Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rocking The Vote May Tip The Boat Over

I just got this wonderful E-Mail from my good friends at Rock The Vote, who want me to contact my Senators and tell them to take away my ability to contribute freely of my time and energy to activities of my own choosing.

For those who haven't heard about the GIVE and Serve America Acts because you were to busy being distracted by the contrived AIG scandal, here's a summary of what they entail:


"Dear Juan,
Contact Your Senator.
Check this out, last week Congress voted and passed the 'GIVE Act,' a bill to significantly expand community service opportunities and reward young people for their service with education stipends, job training, and more. It was huge and this week the Senate is taking up their version with the 'Serve America Act'. We need to make sure this passes.
Will you contact your Senators and ask them to vote 'yes' on the Serve America Act?
Our country, and many of us, are facing crazy hard times right now. We need to reshape what our country looks like and how it works, change where we get our energy from, create new jobs and train workers for these new jobs, restructure our health care system to cover the tens of million of 18-29 year olds without coverage, and make college affordable.
Many of you are already doing your part, taking action online and in your communities. And this bill will open up significantly more opportunities.
This is why we need the Senate to pass the Serve America Act, the boldest service legislation in 70 years.
Here are some more details, the Serve America Act creates a chance for young people to participate in actively rebuilding and changing the direction of our country, while rewarding us with job training, financial support, education awards, and more. Specifically it will:
* More than triple the number of volunteer opportunities for Americans, from 75,000 to 250,000.
* Create four targeted problem-solving corps that will deploy Americans of all ages to increase access to job training and placement resources, help raise high school graduation and college-going rates, enhance energy efficiency and preserve natural resources, and improve access to health care
* Launch Youth Engagement Zones to involve young people in high-quality service learning projects, and recognize 'Campuses of Service' that engage students in service activities, integrate service and learning, and promote service careers
* Mobilize skilled Americans to serve in developing countries around the world to tackle urgent problems, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, through Volunteers for Prosperity, and expand international service opportunities that help better connect America to the world.
Want to know all the details? Check out the bill.
We want to make sure those we elected last November know we are paying attention to the decisions that are making.
Please contact your Senators.
Thanks for taking action,
Heather Smith"

Sadly, the blatant misrepresentation and ignorance in this letter, which has gone out to millions of young Americans, will go unnoticed by most. However, I am not most and would, thus, like to make a quick point.
Forcing people to partake in specific, ideologically driven, government subsidized and approved pet projects is NOT the same as increasing volunteer opportunities. It's more like telling your neighbor at gun point to mow your lawn without pay and claiming he did it voluntarily.

There are plenty of volunteer opportunities. The Salvation Army isn't closing its doors and turning away people who want to stand out in the freezing cold, ringing a bell next to a rusty bucket. Habitat for Humanity isn't telling teens and young adults that their services aren't needed because the homeless in South America enjoy living in cardboard shacks. The fact is, the United States is already the most charitable nation in the world, even without the tax payer dollars that go to foreign aid, so this bill has nothing, and I mean NOTHING to do with serving the community and making a better world, and everything to do with forcing individuals to partake in a social and ideological agenda that over half of them do not agree with, and doing so with threats and coercion.

The GIVE act requires that any child in middle or high school perform 50 hours of community service and that any college student perform 100 hours per year. Of course, you don't get to decide what kind of community service is acceptable, the government does. The Secretary of Education for the United states will decide what organizations will be accepted as community service and this law specifically disallows any religious organizations to be a part of the program. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, for instance, are perfectly within the bounds of the program because they receive federal funding, yet Habitat for Humanity, an ecumenical Christian organization, will not be considered an acceptable use of your community service time. That is the reality of this legislation.

Perhaps it is time to teach these bloated heads in Washington what charity actually entails. First and foremost, charity requires the free will to make the decision of engaging in the charitable act. Sending billions of tax payer dollars to combat AIDS in Africa or for food in third world countries, for instance, is not charity, despite what the claims may be. The simple fact that it is forced upon party A (the taxpayer) by party B (the government) disqualifies it from being labeled as such, whatever the merits or demerits of the actual action may be. Now, many of you may argue that such action being undertaken by the government is good, and will help feed starving peoples in under-developed nations, and that may be true, but who made the choice?

