"They propose building it over seven years. By the seventh year one million Americans, aged 18 through 70+, are serving in their choice of Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Doctors sans Borders, Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, Head Start, Habitat, Oxfam, Mercy Corps, state civilian conservation corps and other smaller, local do-good nonprofits. Then their draft legislation calls for keeping it at 1 million a year for 20 years, before sun setting is considered. That allows America to field a robust, peaceful, productive nation building army for a generation. It's one of the new armies the 21st century, 7 billion people, and the earth needs."
"Did you say 'one of the new armies'?"
"Yes... Imagine, if we gear up and start fielding this AWSC. Imagine if we challenge or inspire China, Russia, Venezuela, Israel, Palestine, Iran, etc., to build their own World Service Corps and serve alongside or with us. Imagine the military power that spends more on arms than all the other nations combined suddenly fielding an army of do-gooders. Imagine that military power pushing all the nations of the world to do the same, to change direction, so we can use these new 21st century armies to battle climate change, poverty, and ignorance together peacefully."
"A bit Camelot-ish isn't it, Mr. President?"
The President looks at me, "Sure. But tell me, if you took this home and explained it to your wife and children, if you explain it to your neighbors and to your fellow writers, if you talk about it on your radio interviews, how many who hear it would fight against having me implement something like this?"
"Not many, Mr. President. In fact, most of us parents would prefer our children do that kind of nation building service rather than the military. My daughter might try serving with someone like Doctors without Borders for a year or two to see if she really is cut out for budget busting medical school.
And maybe you and your wife might take a year or two off to help somewhere and collect material for your next book while doing so."
"Maybe, Mr. President, but before you launch this great public relations team, don't you have to have to figure out how to fund 21 million Americans serving over 27 years? How to keep them safe? And..."
"Whoa. Wait a minute. Don't be painting this as a mere public relations gambit. These AWSC volunteers will be working hard every day, doing something constructive, learning while doing, and working alongside other nations' volunteers. We had the CCC, WPA, and an integrated military serving with other nations during the era when we fought a depression and world war and that produced the Greatest Generation. This Corps can build the next Greatest Generation right when the earth needs it most.
"As to funding it, their AWSC website has some outside of the box proposals, like using a spreadsheet listing the Forbes 400 Richest American billionaires, our richest athletes, and our richest entertainers; and publicly listing their voluntary donations escrowed to underwrite AWSC costs. Those donations would reduce Uncle Sam's $700 billion cost to field 21 million Americans for 27 years. Donating to peaceful efforts can be good for the businesses of the super-rich too.
"And the public would probably appreciate those donors a bit more than those who don't who don't contribute 1-2% of their wealth to fund an AWSC, don't you think? Maybe Congress would use some of People's Lobby's other taxing ideas to make up the shortfall, like assessing an import levy on those developed nations with which we run a significant trade deficit.
"Do you think those ideas are worth throwing around in Congress and in public discussion?"
"As to the safety of having so many Americans serve... Well, it's a more dangerous world today, but we must involve ourselves soon in making it more sane and safe. If not now, when... It won't get safer without dramatic involvement by Americans. We've been spending between $700,000 to $1 million per soldier per year, trying to keep them and others safe. This AWSC should cost about $35 to 40,000 per volunteer per year. We won't be putting them directly into fields of combat, but we would hope those organizations they serve with would deal with the poverty, ignorance, and climate changes that are breeding grounds for terrorists all around today's military battlegrounds.
"Anyway, with the economic situation facing our country, it's likely that the majority would choose to serve at home, maybe in the hills of Appalachia. Maybe in hurting cities like Detroit and Cleveland. Maybe in those cities that face earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Their works and modest earnings will recirculate primarily into our economy. And their grand learnings will pay America back 100 fold in years to come."
"So, this is your dual purpose army. It'll deal with Al Queda and its offshoots, as well as our sputtering economy and climate deterioration?"