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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/12/15

Budgetarily Marginalizing Kennedys, Generals Zinni, McChrystal, Pope Francis, and the New Deal Ethic?

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In 2015 a congressional staffer asked, "Doesn't the Serve America Act fulfill the aims of the American World Service Corps Congressional Proposal?" The following was included in People's Lobby's (PLI) answer to her.


In August of 2007 People's Lobby met with 23 bipartisan staffs to discuss introducing and implementing the American World Service Corps (AWSC) Congressional Proposal, which would ramp up over 7 years so that by the 7th year 1 million would annually serve in the independent do-good organizations under its national and internationally perceived AWSC umbrella. For the ensuing 20 years, a million a year would "voluntarily" serve before it could be considered for sun-setting.

Senator Kennedy's staff was among those who were very interested and noted the provisions the AWSC pushed. During this period I was talking often and regularly with Senator Feinstein's staffer, Olyvia Rodriguez, who had called People's Lobby's (PLI) about the proposal.

In 2009 Senator Kennedy died. In his honor, Congress passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. It legislated something close to a few of the proposals inherent in the AWSC congressional proposal, such as a Senior Corps, FEMA Corps. Unfortunately, it was not nearly as robust as the Kennedy brothers wanted the Peace Corps, Vista, and peaceful national service programs to be 50+ years ago when Kennedy's charisma thrust peaceful national service into the public's imagination.

Marginalize Serve America Act in the budget.

On May 7, 2009, President Barack Obama released his fiscal year 2010 budget request. It requested $1.149 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service that essentially funds the Serve America Act and AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund. This was a $260 million increase over the FY 2009 enacted level.

In 2015 $1.054 billion was budgeted for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and its programs, a $5 million increase over 2014.

Since 2009 that budget allocated to the Serve America Act has been reduced by about $95 million.

With limited research request responses from AmeriCorps, there's seems to have been about 75,000 AmeriCorps volunteers serving in 2009. There may be 90,000 serving in 2015, according to some difficult to find AmeriCorps figures. The Serve America Act, H.R. 1388, called for AmeriCorps to be at 210,000 by 2015.

The Ted Kennedy Serve America Act called for an expansion of service opportunities for Americans of all ages (as does the AWSC proposal), setting a path for increasing the number of AmeriCorps members to 250,000 by 2017. It looks like America will again NOT come close to even the modest AmeriCorps number that was set while Kennedy's passing was fresh in Congress and the nation's mind.

Ted Kennedy was a giant, as were his brothers Robert and John. They believed in robust national service programs. John Kennedy wanted the Peace Corps to grow to a 100,000 and then a million very quickly. This year it has about 7,000 PCVs serving, less than half the size of what it was when I served in the late 60's, yet applications are surging perhaps because Americans are beginning to sense that today's problems need different armies.

Fund Peace Corps applications
Fund Peace Corps applications
(Image by national peace corps association)
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Need bigger, different army

Because many millions have NOT completed peaceful national service since the JFK years, we now suffer from budget breaking wars abroad, climate changing ignorance, swelling masses of refugees, growing antipathy toward America, logic and empathy lacking public policies, and increased inequality at home.

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Dwayne served in the Peace Corps in the slums of Mumbai, India, worked several Habitat Projects, and was on the start-up team of the California Conservation Corps. He has a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, has been a builder, teacher, (more...)

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