Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 28, 2006
By: Paul Glastris

UNKINDEST CUT....I guess it's just a matter of priorities. In his new budget, the president takes an ax to a tiny Americorps program called the National Civilian Community Corps. This small enterprise employs about a thousand 18-to-24 years olds in full time service, much of it involving disaster relief and homeland security. The program gets rave reviews from participants and recipients alike. After 9/11, Sen. John McCain singled it out as the kind of effort we should be expanding. Yet Bush's new budget would cut its funding from $27 million to $5 million an 80 percent reduction! The reason given by the White House's Office of Management and Budget is that the program is "extremely expensive." Via Daily Kos, I see that some of the program's alumni have set up a web site to fight the cut. Good for them.

If the president really wants to cut waste in the federal government, he should start with the eight nuclear weapons labs and factories that comprise the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). These Cold War-era relics employ 36,000 people in seven states, at a cost of $9 billion a year. Yet they haven't produced a single nuclear weapon their primary mission in a decade and a half, for the simple reason that we don't need any more nuclear weapons. Moreover, these facilities are sitting ducks for terrorists. Keeping all of them open makes zero sense, budgetarily or militarily. As Zachary Roth reports in the latest issue of The Washington Monthly:

Last summer, a congressionally-mandated report produced by a blue-ribbon task force of experts found that reducing the number of sites we operate would save money, improve security, and make the complex better able to produce the next generation of nuclear weapons the United States may someday need. It was the kind of report you might think elected officials would have seized on. After all, at the time, the Bush White House and GOP congressional leaders were in tense negotiations over how to reduce the president's massive budget deficit. Desperate congressional leaders were targeting student loans, Medicaidanything they could think of to save precious dollars and restore their party's reputation as the standard-bearer of small government. The news, then, that by shuttering dilapidated and largely redundant government facilities, they could save billions, while making Americans safer against a terrorist attack, ought to have been heralded. Indeed, at a similar moment of fiscal panic during the 1990s, Congress and the Clinton White House agreed to help the Defense Department adapt to the post-Cold War world by creating an independent commission to recommend the closing of obsolete military bases. But this time, Congress and the administration reacted to the DOE weapons complex report with studied indifference, and in some cases, outright hostility.

Like I said, it's a matter of priorities.

Paul Glastris 3:18 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (64)

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Comments

You see, idealistic 18-24 year olds who want to serve their country don't bundle $2000 checks to Presidential campaigns or rent their houseboats to bigwigs on the appropriations committee.

Gosh, Paul, I would have thought you'd understand how the system works by now.

Posted by: Violet on February 28, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

We should change our name from The United States to Death Toys R Us.

Posted by: Harold S on February 28, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

I was an NCCC Corps member from '02-'03. I have to say, in all honesty, that the program was far from efficient. I loved it, I had a great experience, and I met my fiance working on NCCC projects. At the same time, I spent a lot of time doing make work. When we had work (actual work) to do, it was great. I can see, however, how the program looked like a hog ready for the slaughter.

Posted by: Bob Jones on February 28, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, because everyone knows that failing to waste money makes you weak on defense!

Posted by: Paul Dirks on February 28, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Harold S, =)

Posted by: CArL on February 28, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, sure, this is too expensive. But withholding some millions from 250,000,000$ of fraudulent Halliburton bills would be too much effort, right?
Grrrr....

Posted by: Gray on February 28, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

This is Bill Clinton's program, right? I'm surprised it has lasted this long.

Interesting fact from Clinton's second term: when the government shutdown happened, one of the things the Republicans had done was zero out Americorps. I've often wondered if Bill found his spine when they were so spiteful to his pet program.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on February 28, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with the job corps is exactly what Bob said. An imitation of the make job work for the unemployed in the past.

I would much rather see this money used to further fund the medical corps or a teacher program for remote locations.

Posted by: davod on February 28, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

PS:

I would bet that the money has been allocated to a different area providing similar, but more effiucient, services.

Posted by: davod on February 28, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

In his new budget, the president takes an ax to a tiny Americorps program called the National Civilian Community Corps.

