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Not-So-Sweet Charity

This Politico story–“McCain has no national service plan”–is presented as if it were some sort of scoop. But it’s really little more than an Obama press release. Here’s the lede:

Despite past support of Americorps and other service programs, John McCain will not commit to a plan to increase service opportunities.

John McCain, who’s predicated his presidential run in no small part on his distinguished military record, frequently exhorts Americans — and especially young Americans — to serve their country. Despite that appeal, he has yet to offer any proposals to expand or transform national service outside of the military.

McCain is contrasted unfavorably to Barack Obama, who, the story tells us, “has proposed dramatically expanding Americorps and the Peace Corps, adding 65,000 members to the military and creating an annual $4,000 tax credit for post-secondary education in exchange for 100 hours of community service.”

McCain also wants to expand the size of the military, so really all we’re left with is Obama’s support for more federal government spending in the realm of national service and doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011. I’m not opposed to expanding the Peace Corps in principle, yet I do think the fact that the Obama campaign is making such a big deal out of this issue is indicative of his rosy world view. But what’s really odd about this piece is that it treats government funded “national service” schemes as if they were programs that everybody wants to expand. McCain, as the piece notes, has been a “prominent supporter of Americorps.” Yet the fact that he hasn’t proposed, like Obama, to quadruple the size of the program is somehow treated as “news.” The notion that McCain and other conservatives may believe that private philanthropic efforts are more effective in serving the public good than government bureaucracies is never recognized as a legitimate point of view.

Americans, as countless studies and polls have demonstrated, are without question the most charitable and volunteer-oriented people in the world. Partly because of our lack of a socialized economy, and partly because of traits unique to the American “can-do” spirit, Americans give more to charity and devote more hours to service than any other people on the planet. We don’t need billions of dollars in more government spending to pay us to do what we already and gladly do gratis.



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