Letters to the Editor

AmeriCorps aid

May 17, 2011

Advertisement

To the editor:

Earlier this year, Congress voted to cut $22.5 million from AmeriCorps, our nation’s service program. As a result, more than 2,000 men and women committed to serving our country will be laid off, and local organizations will no longer benefit from these young, energetic and inexpensive employees.

For example, I work as part of a team of six AmeriCorps members at Heartland Community Health Center (HCHC) in Lawrence. Together, we provide a support system for both the patients and staff of HCHC. The clinic’s diabetes care and prevention, wellness and women’s health programs provide free education and support to patients wanting to improve their health through meaningful lifestyle changes. All three programs are run entirely by AmeriCorps members and would no longer be available to the community should these positions be cut.

Besides HCHC, AmeriCorps members also serve at Centro Hispano, Boys & Girls Club and the United Way’s Roger Hill Volunteer Center in Lawrence. AmeriCorps members serve in our schools, parks and wildlife refuges as well as local nonprofit and charity organizations.

This week is National AmeriCorps Week. Our representatives in Congress need to know how important this program is to Lawrence. Together, we can keep AmeriCorps alive in our community and country, and can continue to transform peoples’ lives through the work AmeriCorps members do.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Our representatives don't care about this. They are the addicted to Tax Cuts at any expense gang through and through.

Losing a few more jobs means nothing. AmeriCorps is an excellent means of bringing OUR tax dollars back to the community.

Instead our gang of reps will be awarding our tax dollars to those who likely don't pay taxes through a variety of loopholes aka as corp american industry. Isn't it odd that some of the largest voices against taxes and likely do not pay taxes are also among the largest RECIPIENTS of OUR tax dollars.

If corp america wants OUR tax dollars one of the means tests should be "Did They Pay" or did they NOT PAY?

In fact wealthy american corporations should stand on their own two feet as they say others should be doing. And some of these wealthy corporations are right here in Lawrence,Kansas. Here is how many of them stick us with their bills:

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2008/commonthreads/115777.shtml

rtwngr 4 years ago

This is not a function of federal government. Local funding and private donations need to drive this program.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

This is a statement of ideology, not fact. Unfortunately, your ideology doesn't get the job done.

jafs 4 years ago

There is a real, and valid, debate about the size and scope of the federal government.

As far as I can tell, there isn't one right answer to that question.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"There is a real, and valid, debate "

No, there isn't any real debate. Americorps gets a piddling amount of funding, but its volunteers do a lot of good in areas of this country that need the help. But even that funding gets cut in what's nothing but an ideological temper tantrum.

Where is the debate about funding for the War Dept, which is bloated beyond comprehension? It doesn't get cut because there are powerful vested interests that depend on it to maintain the wealth of the powerful people who own and run it. Instead, well-meaning young people getting paid minimum wage get cut, resulting in no significant reduction in the deficit.

jafs 4 years ago

Then start the conversation about the Defense Department.

There are differing ideas about the size and scope of the federal government, and just calling somebody else's idea "ideology" and yours "fact based" doesn't move the discussion forward at all.

This country was founded on the idea of a limited and small federal government. We currently have a large one that's involved in lots of things.

Some people are bothered by that - in fact, I am bothered a bit.

What justifies the massive shift in the federal government away from the original idea of a small, limited one?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"Then start the conversation about the Defense Department."

There's been a conversation about it for a long time-- unfortunately, not where it does any good, in Washington, where defense contractor lobbyists are paid well to steer the conversation in a very different direction.

"and just calling somebody else's idea "ideology" and yours "fact based" doesn't move the discussion forward at all."

I didn't call my idea "fact-based." I readily admit that my preference is based on ideology. But it's an ideology based on a fact-- Americorps workers do a lot of good for people in need in this country, for a rather small amount of money.

"This country was founded on the idea of a limited and small federal government."

The founders were primarily aristocrats looking to preserve their privileged positions as much as they were revolutionaries. What the founders wanted in the way of government is of historical interest, but that was then, this is now.

"What justifies the massive shift in the federal government away from the original idea of a small, limited one?"

The simple answer is that it's a very different world. Keeping government "right-sized" requires constant vigilance. But there isn't any right answer as to how big, or how small, it should be. Such answers will always be driven as much by ideology as fact. But ideologies that ignore facts are of no help at all.

jafs 4 years ago

If you aren't interested in the founders' intent at all, then what guides you in decision making about policy, etc.? What stops us from becoming a very different kind of country than was intended? Why isn't that a problem?

It sounds to me like it's just your ideology vs. theirs then.

You want a larger government that's involved in more things, and the other side wants a smaller government that's involved in fewer things.