Good plan. This is another liberal program which causes people to be dependent on the government. Instead of getting people to sign up for government programs like Americorps or welfare to get money the government should be encouraging people to get jobs.

If the president really wants to cut waste in the federal government, he should start with the eight nuclear weapons labs and factories that comprise the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)

That would be very bad. With terrorists like Al-Qaeda and terrorists states like Iran and North Korea trying to develop nuclear weapons, we need a greater arsenal of nukes on our side to deter them from developing it or using them.

Posted by: Al on February 28, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

FYI Al, the NCCC wasn't a welfare program. You worked 1500 hours over a 10 month period in exchange for $12 a day and a $4,725 education grant that could be used to pay off student loans or tuition. It really had nothing to do with welfare.

Posted by: Bob Jones on February 28, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Paul- I completely agree with you on the merits of this post & appreciate you bringing this to our attention. But I wish you'd fix this typo:
" Sen. John McCain signaled it out" is probably supposed to be "singled it out" right?

I know it's a tiny matter, but it's sitting there in red text. Remember, spell check will give you a correctly spelled word, but not always the one you want.

Posted by: URK on February 28, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

davod: PS: I would bet that the money has been allocated to a different area providing similar, but more effiucient, services.

What on Earth would make you think that?

Ah, of course, a cultlike belief in the competence and wisdom of the Bush Administration and their pet Congress, a belief utterly and colossally at odds with experience.

Posted by: S Ra on February 28, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Though there is certainly waste in the DOE NNSA program, like any big budget, big science work, it's completely incorrect to say that the primary mission of the NNSA is to make more nuclear weapons. Most of the funding goes to ensure the operation pf nuclear weapons if the situation arises, and doing so without the benefit of actual testing.

And honestly, $9 billion for a ton of good basic research and preserving the nuclear weapons capabilities of the US is a damn bargain compared to the many useless and redundant Cold War-leftover military programs. The F-22, for example is a cool plane with no useful mission whatsoever. Thrown in the Osprey, which specializes in killing Marines, and a single Virginia class submarine, and you're close to $9 billion.

Posted by: Andrew on February 28, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

OT, breaking news:
"Bush says bin Laden tape aided re-election: report"
http://today.reuters.com/News/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2006-02-28T144615Z_01_N28518661_RTRUKOC_0_US-BUSH-BINLADEN-ELECTION.xml

Posted by: Gray on February 28, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree that there are far larger targets for reduction in the federal budget, I see no reason not to completely eliminate this program under discussion. It is so small it won't be missed.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 28, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect that as with many other government procurement and facility programs, the NCCC is more about having a nice Federal cash spigot in specific congressional districts than it is about the actual need for them.

See also: military bases, NASA facilities, general defense projects, highway projects, public buildings, and social spending.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 28, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

"employs 36,000 people in seven states"

Reason #1 why this program is not going away.

Posted by: CParis on February 28, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz >"...the NCCC is more about having a nice Federal cash spigot in specific congressional districts..."

and the NNSA isn`t ?

CParis >"employs 36,000 people in seven states"

Reason #1 why this program is not going away."

Dead on, so to speak (pun intended)

"The future will be a struggle between huge competing systems of psychopathology." - J. G. Ballard

Posted by: daCascadian on February 28, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

and the NNSA isn`t ?

No, actually. We're not talking enough money to make a real difference in terms of congressional re-election calculations. Nothing for a Senator or Congressman to point to and say, "this employs two thousand people in my district."

Byrd raised this kind of thing to a fine art over the years, but this behavior is totally bipartisan, and has been that way long before I was born. Being the party in power naturally gives that party more access to the money bin, and this is one big reason both parties want to be in the driver's seat.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 28, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, I've heard some of them (including Man Coulter) claim that "NASA is Welfare for aerospace engineers" - well, fuck her gently with a chainsaw. Engineers work fucking hard for their money. Much harder than her "born rich" fatass heroes.

