Among the most wasteful of the spending increases hidden in President Obama's 2011 budget proposal is his plan to create an army of government-funded community organizers at the shocking price of $1.4 billion. While the economy reels and many taxpayers are looking for ways to trim their personal spending, the president is demanding a whopping 59 percent boost for the Corporation for National and Community Service and its best-known program, AmeriCorps. It's time to pull the plug on both.
The spirit of volunteerism has never been in short supply in America, and there is no need for a federal community service agency to steer efforts better handled in the private sector. Youth who enlist in AmeriCorps receive education grants, living allowances, student-loan repayment, child care and other financial benefits. The average annual cost to taxpayers is $10,752 for each of these so-called volunteers. Doling out more than a billion dollars in taxpayer funds to pay "volunteers" is contrary to the very meaning of the word.
The long list of benefits succeeded in attracting 20,000 recruits after President Clinton created AmeriCorps in 1993. Mr. Obama's stated goal is to raise that number to a quarter-million by 2017. It's clear why the president wants to give a boost to this outfit, and the reasons are political - not charitable.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican, attempted last year to prohibit groups "engaged in political or legislative advocacy" from receiving taxpayer dollars through AmeriCorps. The left saw this as a direct attack on what has become a prime source of income and blocked the effort. As a result, the state of Oregon hosts on its official Web site a job listing for an AmeriCorps "volunteer" to accept an $11,100 living allowance and a $4,725 education award to work full time for a local Planned Parenthood office. The position requires a "commitment to the mission of Planned Parenthood," which - among other things - is to maximize the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood. Support in the past also has gone to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and various homosexual advocacy groups.
This is the fundamental problem when government gets in the business of deciding which charitable efforts are worth supporting. The inevitable result is that politically correct causes will dominate, to the detriment of true community service that can only exist in the private sphere. Thousands of worthy charities, churches and other true volunteer groups are looking for eager young workers, but they can hardly compete with lavish federal subsidies that boost government's liberal pet causes. So instead of learning the ropes under the instruction of real charities, a legion of 250,000 "volunteers" can learn to become dependent upon the federal government.
To make matters worse, the Obama administration in June fired AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin after he opened an investigation into the use of "volunteers" to do such important public service as washing the car of a friend of the president.
AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service can't be shut down soon enough.