills like shooting, orienteering, wilderness survival, etc during their military servicd.

Rahm's program sounds like some kind of half-assed encounter group which will cost everyone young person in the country three months of their life and every one of us a lot of $$$.
11.5.2008 2:13pm
JohnK (mail):
"Yes, let's judge a plan that we know nothing about that could be very objectionable or very unobjectionable based on our first gut reaction to the idea!"

Which one of the three words "universal citizen service" is so difficult to understand? Obama has been very clear about his committment to it. Now he names one of its biggest proponents his COS. I don't think concerns over coerced civilian labor is exactly out of line given that the newly elected President has been so strident in his endorsement of it.
11.5.2008 2:14pm
LN (mail):
Listen you whiners. Barack Obama is the most socialist candidate to run for President in recent memory. He wants to take away your guns, he wants to spread the wealth, he wants to bankrupt the coal industry. And the American people voted overwhelmingly for him.

How could this be more clear? The American people have demanded socialism. If Barack Obama does not deliver on his campaign promises, how will be able to look them in the eye? So socialism it is.

Also, death to Israel. Sorry, but we live in a democracy.
11.5.2008 2:15pm
JohnK (mail):
"Rahm's program sounds like some kind of half-assed encounter group which will cost everyone young person in the country three months of their life and every one of us a lot of $$$."

Can you imagine the morons they would get to run it? If I were really partisian I would support the program. I can think of nothing that would turn people off to liberals than being forced to work with them.
11.5.2008 2:16pm
Anon #319:

If universal college becomes the norm, many jobs that now require a college degree will require a Master's. For many jobs, the requirement of a college degree is not because of the material learned, but because of the sorting function provided first by the admissions office and then by the patience and work required to earn the degree.


I fully agree. You've already seen that with jobs that didn't use to but now does require a BA/BS. It is sort of like inflation.

I think the 401(k) idea could work, but not if the government was in charge. In the long run it could potentially undercut the need for continuing Social Secruity, which would be good.
11.5.2008 2:16pm
pete (mail) (www):

In some places, 25% of the students don't finish High School. And, judging by some interviewees, it appears possible to receive a H.S. diploma and not be able to read simple English (small town newspaper level, not the NYT), write a grammatical three sentence paragraph, or do simple math. Maybe we should fix the basics, first.


In some of the local school districts here it is closer to a 50% graduation rate. Probably only around 20% of the population acrually needs a 4 year college degree, but many employers require them as a proxy for intelligence and having a minimal amount of responsibilty.

And around 20% of the population probably does not have the intelligence or discipline to even deserve a high school diploma.
11.5.2008 2:18pm
Sarcastro (www):
JohnK does have a point.

First, I often choose the most fascist implementation of someone's proposal when judging it. That way I can call everyone a fascist and feel like the only true liberal in the room! There is no other way to understand this than mandatory drafting of all children into some kind of gay bootcamp.

I've long talked about how Norway, Israel, Australia till 1972, Finland, and about half a dozen other countries were totally fascist police states, but no one listened to me!

Those little Norewageon Nazis scare the bejeezus out of me!

[And I've never said Bush was turning us into a police state. I'm not one of those BDS-types, despite being a bit left of center. Crazy, I know!]
11.5.2008 2:20pm
JohnK (mail):
I love how Bush is no longer turning the country into a police state Sarcastro. Gee, warrentless wiretaps and GUITMO are not so bad when Dear Leader is doing it are they?

Say what you want about Bush, but he never came for my children. I pay 1000s of dollars in taxes. I don't owe Dear Leader or any of his lackies one damn think. There is nothing lower than mandatory national service, be it a draft or anything else. In any other context it is called slavery. No person who values liberty should support it.
11.5.2008 2:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Huh? Three months of basic first aid and duck-and-cover drills? Can anyone think of any more useless waste of time and money?


I've been First Aid/CPR certified for work as a first responder for the last four-five years and it takes about a day (6 hours) to learn all of the training for basic first aid and CPR (including using a defibrillator). I'm actually in favor of making that training a mandatory part of junior high and high school (so long as the requirement comes from the local level and not the federal government). The bulk of the three months would seem to be the aggregate time spent at a government-approved "community service" program as a condition for graduation, receiving college welfare checks, or whatever additional strings they want to attach.
11.5.2008 2:25pm
Oren:

Which one of the three words "universal citizen service" is so difficult to understand?