Posted by: NOise on February 28, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

We need some level of redundancy of our nuclear brain trust. Whether we could get by with less than we do now, I don't know. A more serious problem may be that we aren't training enough young nuclear engineers. In a couple of decades, regardless of how many we train, are entire collection of nuclear weapons specialists will only have lit off nukes in simulation.

Posted by: Boronx on February 28, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin! Two of the top five Republican memes shot at in one day. Below, the "high malpractice awards cause hard-working Americans to pay more while sleazy lawyers and their layabout African Amercian clients get rich" meme bits it, and now this.

Indeed, it doesn't take much work to point out that discrete, worthless segments of the defense budget squash actual social spending like an elephant stepping on an ant.

However, it would be good to do so more often.

Posted by: hank on February 28, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

My daughter worked for the NCCC. It was hardly make work. She taught reading in underserved areas in the mornings and worked in a daycare for physically fragile children in the afternoon. Each community decided how they used their volunteers. So if one community could only provide make work they should have lost their program. Let us not judge that that you know nothing about.

Posted by: Michelle Smith on February 28, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

The obvious compromise is to cut the weapons labs slightly, say by $4.5B, and use one-half of the savings to fund the Americorps projects. Even if the remainder of the savings were spent on Homeland Security-related Halliburton contracts, much good would, nonetheless, be done.

Posted by: Bob Stanny on February 28, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Hell, I've heard some of them (including Man Coulter) claim that "NASA is Welfare for aerospace engineers" - well, fuck her gently with a chainsaw. Engineers work fucking hard for their money."

Just ask tbrosz. He's working like hell knocking down strawmen and contradicting himself on political blogs all day.

Posted by: brewmn on February 28, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

I saw that to Gray, Bin Laden has got Bush voted in twice.Working hand in hand with terrorists.

Posted by: Ahmadd Bacrad on February 28, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Whoops. Just noticed I typoed "NCCC" in my first post where I meant to say "NNSA." Hell, I did it again in another post. That brain fart explains some of the responses I got. Sorry. It's the nuclear program I was trying to point out as an example of district pork. The other one doesn't make sense in that context at all, being only about $27,000 per person maximum spread over the whole U.S.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 28, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

*This is Bill Clinton's program, right? I'm surprised it has lasted this long.*

EmmaAnne, my first reaction as well. In fact, shouldn't Bush be touting this fact loudly to his hand-picked audiences?

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 28, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Just ask tbrosz. He's working like hell knocking down strawmen and contradicting himself on political blogs all day.

I've got a five-hundred part Solidworks assembly crunching in the background on my pathetic old dual-processor Pentium III, so I've got a few minutes to kill off and on between operations. So what are all the rest of you hard-working people doing on a Tuesday afternoon?

Posted by: tbrosz on February 28, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

So what are all the rest of you hard-working people doing on a Tuesday afternoon?

Just dreaming of you and your 500-part Solidworks assembly. So, so manly...sigh.

Posted by: rocket groupies on February 28, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Bwa!

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Considering I'm working on a fifty-foot rocket design, I'm not sure we can get much more Freudian here...

Posted by: tbrosz on February 28, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

That's SO weird! I'm working on a 50-foot coal mine shaft! We should get together!

Posted by: tbrosz's fantasy girlfriend on February 28, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Michelle Smith "My daughter worked for the NCCC. It was hardly make work. She taught reading in underserved areas in the mornings and worked in a daycare for physically fragile children in the afternoon. Each community decided how they used their volunteers. So if one community could only provide make work they should have lost their program. Let us not judge that that you know nothing about."

You daughters experience and my own experience working for the NCCC may have differed. Not all of it was make work, but alot of it was. I lived and worked in a homeless shelter for three months during the last winter Olympics. That was great, hard, imporant work. I also spent several months working very slowly on other projects that didn't have enough work for the whole team, but had all of us anyways. I'm not trying to degrade her experiece, but it wasn't the best run program ever.

Posted by: Bob Jones on February 28, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Jones >"...Not all of it was make work, but alot of it was...it wasn't the best run program ever."

