Jan 032011

3helping_handOne of history’s most memorable quotes comes from President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”  Across our nation, opportunities for service abound.  Our infrastructure is crumbling.  Our educational system struggles to stay ahead of the third world.  More Americans lack health care than ever before.  Homelessness has skyrocketed, and the list goes on.  At a time of record unemployment, a significant portion of our national workforce can be mobilized to meet those needs.  Therefore I propose a program of Universal Service to America.  Here’s an overview of how it would work.

Upon turning 18 years of age, every American capable of service would be conscripted for service, and paid a reasonable stipend for that service, for a minimum of two years.  High school students would be deferred until they graduate.  Upon conscription, each American could choose either military service or civilian service, with military paid a bit more.  Older people could also volunteer. Civilian service workers would be tasked to meet America’s needs according to their individual skill sets, many in a WPA type setting.  People could reenlist when their service terms end.

The only deferments would be for disability and for education.  Service time would increase for those completing a two year AA degree to three years, for those completing a four year BA or BS degree to four years, for those completing a masters degree to six years and for those completing a doctorate to eight years.  Provided that they complete their service, the entire cost of their education will be paid.

On the civilian side, our .infrastructure would be rebuilt, we could end illiteracy in America.  We could have scientists and engineers working on green energy, we could put highly skilled teachers in locations where union teachers prefer not to serve.  We could put doctors and nurse practitioners in rural and inner city clinics.  The list is endless.  At the same time, taking so many workers from the job market would increase the demand for workers.

On the military side, the benefits are enormous. An American contract worker doing laundry in Iraq earns about $100,000, and the contractor charges taxpayers more than twice that.  A private earning under $20,000 could be doing that laundry, and saving taxpayers close to $200,000 in the process.  Multiply this by hundreds of thousands of contract workers doing jobs soldiers could be doing and this alone could finance the civilian side of the program.

This is just a bare bones outline.  As long as Republicans control the House, nothing that keeps the likes of Halliburton and KBR from ripping off American taxpayers has a chance to pass, so there is ample time to flesh this out.   What do you think?  What do you suggest?


  14 Responses to “A Proposal: Universal Service to America”

  1. Omigosh, what a brilliant idea…! Is there someone you can forward your idea to, so it can be proposed and set it motion? It almost has a Peace Corps feel to it.

    Happy New Year, Tom…!



    • Thanks, Jo. After working out some of the bugs, I thought of sending it to Jeff Merkley, the Senator for whom I did volunteer work.

      Right backatcha! 🙂

  2. I don’t know that you want to keep people with a doctorate out of the work force for another 8 years – those are the scientists that will help with our green energy, nor do we want to keep our teachers, nurses or doctors out anymore than 4 years. I like the idea, but it does need work. You’d also have to choose whether you wanted to stay in the US or go to a foreign country. (Not that we don’t have plenty of work that needs to be done here, but……) If you sent me back to the Philippines, I would start crying, knowing what I know now, but it would be a good experience for some kids to see how poor other countries are compared to ours and how that government works as opposed to ours.

    • Lisa, it’s not keeping them out of the work force as much as it is directing their work skills to wherever they are most needed. In addition, consider that the taxpayers are footing the entire bill for their educations. I had not considered a peace corps type program for other countries with this, because the needs are so great here.

  3. Since when is forced labor a liberal idea?

    There are very few matters of principle I’d be willing to go to jail over. Helping a young person escape conscription (military or otherwise) is one of them.

    • Infidel I like you and the way you say what you mean. I recognize your liberalism as a growth from the ideals from them of the mid-60’s. But if you feel so strongly about this tell me what are you doing to get the kids who would be drafted or conscripted to get out of the slums and violence filled cities and rural towns of this nation? What are you doing to help them see they have more worth than what end of the gun they are holding.

      I mean no disrespect but I live in a place the rest of the world left behind because we have nothing left to contribute and now they come here to tour the abandonment. I live in a place that graduates 25% of in high school freshmen and of that 25%, 15% are still functionally illiterate.

      Would you be willing to go to jail to keep these kids from seeing a different way of life, than drugs, guns and bling that they are dying for? No one here said MANDATORY MILITARY service just mandatory service.

      When you find a drive by dead kid on your front lawn you may think a bit different as to whether a liberal can embrace this idea or not.

      Be Well

      • My thinking exactly, Mark. When I leave my front door, I cannot walk 100 feet in any direction without seeing people, young and old, huddles in doorways, because they have nowhere else to go.

    • Infidel, I appreciate your point of view. Here was my thinking. For poor youth choosing military service is the only realistic way to escape the ghetto, so they are already conscripted in a de facto sense. Giving them a choice of military service or civilian service gives them more choice than they have now. Now we have a system where the poor make all the sacrifices and the rich reap all the benefits. Under my plan, it’s a level playing field for all. Also, when it comes to cost cutting, contracting for military support jobs is the single worst area of waste fraud and abuse available to cut, but the only way to bring it under control is to re-institute the draft and expand the service.to have soldiers doing those jobs. Adding civilian service gives people a choice, and making it universal ends the corruption that mad the selective service system I experienced such a joke.

  4. TomCat,
    I love the idea and hope that it picks up steam!

  5. Tom this is somewhat of the idea i tried to communicate here a few weeks ago. People would rather work than not. If their needs are met and they have a little extra for a bit of pleasure this is fleshy and i would go for it.

  6. I think you overlooked something.

    Article 13:
    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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