JohnK, consider the following hypothetical bill passed by Congress and signed by Obama:

All students that have performed 80 hours of community service per semesters for not less than 2 consecutive semesters prior to graduating shall be eligible for a direct $5k tuition grant towards any accredited college, university or vocational school of their choice.

Perhaps you wouldn't approve of such a bill, but is it really that offensive?
11.5.2008 2:25pm
Oren:
s/students/"high school students"/

My point is not the details or even the desirability of such a law, but whether, as a policy, it can even remotely be compared to fascism of any sort.
11.5.2008 2:27pm
Sarcastro (www):
Yes, JohnK by saying I never said Bush was turning us into a police state, what I meant was I used to hate wiretapping, but I love it now. Jeez, and I just came out and announced it too! I must be as stupid as I am hypocritical.

I had no idea schools which require community service were basically slave plantations! I should go back to Fieldston and demand reparations!

They're Ethical Culture, so I have no doubt they'll comply.
11.5.2008 2:28pm
Mhoram:

Obama has talked about community service being required to graduate from all public schools down to middle schools. It is the Obama Youth.


Hmmm ... I homeschool my kids, so I'm not subject to this. (Although I do require my children to do age-appropriate community service - I guess that means I'm a Nazi)

Maybe I just don't understand the meaning of the word ethic. I had thought it meant that it would be socially admirable to do community service, there would be social pressure to do community service, and there might even be rewards for doing community service. Just like we respect people with a good work ethic, there is social pressure to have a good work ethic and there are often financial rewards for having a good work ethic. Instead it appears from comments above that ethic = slavery.
11.5.2008 2:29pm
Oren:
And they didn't even give Sarcastro any college money for his community service!
11.5.2008 2:30pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

I fully agree. You've already seen that with jobs that didn't use to but now does require a BA/BS. It is sort of like inflation.


So in addition to federal financial aid programs inflating the cost of getting a college degree, by making it universal the value becomes diluted as well.

I think the 401(k) idea could work, but not if the government was in charge. In the long run it could potentially undercut the need for continuing Social Secruity, which would be good.


If I had to choose between the current OASDI/Medicare system and a sort of mandatory savings plan that is privately owned like they have in Singapore, I would opt for the latter as the lesser evil. However considering that Obama had proposed the federal takeover of private health insurance with his new "exchange," I suspect that any universal 401(k) system would be an instrument to get private retirement programs under federal control similar to what Argentina is in the process of doing. That way when Social Security starts paying out more than it takes in in about four years, they can raid your 401(k) to pay out Social Security benefits.
11.5.2008 2:32pm
calmom:
Universal youth civilian service? Won't work. I can't even get my kids to take out the trash.

The much vaunted 'youth vote' would become overnight Republicans.
11.5.2008 2:33pm
JohnK (mail):
"Perhaps you wouldn't approve of such a bill, but is it really that offensive?"

Yes it is actually, although not as bad as an outright draft. It would have the effect of forcing people into community service. Government tuition aide just drives up the cost of education, so those kids who said no would be forced to pay the higher tuition that resulted from the increased aid.

Beyond that, if you have ever been around a community service project, they are worthless. Try getting a bunch of high school students to do something? They would be at best a waste of time and at worst a payoff to BS community action groups and rank indoctrination. Too many high school kids cannot read and write or do basic math. The last thing they need to be spending time doing is worthless "community service". They can serve the community best by becoming productive, educated citizens.

It seems that is not the proposal. The proposal is to make it a requirement for graduation. That is just the draft in different clothing and flatout immoral and wrong.
11.5.2008 2:34pm
LN (mail):
We already have fascism in this country. It's called the public education system.

Come on Obama, raise the stakes. Let's put all the meat-eaters in jail.
11.5.2008 2:36pm
Hoyasaxa (www):
We need a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us by establishing, for the first time, an ethic of universal citizen service.

He says that what needs establishing is an ethic of universal citizen service — not a requirement of universal citizen service. It's pretty plain that government can be interested in fostering certain sorts of attitudes, which leads to certain sorts of conduct, even if its legitimate authority falls short of requiring that conduct.
11.5.2008 2:36pm
JohnK (mail):
"I had no idea schools which require community service were basically slave plantations! I should go back to Fieldston and demand reparations! "

No you should sue them for taking your money and then wasting your time. But you were free not to got there. You chose to go there and freely took on the requirement. If it is a requirement for every school, kids won't have a choice. That is just the draft without guns and uniforms.
11.5.2008 2:37pm
Sarcastro (www):
Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328 (1916).
11.5.2008 2:38pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Obama's Night Watch will run into (1) Congressional turf and (2) income opportunity issues.