Welcome to the real world of large bureaucracies

You have a lot to learn

ALL bureaucracies, public and private, aren`t the best run programs ever

ALL large organizations are that way; much of the work is "make work" so as to justify their continued existance

Like I said, welcome to the real world

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist thinks it will change; the realist adjusts the sails." - William Arthur Ward

Posted by: daCascadian on February 28, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

But it isn't even guns over butter: Bush cuts National Guard funding, port security, etc. It's about business interests - even an honest pitiless war hawk would give proper cover to national security and defense. Like I say, it's the worst of both worlds.

Posted by: Neil' on February 28, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Why does the government need to employ these people?

Posted by: Paddy Whack on February 28, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

daCascadian: Welcome to the real world... etc.

Wha.....? Thanks for the patronizing sanctimony. I'm soooo naive. I have noooo idea how the real world works. The point I was making is that if they need to gin up work to "justify their existence" they don't deserve to exist as structured. At least not if they were to be funded by taxpayers. So spare me the sarcasm.

Posted by: Bob Jones on February 28, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

That's SO weird! I'm working on a 50-foot coal mine shaft! We should get together!

Ha! Now I'll be laughing all the way home!

Posted by: craigie on February 28, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK
I've got a few minutes to kill Posted by: tbrosz
Life is sweet when you're sucking the government teat.
Why does the government need to employ these people? Posted by: Paddy Whack
They're more productive than tbrosz. Posted by: Mike on February 28, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

It's not so much about the money as it is about dismantling a government program that actually works. Such programs are an impediment to the establishment of the GOP's anarcho-capitalist utopia, where government exists solely for the defense of private property, and the common people have no recourse except to throw themselves at the mercy of their employers and/or their God.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on February 28, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

NNSA doesn't just engage in R&D on nuclear weapons - it always works on nonproliferation issues and seeks to secure nuclear materials abroad. It also works to secure the global supply chain to prevent smuggling of nuclear materials in shipping containers.

Pick on another agency. NNSA is good.

Posted by: Reasonable Liberal on February 28, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

I know these Solid Works guys (or Inventor or whatever), and they'll work hard to keep their boss in the dark about how much time will be saved if he goes down to Costco and picks them up a new Athlon64 for $1100.

There's no better way to feel like you're doing something while your doing nothing than to run too big of a finite element model on too slow of a computer.

Programmers do the same thing when compiling huge projects.

Posted by: Boronx on February 28, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx:

Actually, I'm shopping for a faster system. So far I've built all my own machines from components, but am a bit behind the curve on the new 64 bit and dual-core systems, so may actually get a turnkey system for the first time if I'm in a hurry.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 28, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Not that I don't think tbrosz could use a little ribbing for the snarky inclusion of 'social programs' in his comment above, but I notice he's the only one honest enough to explain how he has time to jabber on a political blog on a workday afternoon.


Posted by: joe on February 28, 2006 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

How many volunteer hours did the program enable for its 20 million budget?

Posted by: McA on February 28, 2006 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

Havent you been taking your daily dose of right-wing talk radio Kool-Aid, Mr. Glastris? AmeriCorps is socialism, my friend. Rush told me so (megadittoes) - and I believe every word the three-time divorced, Oxycontin-addicted, college dropout speaks.

But seriously, the fact that Bush even wastes his time on a program that costs a whopping $27 million, or roughly one thin dime for every American, means he is looking under the couch cushions for every penny he can find to show some progress in deficit reduction (ha-ha). This is troubling in itself, because maybe someone finally got through to numbnuts that America is careening towards bankruptcy and he needs to do something, anything, to stem the tsunami of red ink. Bush, of course, would never dream of trimming even one nickel from the Defense Dept.s obscenely bloated budget (Osprey, anyone?) because that would not be the flag-waving, patriotically correct (PC) thing to do. Same thing applies to the Energy Dept. program that Zach Roth wrote about. This brings me to a point that many people in the peace movement have known for a long time, namely that the numbers for the Defense Dept. alone mask the total amount of our tax dollars that gets squandered on weaponry, nuke testing, etc. etc. There are billions and billions more squirreled away in the Energy Dept., the Interior Dept. and many other cabinet-level agencies that are really meant for the Pentagon. Are you feeling ill yet? You should be.

