National Service is Bad for the Economy: Carl Horowitz

Monday, May 04, 2009

The idea of national service, whereby young Americans give back to their community and country through voluntary work, is so noble that it seems difficult to believe that anyone could be apprehensive about it, according to Carl Horowitz, director of the Organized Labor Accountability Project of the National Legal and Policy Center. But Horowitz himself admits he has serious reservations about national service, especially now that President Barack Obama intends to expand it greatly and triple the number of volunteers in AmeriCorps by 2017.

Horowitz’s problem with national service stems from a track record that has been “less than stellar,” and its proponents who at times have admitted such programs contain “more than a whiff of compulsion.” For instance, Horowitz points out the effort in 1989 by former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-OK) to require young adults to complete a full term of military or equivalent civilian service in order to receive federal college aid. “That’s why, if fully realized, national service programs would capture an enormous portion of the entry-level labor market and, worse, militarize our national identity,” writes Horowitz.
He adds that the Obama administration’s intention to expand AmeriCorps and boost the budget of the Corporation for National and Community Service amounts to national service becoming a de facto low-wage hiring program that places recruits in such agencies as the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Legal Services Corporation.
“But what is wrong with private-sector employers deciding which jobs need to be done and at what levels of compensation?” asks Horowitz. “Moreover, why should volunteer work of any sort require a subsidy? The very idea of voluntarism is at odds with acts of compulsion (i.e., taxation) to fund it.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
National Service: Now Bigger Than Ever (by Carl Horowitz, TownHall)


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