The bill known as HR 1388 illustrates every problem Americans have with our government. For one thing, no one seems to be able to settle on a title. This bill has been alternately known as the GIVE Act (Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education), the Congressional Commission on Civic Service Act, the National Services Reauthorization Act among others. The Senate’s title at present is the Serve America Act, S.277, as best I can tell. This bill’s purpose is defined as an intent to “reauthorize and reform the national service laws.” The "reform" bill is a largely Democratic Party product. Researching it has been like a comedy of errors and uncertainty wherein "nobody knows nuttin'."
I wrote my senators. One responded; the other did not. I phoned the senator who responded by email and I am at present waiting on an official statement. I will report that as soon as I hear something.
Here’s the rub. If an average American tried to research this bill, he’d go in circles. Media has not even given this a nod. Liberals of course love it because it channels money to volunteer programs and creates “youth engagement zones” and “campuses of service.” Conservatives don’t love this bill—because of the cost and a perceived likeness to creating youth groups similar to those in Nazi Germany. Those are positions I’ve gleaned from numerous emails, comments and columns written by sympathizers of both major parties.
My problem with the bill is two-fold. For one thing the spending. I found a cost estimate (finally—no one I called seems to know one exists). Here are excerpts from The Congressional Budget Office’s cost analysis:
•CBO estimates that implementing programs with specified authorizations would cost $2.6 billion over the 2010-2014 period, assuming appropriation of the specified amounts for 2010 and adjusting those amounts in subsequent years for anticipated inflation when no specific authorization exists.
•The bill also would authorize the appropriation of such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for other programs, including AmeriCorps and education awards funded through the National Service Trust. CBO estimates those indefinite authorizations would total $587 million in fiscal year 2010 and would rise to nearly $1.6 billion by 2014.
•S. 277 includes annual goals for participation in all AmeriCorps programs (including the National Civilian Community Corps and VISTA), which would rise to 250,000 people by 201 7 (participation in those programs was about 75,000 in 2008). For this estimate, CBO assumes that sufficient funds would be provided to meet the annual goals specified in the bill-around $2.9 billion over the 20 10-20 14 period, CBO estimates. Those funds would be used primarily to provide grants to states, territories, tribes, and nonprofit organizations to operate volunteer service programs. CBO estimates that outlays for those programs would total $2.2 billion over the 20 10-2014 period.
On March 17, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office transmitted a cost estimate for H.R. 1388, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on March 11,2009. Estimated authorizations under the House bill totaled $9.4 billion over the 2010-2014 period, as compared to $8.7 billion under S. 277. The difference in estimated authorization levels is primarily the result of different time frames for reaching the stated goal of achieving 250,000 participants in AmeriCorps and VISTA programs. Under H.R. 1388, the deadline for reaching the goal would be 2014, whereas under S. 277, the deadline would be 2017.
Follow the links in the ‘References’ section below to learn more about this bill.
My other problem with this bill involves hypocrisy. Americans are being told to tighten our belts, to “sacrifice.” Congress should practice what it preaches. There should be no cost increase whatsoever in a bill projected as a “reauthorization” and “reform” bill. And we all know what eventually happens with any federal program—the cost almost always exceeds the projection. Congress should freeze proposals for any new federal spending until taxpayers know whether the controversial economic remedies President Barack Obama and the Congress have implemented will work.
Excellent essay on this act at Heritage Foundation:
March 20, 2009 The Death of Public Service: Serve America Act Sends Volunteerism to Hooverville
by Brian Brown