Obama's New "Corps" And Other Service Programs.

Senator Barack Obama is proposing to remake American society in a way that the American public does not yet understand.

In his July 2, 2008, speech calling Americans to national service, Obama departed from his prepared remarks to announce his support for a mysteriously named “civilian national security force”:

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

Many commentators were stumped. What is this “civilian national security force” that must be as well funded as the military? Is it merely our existing civilian national security force, the militia, or perhaps the FBI and the CIA? Or was Obama referring to some thuggish new paramilitary street organization?

The answer to this mystery is not hidden. It is prominently displayed in Obama’s speeches and in the position papers on his website. Obama is referring, neither to the militia nor to a reincarnation of the Brownshirts, but rather to his unprecedented plans for universal community service for young people and for hugely increased funding for a myriad of voluntary service programs for the rest of us.

Earlier posts dealt with mandatory service for middle and high school students, voluntary service for college students, and college “Serve-Study” laid out in Obama’s speeches and his “Plan for Universal Voluntary Citizen Service.” This post covers his other service programs.

A. Green Job Corps, YouthBuild Program

Although Obama’s education proposals would effectively reach over 90% of the 47 million middle, high, and college students in the country (perhaps leaving out only private secondary school children), what about the 2 million young people who are out of school and unemployed or in prison? To reach young prisoners and the young unemployed, Obama will add a new Green Job Corps, “an energy-focused youth jobs program,” and expand by six-fold the YouthBuild Program, which teaches housing construction to low-income youth.

B. AmeriCorps VISTA, Experience Corps, Senior Corps

What about the middle-aged and older Americans not covered by these programs for the young? Obama plans to enlist retirees in his civilian national security force “on a large scale” and to expand service programs for baby-boomers and the elderly: AmeriCorps VISTA, the Experience Corps, and other Senior Corps programs.

C. Classroom Corps, Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, Veterans Corps, Homeland Security Corps, Peace Corps, Global Energy Corps

Among other “transformative” community service proposals, Obama will more than triple the number of full-time AmeriCorps members to 250,000 and distribute these new members among five new “Corps”:

1. a Classroom Corps for teachers and students;

2. a Health Corps to improve public health;

3. a Clean Energy Corps to conduct weatherization and renewable energy projects;

4. a Veterans Corps to assist veterans at institutions; and

5. a Homeland Security Corps to deal with emergencies.

Not only will “Barack Obama . . . double the Peace Corps to 16,000 by its 50th anniversary in 2011 and push Congress to fully fund this expansion,” but he will create a "Global Energy Corps to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions overseas and promote low-carbon and affordable energy solutions in developing nations.”

Barack Obama is proposing so many new “Corps” that he runs out of distinctive names for them. Note that his new Global Energy Corps is not to be confused with his new Clean Energy Corps and his new Green Job Corps.

D. Social Investment Fund Network, Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits, Corporation for National and Community Service

But Obama is far from finished:

Barack Obama will create a Social Investment Fund Network, . . . a government-supported nonprofit corporation, similar to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, that will use federal seed money to leverage private sector funding to improve local innovation, test the impact of new ideas and expand successful programs to scale.

He promises us that this new corporation will not be just a single entity, but it will involve “a network of funds.”

That’s not all; he’s going to create a “Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits”:

Barack Obama will a create an agency within the Corporation for National and Community Service dedicated to building the capacity and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.

Note the tone of these proposals: none of this false modesty about proposing these new agencies and Corps to Congress and working for their passage. His Plan simply declares: “Barack Obama will create” this; “Barack Obama will create” that.

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All these programs are just the ones listed on the service pages of his campaign website. This list doesn’t include his most expensive program: health care. All these add up to the biggest expansion of the US government since FDR. If Obama gets most of what he wants, he will make libertarians look more fondly on the relatively modest proposals of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.