(1) Why should some committee other than MINE have jurisdiction over this means of spending money?

(2) How can I milk this for campaign contributions? There isn't much procurement pork in spiffy uniforms?
11.5.2008 2:41pm
JohnK (mail):
"The statute of Florida requiring every able-bodied man within it jurisdiction to work during each year for six ten-hour day on public road within the county of his residence, and imposing penalties for willful failure so to do, is not unconstitutional as contrary to the Thirteenth Amendment or to the due process provision of the Fourteenth Amendment."

Wow Sarcastro, the state can require me to work on the country roads six to ten hours a day and not violate the 13th Amendment. I feel so much better now. Where can I join the Obama youth? Will they give me a cool uniform? is book burning and breaking windows one part of the community service? I sure Bill Ayers could write a good textbook on that subject.
11.5.2008 2:41pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Thorley:

Great point! Even three afternoons in high school learning first aid would be good, but three months?

It's clear that the purpose is not to accomplish anything concrete; it's to reform people (who are on balance already as good or better than the reformers who would train them) and to change the relation of people to their government.

To others: Obama is proposing over 4 months of service, but spread out over about 11-12 years, not 3 months in one stretch.
11.5.2008 2:43pm
Mhoram:

Beyond that, if you have ever been around a community service project, they are worthless


Really? Community service is worthless? You can't get High School age kids to do anything?

I have an 18-year-old daughter who has volunteered EVERY WEEK since she was 12 at a nearby nursing home. She makes people's lives brighter every day she is there. I guess that is worthless.

My 14-year-old son goes EVERY WEEKEND to the local Humane Society to volunteer his time to work with the animals. I guess that is worthless.

My 8-year-old daughter goes with me EVERY WEEK to work at a homeless shelter. She helps on the food line, but I guess that is worthless.

I required that they get started on community service, but now, for all three of them, it is one of the high points of their weeks. They all do far more than I have every required of them. The 8-year-old wanted, on her own, to start doing community service.

Maybe your kids think helping other people and their community is worthless, but that does not apply to all kids.
11.5.2008 2:46pm
lonetown (mail):
Emanuel is a partisan hack. Universal service? we had it. Its called the draft.

What was Jimmy Carters program? CETA. A complete waste of money and lives.

I hope everyone gets whats comming to them. and their children.
11.5.2008 2:51pm
Oren:

Yes it is actually, although not as bad as an outright draft. It would have the effect of forcing people into community service. Government tuition aide just drives up the cost of education, so those kids who said no would be forced to pay the higher tuition that resulted from the increased aid.

No, it forces no one into doing anything. Kids are not entitled to get $5k from the government for college.

Driving up the prices is silly -- by that logic, the government is depriving me of my liberty to buy oil by purchasing large quantities to power their tanks.

Beyond that, if you have ever been around a community service project, they are worthless. Try getting a bunch of high school students to do something? They would be at best a waste of time and at worst a payoff to BS community action groups and rank indoctrination. Too many high school kids cannot read and write or do basic math. The last thing they need to be spending time doing is worthless "community service". They can serve the community best by becoming productive, educated citizens.

If the proposed bill (that you haven't read because it hasn't been written) does not contain adequate oversight to ensure that useful work that positively benefits the community is being done, I will oppose it.

Incidentally, a few of my friends that were sentenced to community service for various minor infractions and they didn't describe it the way you did.

It seems that is not the proposal. The proposal is to make it a requirement for graduation. That is just the draft in different clothing and flatout immoral and wrong.

There is no proposal yet. That's what I was trying to say -- there are ways of promoting community service that are quite objectionable (drafting) and there are unobjectionable ways (tuition grants). When an actual proposal comes out, we can evaluate it.
11.5.2008 2:52pm
JohnK (mail):
"What was Jimmy Carters program? CETA. A complete waste of money and lives."