We are following the trajectory of all military empires and the bankruptcy of American is looming as clearly as the bald patch on Dick Cheneys head.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 28, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Priority? Perhaps you mean Stay the course of slash, burn and enrich a few cronies at the expense of the masses?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Barrack Obama called it Ownership society..He may not be too far off base given the Robertson/Falwellian, Gary North types with their talk of reconstructionism and biblical law.


Posted by: mr ho on February 28, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Cut and Spend neo-cons

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 2006 The Bush administration will propose in its budget on Monday the creation of an atomic energy partnership with Russia, offering countries a supply of fuel for their reactors under restrictions intended to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons, according to administration officials.

Under the proposal, the United States and Russia would provide reactor fuel to other countries and take back the spent fuel afterward to prevent its use in weaponry. President Bush called for a similar plan two years ago, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has recommended an international fuel system in which it would control custody of nuclear fuel.

Posted by: mr ho on February 28, 2006 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz, I've only built one system recently, a sub-$400 AMD-64 linux box, but my gut feel is that with a bare minimum ammount of research you could throw together a system that's a lot less sketchy than most retail ones, and for similar money.

If you go retail, you could end up with a crippled motherboard, an unreliable harddrive, or a big bill for the sort of video card you should have to do 3D CAD.

Posted by: Boronx on February 28, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Ho, your country has announced plans to build its first commercial nuclear reactor by 2015. Will you be subscribing to the US/Russian plan for your fuel?

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 28, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

But seriously, the fact that Bush even wastes his time on a program that costs a whopping $27 million, or roughly one thin dime for every American, means he is looking under the couch cushions for every penny he can find to show some progress in deficit reduction (ha-ha).

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 28, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this a good thing. I want a government that looks for dimes.

Posted by: McA on February 28, 2006 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

joe:

Not that I don't think tbrosz could use a little ribbing for the snarky inclusion of 'social programs' in his comment above...

Social programs also have a long history of throwing money down a rathole. Urban development and public housing come to mind right off the bat. I'm sure you can think of others.

boronx:

The more I look at it the less appealing 64 bit looks for compatibility with a lot of my systems. My rule of thumb in building new machines has always been to find the cutting edge, and take one step back. Over the years I've developed a few prejudices, like SCSI drives and Intel chips.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 28, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Without having the ability to hold those targets at risk, we essentially provide sanctuary," J.D. Crouch, an assistant secretary of Defense, told reporters earlier this year.

But others argue that moving toward a new generation of nuclear weapons, instead of improving conventional and non-nuclear ways to attack deep targets or chemical weapons sites, is fraught with danger.

"They are opening the door to a new era of a global nuclear arms competition," says Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. "As we try to turn the tide of nuclear proliferation, the last thing we should suggest is that nuclear weapons have a role in the battlefield, and these weapons are battlefield weapons. This is a serious step in the wrong direction."

Kimball and others say research would eventually lead to testing. If Congress approves the White House requests, the first live tests of any new

Mr. Ho, your country has announced plans to build its first commercial nuclear reactor by 2015. Will you be subscribing to the US/Russian plan for your fuel?
Posted by: brooksfoe on February 28, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PE

Will you be buying your new nuclear weapons From BUSH?
I would speak of Green Salts and light Water reactors even Generation IV reactors but discussing that with you would be wasted.
Why?
Your ignorance has caused you to think Im in China or Iran or some Damn place.
Its a NAME foolish one.
Do you always jump to such Braindead conclusions based solely on two Letters HO?

Posted by: mr ho on February 28, 2006 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Jones >"...The point I was making is that if they need to gin up work to "justify their existence" they don't deserve to exist as structured..."

You clearly have NO CLUE

There are many such organizations, far too many in fact, both private & public

None are going away w/in your lifetime so learn how the world actually functions; it`s called subsidy & tax breaks for good ole boys

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

Posted by: daCascadian on March 1, 2006 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, I clearly have no clue about an organization I actually worked for, or about the real world you are so eloquently describing. Thanks for your helpful tips.

