On Jobs and Eliminating AmeriCorps

The Republicans in the House passed their budget late Saturday night. Not a single Democrat supported the bill and its $61 billion in cuts was declared dead-on-arrival in the Senate and panned by the President.  A day after de-funding Planned Parenthood, Republicans in the House took a broadsword to the budget and cut everything that they don’t like – including funding for AmeriCorps, NPR, the NEA, and the EPA.  It’s a fantasy budget that did not close one corporate loophole, end a subsidy, or do anything to create revenue.

With Congress on a week-long break for President’s Day (Seriously? How about our Congress honor President’s Day by working), the likelihood of the Senate and House coming to a compromise is slim.   This will mean another Continuing Resolution.  Speaker Boehner has demanded concessions from the Democrats to pass another CR.  The only other option after that is the first Government shut down in 15 years – something no one wants to happen.

House Republicans let it be known that the 112th Congress was going to be about jobs.  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.  Congress was sworn in and Republicans promptly began creating jobs by repealing the Health Care bill, demagogue-ing the EPA, and passing an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder to take money for family planning and breast cancer screening away from Planned Parenthood.  The work of the Republicans thus far in the 112th Congress, culminating in this budget proposal, shows that the Republicans do not care one whit about creating jobs.

Look no further than the elimination of funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service for proof that House Republicans are letting ideology overwhelm their responsibility to lead.  CNCS funds AmeriCorps/VISTA, Senior Corps, NCCC, and CityYear.  AmeriCorps/VISTA members tutor struggling readers, operate food banks, fund-raise for community organizations and non-profits and build capacity for community improvement.  Members are rebuilding communities in New Orleans, developing after school programs in Montana, and are preserving parks in California.  At a time when high school and college graduates have seen their job prospects evaporate with the recession or college become further out of reach because of rising tuition rates, AmeriCorps/VISTA provides 85,000 jobs.  Young people are AmeriCorps members, retired professionals serve in AmeriCorps/VISTA, people seeking a new career or to build new skills pledge a year to the service of their country.

President Obama, who believes in National Service, is also feeling the mis-directed need to cut programs that serve our communities.  In the rush to out-demonize the other side on earmarks the President and Congress have wiped out funding for Teach For America.  Teach For America has put teachers into the poorest and most broken classrooms in the U.S. for nearly 20 years.  TFA places teachers into urban and rural schools; schools that face major challenges to recruitment and retention and schools that are desperately attempting to raise scores and close the achievement gap.  It has trained a generation of teachers and is an incredibly competitive program – it only accepted 5,000 out of 66,000 applicants this year.  Over ten years that’s 50,000 new teachers, halfway to the President’s goal of 100,000 new teachers by 2020.  TFA receives $21 million annually from the Federal Government, which amounts to a rounding error in a budget of $3.8 trillion.  Teach for America is not pork.  It is a program that is vital to our national interests.

Our debt and deficit crisis is difficult and will require cuts.  It will also require revenue and a serious fix to the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The budget is not going to be balanced by terminating the Corporation for National and Community Service.  All that will be accomplished is depriving our communities and our country of a vital resource.  Combine that with the proposed cuts to the CSBG, CDBG, and LIHEAP programs and our safety net disappears.  As our local governments are forced to make ever deeper cuts to their budgets, elected officials are looking to community and faith-based organizations to fill the void.  The proposed cuts to AmeriCorps will make it impossible for these groups to continue to mend our safety net.

National Service members serve their country, working in and with our most vulnerable communities.  We should be celebrating the people who decide that the best way to spend a year of their life is to serve their community or move across the country to work where no one else will.  Private industry will not fill the vacuum created if National Service goes away.  We need to stand with the thousands of current members, the millions of alumni, and most importantly, the communities they serve.  Because they can’t.  Current members are prohibited from lobbying for the work they do.  It’s up to us.

One Response to “On Jobs and Eliminating AmeriCorps”
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  1. […] in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, and the U.S. House.  Republicans are going to be able to propose a ridiculous federal budget, de-fund Planned Parenthood, a ensure that poor children from immigrant families […]

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