Yes it was. That is what is funny about all of this. It has been tried and failed miserably before. If community service is so wonderful, the people are free to do it. There is nothing wrong it Mohram's children busy beavering away at the nursing home. It is a free country and they should be able to do what they want. It is when the government gets involved that it is a problem.
11.5.2008 2:56pm
JohnK (mail):
"Driving up the prices is silly -- by that logic, the government is depriving me of my liberty to buy oil by purchasing large quantities to power their tanks."


No it is not. Why is college tuition so high? One of the reason is that we give so much aid. The students don't feel the effects of the increase and the product is less price sensitive. The more aid you give, the more colleges are free to charge. It is simple supply and demand.
11.5.2008 2:57pm
Houston Lawyer:
The military draft would be better than this. Put every 18-year-old man through boot camp and teach him how to shoot a gun and blow up things. This has generally had a good effect on young men.

The Obama alternative is something run by high school guidance counselors and probation officer wannabees. That would only increase the contempt that teenagers have for things.
11.5.2008 3:05pm
Sarcastro (www):
Did Thomas_Holsinger make a Babylon 5 Ref?
11.5.2008 3:08pm
A.C.:
$5k for 160 hours of work is a pretty good wage -- $31.25 an hour. I would do it, especially if I were a kid and couldn't break $10 at any normal job.

But this is only a good idea if it is relatively limited. As soon as everyone (or a big enough percentage of everyone) gets the voucher, all colleges will jack up the prices by $5k. The net effect for the students would be the loss of their time, all to subsidize university administrators and professors.

Perhaps that is the goal. I doubt that a bunch of untrained high schoolers would be THAT useful to the poor and downtrodden, given how little use even trained social workers seem to be.
11.5.2008 3:13pm
Alexia:

What is wrong with the guaranteed and subsidized loan programs?


How about - It artificially drives the cost up. And the subsidies mean that the single Mom working two jobs is financing the education of a young middle class kid.

Here's a better question: What is wrong with personal responsibility?
11.5.2008 3:15pm
Sarcastro (www):
A.C. Community service effects the worker by making them feel part of the community and giving them a sense of accomplishment. Whenever they walk by the park or road or whatever they'll remember.

And that's why they'll become Nazis.
11.5.2008 3:16pm
wfjag:
Thorley Winston wrote:


Huh? Three months of basic first aid and duck-and-cover drills? Can anyone think of any more useless waste of time and money?

I've been First Aid/CPR certified for work as a first responder for the last four-five years and it takes about a day (6 hours) to learn all of the training for basic first aid and CPR (including using a defibrillator).

Come on dude. Think federal non-military government mandated program that supposedly is college level material. I'm sure that you can easily convert 6 hours of course work, including testing, into a semester long course -- and maybe 2 or 3.
11.5.2008 3:17pm
Alexia:
Oops! What I really meant to post is that proposals or no - if Obama fills the White House with members culled from the Chicago machine, the battle with the Washington crowd for power shall be spectacular.
11.5.2008 3:18pm
Happyshooter:
Will AK style rifles be issued to democratic party members after completion of their basic training? Will they be required to muster under the democratic party county chair or under a federal official?

Will lawyers, doctors, and politicians be granted commissions in the Hanscar Division?
11.5.2008 3:21pm
Azatoth:

Will AK style rifles be issued to democratic party members after completion of their basic training?


Of course not. Democrats are afraid of guns.
11.5.2008 3:27pm
JohnK (mail):
"Of course not. Democrats are afraid of guns."

Not if they have them and are pointed at you. I don't recall Janet Reno being too afraid of guns.
11.5.2008 3:31pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I don't suppose it will come as a surprise to anyone to find that the prediction is the O supporters will snicker at anybody who thinks this will be mandatory and then inquire innocently, "Whats's wrong with helping people?" when it does become mandatory
11.5.2008 3:41pm
Seamus (mail):
Second, when "everyone" has a college degree, college degrees will have the value of the HS diploma. What's next? universal post graduate degrees

Duh. That way, there will be increased demand for professors, so that Ph.D.s in post-colonial and transgender studies will be guaranteed employment.
11.5.2008 3:44pm
JohnK (mail):
Yes Richard. Just like the fairness doctrine. It is just rightwing paranoia until it actually happens and then it will be "how can you object to hearing both sides?"
11.5.2008 3:45pm
Ken Arromdee:
No, it forces no one into doing anything. Kids are not entitled to get $5k from the government for college.

