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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Why a national service program is a bad idea
By Lorraine Jarvi
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 28, 2006, 00:30

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Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY 15) is again in the news for proposing legislation to require �Universal National Service� for the �furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.� He�s been beating this drum for the past four years (HR 2723, 2724, and 4752).

Despite the fact that past attempts have gone nowhere, Mr. Rangel is at it again, and this time he appears to be getting more support. The logic? Supposedly, if everybody gives his 15 months for this great and noble republic, and nobody�s exempt, then this will keep the president and the Pentagon honest. Mr. Rangel thinks that George W. Bush wouldn�t have dared to send troops into Iraq under false pretenses if every man and woman between 18 and 42 in the country could have been called up to serve.

How well did the draft work to stop the pointless 14-year Vietnam War? Why is Rangel proposing to respond to the Iraq debacle -- proven to be initiated under false pretenses -- by sending more troops to �finish the mission?� How has Rangel managed to convince himself that the American people can keep Bush honest, when he sits in a Congress that is itself helpless before an increasingly powerful and self-authorizing presidency?

When politicians are promoting legislation for stupid reasons, it�s usually because the real reason can�t be stated openly. So let�s think. What�s the current number one taboo subject? That�s easy: It�s the true state of the U.S. economy. No public figure wants to talk honestly about the economic debacle created by high (though hidden) inflation, the collapsing real estate market, and personal and public indebtedness.

In past times of economic crisis, leaders have either created social programs or they went to war. During the Great Depression, the government created work for people (the WPA). This alone couldn�t reverse the downward economic spiral, even though it did alleviate suffering. WWII came to the rescue and became the engine that rebuilt this economy.

Today, Americans face an economic crisis on a similar scale as the Great Depression. To stave it off, all means of desperate measures are being employed. The odious neocons were given carte blanche to prosecute their wet dream of world empire, because our leaders hoped war would provide an economic fix. Congress wrote Bush a blank check made out to the �War on Terror� -- an endless war against a faceless enemy whose only defining characteristic is a state of mind -- not because it made strategic sense to do so, but because it made economic sense. War provides jobs and income.

This economic fix isn�t working because the problems are too large. Like a dose of heroin for an addict, the economic activity generated by the "War on Terror" has created short-term profits for corporations and hastened the inevitable economic reckoning by adding to the public indebtedness.

Enter the Democrats with the other half of the traditional economic fix: direct government support. A National Service Program is the 21st century�s answer to the WPA. Laid off? Can�t get a job? Foreclosed on your mortgage? Drowning in debt? Commit two years of your life to Uncle Sam�s labor pool, and you�ll be assured of free meals, a place to sleep, and perhaps even a reduced rate on your interest payments!

Sounds good until you consider the fact that Uncle Sam is now a puppet. His actions are controlled by people who are motivated by power and profit, not human needs and values. The last thing we should want to do is to hand our military/corporate/government/banking power elites a blank check for the only resource they don�t already own, tax, or control -- our bodies.

Involuntary servitude is not a patriotic duty. Enslaving ourselves to policies that have repeatedly been proven untrustworthy, incompetent, rash and motivated by greed is not wise, and will not solve our economic problems. Instead, Americans must take control of their own economic well-being by working to build sustainable local and regional economies. A good place to start is to join one of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group, become active in local sustainability efforts, and join with others to pool resources and provide each other economic support.

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