Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Audacity of Expansion

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Presidential candidate Barack Obama, in the throngs of his campaign blizzard, may be growing a bit snow-blind.  A common theme you will hear from Senator Obama is the expansion of national programs, albeit universal health care, or his recent proposal to let those stuck in the Subprime Mortgage crisis to “be able to stay in their homes;” I guess I should have bought a house I can’t afford, too.

I would like to focus, however, on Obama’s specific proposals to expand national service, all laid out nicely at www.barackobama.com/issues/service/.  There, you will notice his intent to double the size of the Peace Corps, more than triple the size of AmeriCorps, create an Energy Corps, a Green Job Corps, but more importantly in this analysis, a Classroom Corps.  I guess at this juncture, it would be best to quote Obama himself, from his speech in Iowa, December 5, 2007:

“The third part of my plan will be integrating service into education, so that young Americans are called upon and prepared to be active citizens.  Just as we teach math and writing, arts and athletics, we need to teach young Americans to take citizenship seriously.  Study after study shows that students who serve do better in school, are more likely to go to college, and more likely to maintain that service as adults.  So when I’m President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year.  This means that by the time you graduate college, you’ll have done 17 weeks of service.  We’ll reach this goal in several ways.  At the middle and high school level, we’ll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities.  At the community level, we’ll develop public-private partnerships so students can serve more outside the classroom.  For college students, I have proposed an annual American Opportunity Tax Credit of $4,000 to make tuition affordable.  To receive this credit, we’ll require 100 hours of public service.  And we’ll amend the Federal Work-Study program, so that nearly $250 million will help more than 200,000 college students work in part-time public service jobs each year.”

While I agree that duty to country and citizenship are extremely important, there should be no Mandatory National Service, as hinted at here.  This suggestion, coupled with Senator Obama’s support for the House’s H.R. 393 (The Universal National Service Act of 2007), makes it quite evident what he would like to accomplish in his Administration.  Interestingly enough, he has stopped shy of publicly proposing Mandatory National Service, although this House Bill is just that.  Due to the “mandatory” nature of this proposed bill, it is inherently unconstitutional, and therefore, illegitimate, as the 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

At this point, I would like to contrast these proposals with military service, and the active military draft that is now our nation’s history; while there are no references to a draft, or conscription, as it was, in the Constitution, there are Supreme Court rulings, circa World War I, that uphold the draft in accordance with the Constitution, Article I, Section 8 which states (and limits) the Congress’ explicit powers.  Here, the Constitution allows the Congress to “raise and support armies,” and military service is seen as a duty in order to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, along with the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of its inhabitants; therefore, the US Supreme Court case Butler v. Perry (1916), regarding this very issue, states:  “The great purpose in view was liberty under the protection of effective government, not the destruction of the latter by depriving it of essential powers.”  I would submit to Senator Obama that if he could make the case that “enlisting” the American people into public service was essential to the protection of our country, then he would not be out-of-bounds with his proposal.  Since you and I know that is not the case, his suggested proposal is, in turn, unconstitutional, as is Representative Charlie Rangel’s HR 393, which has a congressional precedence of being shot down for violating the 13th Amendment.

But, in his defense, Senator Obama has not explicitly stated this service would be mandatory.  Instead, he is proposing to hold local governments, and college students, over a barrel.  In order to combat the inflated college tuition costs in this country, Senator Obama would, as President, expand the federal government by enlisting the service of high school and college students and put more Americans on the payroll, essentially holding them hostage to national service, in a plan for ”shared responsibility.”  Buyer beware.

Turning this analysis a bit personal, it is interesting to note that Senator Obama is a lawyer, and was the president of his class at Harvard Law.  He was also a lecturer at a law school.  He lectured on constitutional law, as a matter of fact.  At the University of Chicago.  For ten years.  So I find it interesting that his proposal teeters on being unconstitional.  There are a couple of scenarios here.  Does Senator Obama not realize this is unconstitutional?  Did he not know this fact, while teaching students in law school about the Constitution, and thereby misinforming students at the nation’s sixth-ranked law school?  Or did he, in fact, know it then, and teach his students that this dang-near socialist policy issue would be “cool,” motivated by other factors?  Or, does he know this is unconstitutional, but instead is proposing this policy to gain easy votes on a “Yes, We Can” populist platform?  Or, is it even worse than all of these?  Does he honestly want to take our nation downward, into statism, put us all on the payroll, make us all even more dependent on the federal government, until one day, the door slams shut behind us?  Here’s hoping he’s just snow-blinded by his campaign, continually raging on.

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Filed under Ideology, News
Feb 19, 2008

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