The $5K amount will end up raising the college tuition by an equivalent amount. So in fact, no kids will be getting anything, but the kids who refuse to work will have $5K taken from them.

I think Kids*are* entitled to not have the government interfere in ways which increase their college expenses by $5K.
11.5.2008 3:53pm
Sarcastro (www):
Richard Aubrey is right. We should always assume the worst case scenario of every policy by everybody. Since there are so many secret policies, I can only assume there are widespread secret death-squads already.

Good thing I support them now that Dear Leader is in power.

[Though I'd be fore a universal service requirement. Sue me, I don't see it as any more slavery than making everyone work to pay taxes is.]
11.5.2008 3:55pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Sarcastro,

Yes.
11.5.2008 3:56pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
A new "Contract On America" huh?

Oh wait, the Dems used that first. Nevermind.
11.5.2008 3:57pm
PLR:
I knew Rahm had received the neocon seal of approval some time ago, but it's helpful to know he's still in good standing.
11.5.2008 4:00pm
Sarcastro (www):
Thomas_Holsinger

Awesome.
11.5.2008 4:01pm
Phil Smith (mail):
Oh please. Volunteer community service works because they're volunteers. Judicially enforced community service works because there's a sanction if the service isn't satisfactorily completed.

Anyone who thinks that teenaged kids, in aggregate, are going to demonstrate the same level of commitment, or get the same intangibles out of that service, knows neither teenagers or for that matter human beings. The notion is ludicrous on its face.
11.5.2008 4:03pm
Oren:

The $5K amount will end up raising the college tuition by an equivalent amount. So in fact, no kids will be getting anything, but the kids who refuse to work will have $5K taken from them.

Why would tuition rise if the cost of providing the education has remained the same? Any school that raises tuition just looks less attractive (comparatively) than those that don't.

Richard, you can hold me to my word -- if the service requirement become involuntary, I will oppose it.
11.5.2008 4:07pm
wfjag:

Judicially enforced community service works because there's a sanction if the service isn't satisfactorily completed.

So, what do you call the sanction, Phil, "Contempt of College"?
11.5.2008 4:10pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
I've watched judicially enforced "communty service" projects. They work only in the sense that they take up the time of (and punish) those doing the "service." More useful work could be done by the supervisors working alone.

I'm not saying that this kind of "service" doesn't work better than jail. But inflicting it on the innocent seems to me pretty poor policy. Of course, truly voluntary (that is, unpaid) community service is a completely different thing.
11.5.2008 4:17pm
JohnK (mail):
"The masses are not "asses." They are ignorant about politics for perfectly rational and understandable reasons, as I have pointed out time and again on this blog. The rationality of their ignorance, however, does not make it any less dangerous."

No everyone has an interest in charging the best price they can. When you give all consumers more money to spend on something, the demand curve will shift up and the price will increase. It is basic economics.
11.5.2008 4:17pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
It will be an ultimate irony if the first act of the first African-American President will be to re-institute slavery, but with him as Slavemaster-in-Chief.
11.5.2008 4:20pm
Doc W (mail):
The best "service" that most young people can probably do is to study and be productive and take care of themselves. When all that's accomplished, if they have time and personal finances to contibute to private charitable causes, that's great. The idea that the government is going to come up with "universal service" programs that improve on self-reliance and private charity is farcical. The fact that such ideas can be taken seriously, and the totalitarian implications casually ridiculed, is a measure of how far down we've come.

The Founders had pretty much the right idea--that government exists for only a few limited functions, and otherwise people are free to pursue their own goals and purposes in non-coercive interaction. They wrote a Constitution that specifies only limited roles for the federal government. The more those Constitutional bounds are trampled, the less relevant the Constitution becomes, and the easier it is to conjure up more and more meddling in society and in the marketplace by politicians and their bureaucratic hacks.

The adages about the camel's nose under the tent, and about how to boil a frog, are well-worn for a reason. They're apt.
11.5.2008 4:22pm
Seamus (mail):
This is not a draft, nor is it military. Young people will be trained not as soldiers, but simply as citizens who understand their responsibilities in the event of a natural disaster, an epidemic or a terrorist attack.

