A few days ago I made an unusual sidestep and argued that national and community service programs should supplant government funding with local sources of funding, and scale back accordingly. This is unusual for several reasons, the primary among them being that I believe it is the paramount duty of a democratic government to ensure its citizenry has their basic human rights respected, including having food, water and shelter, educational opportunities, and the right to participation, among many other rights. This is particularly true about young people, as they are more than our metaphorical future: instead, children and youth are our immediate present, and their presence should be more than an afterthought.
In this light it may seem irresponsible or reckless to advocate for the abandonment of government funding for AmeriCorps programs. Imagine if this proposition were taken to its most extreme: every child in a private school, every patient responsible for paying for their own health care, and every prisoner tried by a jury of their creditors. The outsourcing and abdication of many democratic responsibilities in the U.S. doesn’t bother some people; I am not one of those people.
Instead, I believe it is vital for policy-makers, government officials, law enforcement, teachers and other individuals to acknowledge their obligation, their huge responsibility of ensuring the mechanisms of democracy function, and to do that well. Equally as much, it is the duty of every single citizen – and in my own case, every single resident – to enact our roles as democrats committed to fighting the tyranny of oppression, alienation, and anitpathy that comes from , irresponsible and wreckless government leadership. This should happen in our local, state and national political systems; however, it should not stop there. Instead, we have to activate and engage in our schools, with our justice system, throughout the healthcare debate, and across the marketplace. And in national and community service programs.
In the last post I expressed the later part of that sentiment, which stems from the several years I have borne out the fruits of the labors of countless government agents, either while I have worked in government, as an independent contractor, through government grant-funded activities, or in one of the mechanisms originally destined to ensure government imperatives are carried through, schools and nonprofit organizations. For as much as I’ve been in the past, I am becoming more and more concerned about the way the federal government fluctuates in its economic support for essential services necessary for the democratic functioning of our nation. This includes the funding of AmeriCorps. Without making a deliberate and consistent commitment towards the sustainable funding of the program, Congress and the President are deflating the potential value and the public’s perception of the value of the program. Luckily, AmeriCorps programs and their advocates maintain a vigilant struggle to fight that perception. In the meantime, we need a frank conversation about the inadequacies and apparent inabilities of the government to stay focused on the most pressing national needs. As the country settles into a long slog of recession, if not a depression, we must ask these hard questions – and ask hard questions, demand answers, and create solutions.