If you like what Congress and President Obama have done to "fix" the banks and the auto industry, wait until you see what they have in store for your favorite community organizations. A bill is now on the way to President Obama for his signature into law that will turn the idea of volunteerism on its head: by turning private charity and volunteer service into a government program.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a motion to agree on the Senate amendments to HR 1388, "The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act." This 275 to 149 vote (Ayes: Democrat 249, Republican 26; Nays: Democrat 0; Republican 149) sends the bill to the President to sign into law.
When the President signs HR 1388, Americorps will be on track to increase from 75,000 to 250,000 members and spend over $5 billion in the next five years. A new Civic Health Assessment will be established to determine whether you are volunteering, voting, supporting civic groups, and understand U.S. history and government. Can mandatory national service be far behind?
On March 24, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) eloquently explained why this bill is so fundamentally opposed to the American values of charity and self-reliance:
When the French historian de Tocqueville came to the United States not long after we were founded, one of the things that amazed him about our country that was so different from France was that in his home country when there was a problem, people would say: Someone ought to do it and government should do it; but in America we were different. When someone saw a problem, they went and got a friend and formed a small group and solved the problem themselves. Much of that was motivated by religious convictions that our place in this world is not only to help ourselves but to love and help those around us. That was key.
Volunteerism is something that works in America. When we think of America, we do not think of Congress and Presidents, we think of Little League games and PTA meetings and bake sales...Civil society is America. It responds to needs, meets challenges, and solves problems because it is free from Government.
DeMint then elaborated on the role religion plays in volunteerism, how the movement to eliminate religious expression had the unintended consequence of reducing volunteerism, creating a crisis for government to solve (sound familiar?):
You also look at what we have done over the years, forgetting that a lot of private charity and the motivation to serve God and community is a religious-based motivation...We have essentially tried to purge that motivation from our country. Most public schools, or at least a lot of them, used to sponsor Boy Scout groups. But after being sued for years because the Boy Scouts have God in their pledge and they set standards for their leaders that some do not agree with, the threat of lawsuits essentially means our Government schools have thrown out the Boy Scouts.
More than half our astronauts, half our FBI agents, a lot of the most successful people in this country were trained in the Boy Scouts to serve their community, where their character was developed. But this Federal Government has forced them out of public places. For years we purged religion from our society. Religion was the primary motivation for a lot of civic groups, a lot of services, a lot of charities, a lot of hospitals that were formed, a lot of schools...
Now we are going to come in and help solve the problem we have created. We want to promote voluntarism, we want to promote community service, when what we have done over the last several decades is essentially tried to destroy the motivation for people to serve a cause that is greater than themselves.
"There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts."
—Ronald Reagain, Farewell Address to the Nation, January 11, 1989
Change is coming. Soon the entire country will either be signing up to "Serve America," as per government regulations, or lining up to be served: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.