Oh, thank goodness. That makes involuntary servitude much more bearable.
11.5.2008 4:25pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Sarcastro,

I knew Joe Straczynski from the science-fiction round table on the defunct GE computer network (GEnie) and was the go-between for him and a number of computer game producers who wanted to have B5 names in their games.
11.5.2008 4:41pm
A.C.:
Sarcastro -- AFFECTS! I adore sarcasm, but the affect/effect thing is a major pet peeve of mine.

Kids should spend their time learning stuff like that rather than picking up trash by the road. Heck, enough of it and they might go and volunteer voluntarily, just for a chance to get up from their desks. That's how the world used to work when we actually had communities instead of trying to impose them.

But the real problem is the following: A community organizer might well set out to organize a youth service group. That's in his mandate, and it's the sort of bottom-up initiative that people of all political stripes tend to support. (People with different leanings might support different projects, of course, which is why having lots of different bottom-up initiatives is good.) But is Obama actually intending to be President, or Community Organizer in Chief? The job descriptions are rather different, and the top-down nature of anything he plans to do from his new, cornerless office raises issues that the bottom-up approach does not.
11.5.2008 4:56pm
NoelG (mail):
Wow, I'm becoming less impressed with this site the more time I spend reading the comments. We have an OP commenting on a rumor and the responses disproportionately take that rumor as fact.

I came looking around here because I heard about the overall intelligence and quality of the OP's/vlogs/whatever and also of the quality of the responses. Instead I find what's on this thread.
11.5.2008 5:10pm
A.C.:
Oh, it's all rumor right up until it isn't. May as well play the game, especially on a day without a big long line to stand in! Haven't you ever taken a stand on an issue when it was just being batted around?
11.5.2008 5:29pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I've watched judicially enforced "communty service" projects. They work only in the sense that they take up the time of (and punish) those doing the "service." More useful work could be done by the supervisors working alone.


I actually did two days of judicially ordered "community service" in high school for a moving violation (I was saving money for college and because I didn't have to miss work it ended up being cheaper than the fine).

The first day I was with a bunch of offenders in their 30's and 40's who were there for DUI's and domestic disturbances and we spent the day painting water wells. I remember being told to "go really slow" so that they wouldn't have to find a second project for us to do before the day was over. Even though we dragged our feet and did an overly thorough job of painting, I seem to recall that we were able to knock off early.

The second day, I was with about half a dozen other teenagers and we picked up some brush that had fallen after a storm but when we ran out of brush, we were told to pick up cigarette butts from around the county courthouse (we found about five between all of us) just so the supervisor wouldn't have to find something else for us to do and we still got out about an hour early.
11.5.2008 6:01pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
All Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 should be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic civil defense training and community service. This is not a draft, nor is it military. Young people will be trained not as soldiers, but simply as citizens who understand their responsibilities in the event of a natural disaster, an epidemic or a terrorist attack.
IOW, there ain't gonna be no training with firearms.

It will be interesting to see what "citizen responsibilities" will include.
11.5.2008 7:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I suppose a little civilian service corps surveillance of the neighbors would go down nice and smooth.
Like, who has guns?
11.5.2008 7:18pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
LarryA,

Citizen responsibilities will include education in proper thinking.
11.5.2008 7:30pm
nyejm (mail) (www):
"Very partisan"? Surely you're mistaken. Today NPR ("All Things Considered," specifically) told me he was a centrist.
11.5.2008 11:07pm
therut (mail):
Lets just make day laborors out of the kids. They will pick them up on the corner at 6:00 am sharp in a orange prison (I mean skool)bus. They will be returned to their caretakers after midnight basketball. All meals are served FREE and are vegan. Health care at Prison(skool) clinic FREE and without caretakers knowledge. They will be given FREE uniforms also. Come see them march(play) and sing the new patriotic songs that extroll their community service to the STATE on Friday nights on the athletic field.
11.5.2008 11:22pm
Second Amendment Sister:
"Will AK style rifles be issued to democratic party members after completion of their basic training?"

"Of course not. Democrats are afraid of scary-looking guns assault rifles with bayonets."


There, fixed that for ya.
11.6.2008 12:02am
Fury:
I bought the book last evening on Amazon, so will read in detail what Emanuel is proposing.
11.6.2008 7:47am
Hoosier:
"Trained as citizens"?

By operant conditioning?

What a horrible phrase. Is it just bad word choice? Or is it backed by a horrible idea?
11.6.2008 9:46am
flyerhawk:
And VC enters into the fever swamps of the wingnutsphere.
11.6.2008 12:18pm