Saturday, November 08, 2008

You First

This is the second part of my take on the "call to service" hooey being served up the Obama-Biden transition site. The problem is defined this way:
The Problem
Americans Not Asked to Serve After 9/11:
President Bush squandered an opportunity to mobilize the American people following 9/11 when he asked Americans only to go shopping.

Insufficient Federal Support for Service: While more than 500,000 people have served in AmeriCorps, the program turns away tens of thousands of applicants a year because of limited funding.

Need for More R&D in Nonprofit Sector: Research and development in the nonprofit sector is limited and there is a disconnect between charitable foundations that can fund innovation and the organizations on the ground that can test new concepts and bring them to scale.
I'm honestly not sure why the third item is on this list. Nonprofit =/= volunteer. Nonprofit organizations can be serious money makers. I work for one myself and, trust me, I am no volunteer. I am paid an industry competitive salary and have a benefits package better than most. All of the excess income brought in by my organization is ploughed right back into the community. I am 100% behind beefing up nonprofits to do things like research, especially if the fruits of the research can then be provided to the public without having to make a profit from it. However, what I know from working with nonprofits is how they can be used to unfairly enrich some top executives and not actually provide much benefit. In any event, this doesn't belong on the Service page.

The middle item, expanding the funding for AmeriCorps, is a valid goal, though there is also a need to create a new CCC, paying people to perform needed work rather than asking for them to both volunteer and support themselves. We need fiscal stimulus at the individual level through creation of jobs that will keep local economies moving but which can be allowed to vanish or be converted to a more permanent position once the economy picks up.

One of the reasons why volunteerism is promoted by conservatives is because it prevents the establishment of government agencies and employment positions that people will get to like, especially if they involve job security and are open to social outsiders. The goods and resources provided by a volunteer group are not things the recipient has a right to - it's charity, not benefits, and can be offered with many strings attached or withdrawn abruptly and with no recourse. It makes the recipients into beggars, at base, dependent on the generosity and attention span of their socio-economic betters. This is why volunteerism is something that must enhance, not replace, state supported social services.

The first statement, however, is what leads off the plea for service, figured as some kind of sacrifice due for our supposed failure to serve after 9/11. Bush did not ask us, so we didn't bother is the message, so now the Good Fathers (not the Prodigal Son) will take us to task and have us make amends for our neglect of the Beloved Community.

To which I say, you first, Bub.

Pray tell, what sacrifice is due from the people of this country? What great bounty has the average American reaped under Bush?

It is not Madge the manicurist and Serena the student who owe America a sacrifice. Joe the janitor and Carlos the car mechanic have been working their asses off the last 8 years trying to make ends meet, or haven't you noticed? Antoine the hair stylist has struggled to keep his salon open and his staff employed, while Chris the window repair gal has been sub-contracting a bunch of her jobs to friends who are down on their luck, not keeping a dime for herself. Unemployment is on the rise and estimates of how high it will be are approaching double digits. The percentage increases the further down the ladder you go and we aren't even touching on underemployment.

Why should the blue and pink collar workers, the students and new graduates, the low-level denizens of cubicle cities sacrifice their second job or time with their children or just the opportunity to take a day off for the sake of restoring an economy and society laid waste by the money men and corporate cronies, by the worst president ever and his criminal administration, by a rapacious and ruthless political oligarchy still more interested in defending the golden parachutes of Goldman Sachs than the stagnant wages of Rosie the Riveter?

I think those who got to party are the ones who should pay the bill. It is the people at the very top of the socio-economic food and political chain who are due for some sacrifice. Like 50%, 60%, 70% marginal tax rates. Like lower profits for shareholders. Like seeing some jail time for war crimes.

I think the people who benefitted from the international and domestic misery inflicted by Bush & Co need to lead by example and endure some sacrifices. How about they have to put in a few hundred hours of community service? How about having the senior executives of AIG go to the public schools in New York and do some painting and window washing for a few months? How about we send Bush's failed agency heads into the Lower 9th Ward to fix things, mow lawns and run errands for the residents in atonement for having allowed so many to die? That's assuming the residents would allow that pack of thieves and thugs into their neighborhood, of course. Don't want to give up your free time? OK, fine, then you can pay through the nose for each hour you want exempted. From your own pocket. And no tax breaks on it or charging it off to the company.

Ordinary Americans will volunteer their time in their communities as they always have, tutoring kids at school, organizing local amateur sports, improving neighborhoods, caring for the elderly, donating a few extra dollars to a worthy cause. They owe the nation nothing. Before we start guilt tripping the people who are going to be hard pressed to make ends meet in the next few years to relinquish yet more of their lives, it is time that the people who created the mess feel a good measure of the pain they are causing for the rest.

You go first. We insist.



Mike J. said...

One of the early WW2 propaganda posters used by Great Britain carried the slogan "Your sacrifice will bring about our victory." It was quickly pulled as people started to wonder whether the people sacrificing and the people enjoying the fruits of victory might not be two separate sets of people. Obama's call to service seems to fit in the same category, particularly given his apparent backsliding on the promise to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Koshem Bos said...

More than anything, encouraging volunteerism is a childish approach to problem solving. There is always enough money to pay CEO and other management huge salaries and bonuses, but there is no money for communities that need teachers, physicians, etc. Instead, allocate resources to communities to acquire, run and monitor their own needs. They know best and not an MBA educated moron who has never lived or felt the lives of the needy.

Volunteerism is great when it comes from bottom up. For instance, many churches serve diligently communities of extremely hard working illegal aliens who get no services otherwise, whose accommodations don't fit human being and who, of course, have no health care services.

As for the Bush administration, "some" war crime indictments are called for. As for the Management (CEOs, VPs, CFOs, CTOs, CIOs, etc.) who robed the American people, the best way to get back at those people is to enact laws and regulations that limit their compensation and their ability to control board of directors.

Madelyn said...

First, they send the jobs overseas. Then they reward themselves with billions of dollars they saved by making workers unemployable. Then they create work programs for the 'low information' and under educated. Then they tell women to get off you butts and volunteer.

Do they think we are that stupid?