Expanding national service

EXPANDING NATIONAL SERVICE…. The Senate easily approved legislation last night that would “broadly expand national community service programs.” Naturally, the far-right is livid.

The bill will increase the number of positions available in AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000, and will create “new cadres of volunteers focused on education, clean energy, health care and veterans.” The House is expected to endorse the Senate version next week, and will be signed into law by President Obama soon after.

What’s more, this has become largely a bipartisan issue. While President Clinton’s AmeriCorps initiative in 1993 was largely rejected by Republican lawmakers, last night’s vote wasn’t close — 79 senators supported the expanded national service opportunities, including a majority of the Senate Republican caucus. Indeed, there were even a half-dozen GOP co-sponsors.

So, now that both parties see the value in national service, the issue can be added to the (short) list of policy areas where there’s widespread agreement? Not quite yet.

Consider the reaction this week from right-wing bloggers. One compared community service programs to “Hitler youth.” Malkin called this a “left-wing slush fund.” WorldNetDaily said, well, the kind of nonsense WorldNetDaily always says.

Before Drudge and Fox News convince gullible news consumers — and a little too much of the media establishment — that “national service” is code for authoritarianism, let’s point out two key observations. First, there’s nothing in the legislation requiring public service. It’s about expanding service opportunities for those who choose to pursue them.

Second, it’s a bipartisan bill. It passed the Senate with 79 votes, and passed the House with 321 votes. Why on earth would conservative Republican lawmakers vote for a “left-wing slush fund” that would create some kind of “Hitler youth”-style program?