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Tuesday 30 March 2004

Kerry Proposes Re-Introduction Of Involuntary Servitude

So John Kerry has proposed a plan whereby the federal government will require high-school students to perform ‘community service’.

John Kerry believes we need to think big and do better and get more young Americans serving the nation.

What the hell is it about politicians that makes them think that it’s a good idea to compel young people to work for the state for free? Replace ‘high-school students’ with any other group of people, and the insanity is clear. If he were to suggest that black people, or middle-aged executives, or welfare recipients, or immigrants, or even politicians, be compelled to ‘volunteer’ for make-work projects of the state’s choosing, he’d be laughed off the stage, and people would seriously question his fitness for office.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that high-school students can’t vote. Maybe the headline should be “Compulsory Unpaid Labor Plan For The Statutorily Disenfranchised”. I thought that had ended by 1865.

Service Should Be a Graduation Requirement: John Kerry believes that knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship - including the duty to serve your community - are as important to American adults as knowing how to read and do math.

Note that the only way to ‘serve your community’ in John Kerry’s warped universe is by ‘volunteering’ to do things that don’t actually need doing (if they needed doing, someone would already be paying to have them done). You are not ‘serving your community’ by working in a gas station, or by stocking shelves at the grocery store, or by flipping burgers — despite the fact that people in your community need their gas pumped, their shelves stocked, and their burgers flipped. It’s not service unless you’re forced to do it, and not paid for it.

Kerry’s own website doesn’t expect these hordes of forced volunteers to replace people who are actually being paid to do work now: “No state would be obligated to implement a service requirement if the federal government does not live up to its obligation to fund the program,” it says.

So they expect this forced labor to actually cost the state money. Let’s get this straight: there’s a group of people you plan to require service from, for no payment. Yet you fully expect that this program of indentured servitude will cost you money in the end. That isn’t service, it’s welfare.

Kerry also proposes a slightly less-wacky system where high-school graduates would perform ‘service’ for two years and in return have the government pay for for four years of college tuition, based on the average tuition at a state university. But:

If service members decide not to go to college, their award can be used for job training, to help start a business, or to make a down payment on the purchase of a home.

This ‘award’ sounds like what I’d call ‘money’, but with some strings attached. So how much money is it? The best statistics I could find indicate that the average annual tuition at a state university in the U.S. is $5,254; so four years would be $21,016. This is the amount of the ‘award’ that Kerry proposed to pay people for two years’ service. That’s a little over $10,500 a year, or $2.62 an hour based on a 40-hour week and a 50-week year.

So maybe the headline could also be: “Kerry Proposes Paying Government Workers $2.62 an hour”. The minimum wage in the United States is $5.15; so Kerry is proposing paying these people — these ‘volunteers’, who are, remember, the ‘backbone’ of American society, and whose participation in the grand American Experiment is a Shining Beacon To Us All — just a tiny bit more than half the minimum wage.

A private employer who did such a thing would wind up in jail; but Kerry is using this scheme to run for president. Good thing he’s so electable, or he might have to stop talking through his hat.

Posted by tino at 14:24 30.03.04
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I’ve always said that “community service” is what you do after you’ve been convicted of a minor offense against society. Forcing high school students to work on community service projects will have the same wonderful results that Cuba gets every year by forcing its students to work on the sugar harvest.

Oh, and Tino? That’s not his hat he’s talking out of.

Posted by: Twonk at March 30, 2004 05:39 PM

Will this be in addition to the service requirements already in places like Montgomery Count Maryland?

Posted by: Paul M Johnson at March 30, 2004 08:24 PM

I’m waiting for that inevitible sitcom-cliche phone call:

“Mr. Twonk, you did not graduate high school because you did not perform your community service.”


“Yes, we made it retroactive.”

Posted by: Twonk at March 31, 2004 11:12 AM