Another way to look at this may help to better explain my point. Recently, President Obama lifted the ban on Federal funding for abortions performed in other countries and increased the amount of tax payer money (our money) that goes to fund the procedures. If you pay taxes (~55% of Americans), you are, at this very moment, indirectly funding an abortion. Would you, under normal circumstances, donate to Planned Parenthood, or its Chinese equivalent? Maybe, maybe not, yet you were not given the option. The money was simply taken from you and transferred to someone else. That is the crux of the issue.
What this bill does, much to my dismay, is take away your ability to decide where, when, and how to spend 500 hours of your life. 500 hours dictated to you by the benevolent government of the United States of America. Many of us would have no issue with doing 500 hours of community service in our lifetime, and many of us gladly exceed that, but we do so of our own free will and in the charity of our choice. Mandatory volunteer work is, in and of itself, the epitome of an oxymoron, and should be called what it actually is: indentured servitude. “We contribute our time and money under no government coercion on a scale the rest of the world doesn’t emulate and probably can’t imagine,” states contributing editor for the Family Security Foundation Luke Sheahan. “The idea that government should order its people to perform acts of charity is contrary to the idea of charity and it removes the responsibility for charity from the people to the government, destroying private initiative.”

Unfortunately, that is not the most egregious attack on liberty contained in this bill, which, while unsurprising given the administration's complete disregard for the people they supposedly serve, should have caused outrage within both the House and Senate the moment it was proposed. What truly is awe inspiring, however, is the grievous violation of the most basic and fundamental protection granted to private individuals in the very first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America: the freedom to speak out against our government. As is pointed out in an article from TheCitizen.com, an amendment to the GIVE act contains language that strips First Amendment rights from participants, which includes every 'volunteer' in the mandatory program, even taking from them their right to attend religious services.

The 12th amendment to the act states, “Amendment to prohibit organizations from attempting to influence legislation; organize or engage in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes; and assist, promote, or deter union organizing.”

Gary Wood explains it best when he writes, “...the people associated through service under the G.I.V.E. Act are considered volunteers, still free citizens, yet it will be unlawful for them to take part in any protests against any legislation. This is as close to a sedition act, a violation of 1st Amendment rights, as has been proposed in recent history. A basic right as a part of our natural, inalienable rights, is to resist government. Our founders not only knew it was a right but it was a responsibility. This legislation begins to break that down significantly.”

Section 125 of the bill states which organizations are and which aren't eligible for the program as well as what activities people involved will not be allowed to partake in.


‘(a) Prohibited Activities- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:
‘(1) Attempting to influence legislation.
‘(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.
‘(3) Assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing.
‘(4) Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements.
‘(5) Engaging in partisan political activities, or other activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to any public office.
‘(6) Participating in, or endorsing, events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation, or elected officials.
‘(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.
‘(8) Providing a direct benefit to–
‘(A.) a business organized for profit;
‘(B.) a labor organization;
‘(C.) a partisan political organization;
‘(D.) a nonprofit organization that fails to comply with the restrictions contained in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 except that nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent participants from engaging in advocacy activities undertaken at their own initiative; and
‘(E.) an organization engaged in the religious activities described in paragraph (7), unless Corporation assistance is not used to support those religious activities.
‘(9) Conducting a voter registration drive or using Corporation funds to conduct a voter registration drive.
‘(10) Such other activities as the Corporation may prohibit.

Section 120 of the bill, which discusses the “Youth Engagement Zone Program” also states that “service learning” will be “a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the secondary schools served by the local educational agency.”

Additionally, the corps included in this bill, by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's own admission, will be run much differently than current volunteer organizations. Emanuel, who has publicly stated his intent to of creating a “universal civil defense training” program, explained during an interview with Ben Smith of the New York Daily News that "somewhere between the ages of 18 to 25 you will do three months of training… but there can be nothing wrong with all Americans having a joint similar experience of what we call civil defense training or civil service in service of the country, in preparation, which will give people a sense of what it means to be an American.”

When asked if it would be military style training, Emanuel stated, “If you’re worried about are you going to have to do 50 jumping jacks the answer is yes,” and added that the state National Guard could possibly be put in charge of the training.

Whether or not this is cause for concern is up to you to decide, but, personally, I'll be keeping an eye on what's happening under the cover of pretend corporate scandals and contrived political outrage. Just because the boy cries wolf doesn't mean it's a good idea to let the fox guard the hen house. When politicians put on a show, there's always a reason.


Mandatory volunteer work. Try to explain that one.