Posted by: Bob Jones on March 1, 2006 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Social programs also have a long history of throwing money down a rathole. Urban development and public housing come to mind right off the bat."

As does NASA, which has done a hell of alot less than "urban development" whatever that means or public housing for the urban poor.

Posted by: brewmn on March 1, 2006 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Why do we need this program? Why can't we simply have "Halliburton Youth" scouts and rangers do it?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on March 1, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

McA:
You want a government that looks to pinch dimes while buring twenties in the fireplace?

Posted by: northzax on March 1, 2006 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

This brings up the old conservative issue about the Peace Corps. One way to look at the Peace Corps is that it has always been the secular leftist way to provide their children with a formative, idealistic overseas experience without doing it the traditional way--either to enlist them in the military, or to send them on a Christian mission (which many thousands of us still do, by the way.)

American Christian missions over the last 200 years have accomplished a huge amount of low level infra-structure projects in impoverished countries, but that was never the main goal. The main goal, quite unapologetically, was to proclaim that the gospel of Christ was actually better than the local gods and to demonstrate that by the missionaries personally exhibiting the superiority of Christian virtues.

Another quasi-idealistic way to serve the U.S.A. and see foreign lands, of course, was via the military. Overwhelmingly since the Vietnam era the U.S. elites have disparaged this route, which is why a considerable ideological imbalance exists in the military.

Lastly, there is the Peace Corps option. P.C. volunteers did some infra-structure work and in some sense were overseas to demonstrate that America is a caring nation. Originally there even was a thought that the young volunteers would demonstrate some type of culturally advantageous habits, but that soon lapsed into a kind of despairing resignation. The volunteers were merely in Third World countries to "feel their pain" and to join them in grousing about the unfairness of the world economic system.

Other than being a liberal rite of passage, then, the Peace Corps experience was rather pointless. I have always been a little ticked at the way Peace Corps graduates flock into government employment. Their experience was very obviously being counted as a "dues paying" thing similar but somehow superior to what veterans or returned missionaries might boast. I have seen Peace Corps veterans ascend rapidly through government bureaucracy because they have made their bona fides in feeling the pain of dysfunctional nations, at least in the view of the high level bureaucrats who do the hiring and promotions of government work.

The Peace Corps, then, is really only a kind of grooming program for leftist big-government bureaucrats. It's not even "volunteers" anymore, as lately it has become necessary to pay the young of leftist elites to follow in their parents footsteps. A big brouhaha has erupted over the Bush plan to mix military enlistments with Peace Corps service, so that at least some veterans could get into the fast lane for government promotion and at least a few young leftists might get some military background.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 1, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

"Another quasi-idealistic way to serve the U.S.A. and see foreign lands, of course, was via the military."

Sorry, but I have to say it: "I wanted to see exotic Vietnam, the crown jewel of south-east Asia. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture, and kill them. I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill!"

Seems like it wasn't just the Peace Corps doing pointless things in foreign countries, was it... At least the Peace Corps is at worst useless, rather than murderous.

Posted by: ajay on March 1, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, when I was in Vietnam, I wanted to inculcate democracy, help modernize a people obviously challenged by a lot of backwardness, and insure religious freedom for Catholics,Budhists, atheists, and that peculiar sect that had the big temple southwest of Saigon which I can never remember the name of.

There were idealistic reasons we were there. I still talk about them with the people who make my morning doughnuts (Vietnamese who left in 1975.) We kind of sigh and discuss what might have been if the American military effort hadn't been so grossly mishandled.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 1, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK
A big brouhaha has erupted over the Bush plan to mix military enlistments with Peace Corps service, so that at least some veterans could get into the fast lane for government promotion and at least a few young leftists might get some military background.

Um, veterans already are in a fast lane for government promotion, as they receive "veterans preference" in many areas, and, further, a number of civilian positions in the government require (or all-but require) military experience to qualify.

And young leftists who want to serve in the military are not prohibited from either enlisting in the service or enrolling in commissioning programs (ROTC, service academies). So neither goal you seem to think Bush would be serving requires any new policy initiative to acheive.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 1, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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