Monday, March 16, 2009

The Workfare State

"X and Y generations... are ready to do great things. But we don't ask anything of them. They have not been challenged."--Joe Biden

The idea of a workfare state is a simple one. Supplement programs that are currently wholly funded through general taxation--and start new programs--by adopting compulsory or semi-compulsory civilian service. According to the Obama administration's transitional website, these would include:

  • a Classroom Corps to help underserved schools

  • a Health Corps to serve in the nation's clinics and hospitals

  • a Clean Energy Corps to achieve the goal of energy independence
  • a Veterans Corps to support the Americans who serve by standing in harm's way
Obama and Biden will call on citizens of all ages to serve. They'll set a goal that all middle school and high school students engage in 50 hours of community service a year, and develop a plan for all college students who engage in 100 hours of community service to receive a fully-refundable tax credit of $4,000 for their education. Obama and Biden will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

According to the policy wonks who have dreamed up such things (see links) the latter would hopefully lead to the former. Here's what the Democratic Leadership Caucus/Progressive Policy Institute had to say:

"Universal service. If adopted, these five steps for taking voluntary national service to scale would move us closer to the ideal of universal service. By bringing tens, and eventually hundreds, of thousands of willing citizens together to meet the great challenges of our time, we will hasten the day when it will become routine for Americans to ask each other: What did you do for your national service?"

And how will it become UNIVERSAL? Representative Charles Rangel of NY has an idea. He has introduced legislation that has been sitting in the Ways and Means Committee since 2007. H.R.393 would require all those between the ages of 18 and 42 years of age to serve at Uncle Sam's pleasure, in either a military or civilian capacity.

...Just the first step to an organized and mobilized economy...

"If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion." --Friedrich A. Hayek


  1. Sounds a little like Uncle Sam is the king here!?! I don't think that's Jeffersonian at all. The Founders' vision was people coming together in communities and states, and the states coming together as a nation. Free association - not mandatory volunteerism. That's not leadership.

    Just as in economics, a central planner cannot accurately direct the flow of capital, so in society a central plan cannot efficiently direct the flow of labor. What made America great was everyone working for their passion, and the freedom to do and to own created record wealth.

  2. Perhaps I need to place *sarcasm* in there like I do on the message boards. If you were familiar with the general format here, you would realise that I am against this.

    perhaps I need to make it more perfectly clear to the newcomer:)

  3. maybe, but on my second read through I saw the sarcasm and understood what you wre saying. It just takes some of us a little longer.

  4. While at church, the bible study teacher said Obama was trying to take away all our children. Is this what she was talking about?

  5. @Tina,
    I'd maybe take what you hear about politicians taking you kids away, with a grain of salt. I'd investigate legislation that's out there (Library of Congress "Thomas" is a good source the agenda on, investigate think-tanks' sites like Progressive Policy institute ( and the Third Way ( and The DLC ( these are the people that tend to direct policy in the executive a legislative branches of gov't at the moment. Good Luck :)