Without anything to ground the discussion (like what the founders intended), there's no way to resolve the conflict.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

I didn't say that I wasn't interested in what the founders' intent was.

But they're dead, as is the world in which they lived.

One of the founders, Thomas Jefferson, happened to believe that government should be essentially remade every generation. That might be a bit extreme, but if what the founders did is wrong for us, here and now, then it should be scrapped.

"You want a larger government that's involved in more things, and the other side wants a smaller government that's involved in fewer things."

I think that grossly mis-states my position.

jafs 4 years ago

You said it was "of historical interest", which certainly suggests that it is of no use today in determining policy.

Scrapped and replaced with what? Based on what principles? Etc.

Who decides if it's "wrong for us" now?

I don't see how - I've read numerous posts of yours, and you seem to generally be in favor of the liberal version of government, which is that it's larger and involved in many things.

Please state your position clearly if it's different, so we don't waste time and energy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

I really don't get what you're trying to say. Are the founding fathers the equivalent of the writers of the Bible, the Koran or the Torah? Are their words the gospel truth that require interpretation by a priestly caste?

Certainly, we have their legacy in the form of the Constitution and the general form of our government, and our court system does function somewhat as a "priestly caste."

But the founding fathers were not divinely inspired prophets. They were fallible human beings just like the rest of us, and they lived in a very different era-- an era in which they couldn't even imagine the very different world we live in. So while it's instructive to know what they did, and why, that doesn't mean that it will always inform us in a useful way when making decisions on how we govern ourselves, more than 250 years after they did their thing.

And while I don't buy into the notion that government is always inherently evil, you have a mistaken notion of my view of government. If it were solely up to me, there would certainly be areas of greater government involvement. But there would also be a long list of areas where government involvement would be greatly reduced or wholly eliminated.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"more than 250 years"

I should have said "nearly 250 years."

jafs 4 years ago

Ok.

So what would be the underlying principles and philosophy that you would base decisions on then? The intention of the founders has always been one of those touchstones for our country.

Other than defense, I've never seen you advocate for eliminating any federal agencies or activities.

In fact, LO attacks them, and you defend them.

Perhaps you should indicate some of the things you'd eliminate, and why.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"So what would be the underlying principles and philosophy that you would base decisions on then?"

Right off the top of my head, fairness, transparency and equal opportunity would rate pretty high.

"The intention of the founders has always been one of those touchstones for our country."

Divining the "intent" of the founders is often more the source of controversy than it is instructive.

"Other than defense, I've never seen you advocate for eliminating any federal agencies or activities."

When the argument for eliminating federal agencies is based simply on the fact that they are federal agencies, I find it less than compelling. I believe that modern society can only exist with a mixed economy-- some capitalist features with government regulations as appropriate, and some socialist features, which by definition requires complete democratic control and oversight.

As far as what I would eliminate, it'd be on a case by case basis. Generalizing on it seems rather pointless, although the war dept. (as differentiated from a true defense dept.) is a real no-brainer.

jafs 4 years ago

So you'd just decide how to structure our country based on what you'd like to see happen.

Without any concern for whether or not it would be compatible with the ideals we were founded upon, or the intention of the founders.

That's exactly what conservatives are afraid of.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"So you'd just decide how to structure our country based on what you'd like to see happen."

Well, ya. Hasn't that been precisely the process this country has undergone ever since it's founding? Isn't that why the constitution gets amended, and why legislatures write laws and governors and presidents (theoretically) enforce them?

"Without any concern for whether or not it would be compatible with the ideals we were founded upon, or the intention of the founders.

That's exactly what conservatives are afraid of."

To the extent that we should always try to learn from those who came before us, their intent is important. But they were creatures of the late 18th/early 19th century. They were well-educated for the time, but their life experiences could not possibly account for all that has changed over the last 250 years. I see no purpose in putting them on a pedestal, which is what many conservatives would like to do.

Doing so makes absolutely no sense in trying to determine policies and political structures in the 21st century. It's also inherently dishonest. What they are really doing is shoehorning their own political philosophy what they call "original intent," in an attempt to make it into some unassailable gospel truth, when in truth, they're just trying to structure our country based on what they'd like to see happen.

jafs 4 years ago

I can't speak for everybody, but I'd say the answer to your question is no.

Some of us are concerned with remaining true to some basic principles we were founded on.

By the way, since different people have different ideas about how things should change, what makes yours the "right" ones, or the ones we should follow?

Without some sort of grounding other than individual desires, I think we lose something important in trying to make decisions as a nation.

llama726 4 years ago

I will offer an answer, and one that will make some uncomfortable. It is unpleasant to consider. However, you need to look no further than corporate power in the United States.

The fact is, when our Constitution was written, there did not exist the concept of a transnational corporation as we see today. Interests were rather neatly divided within nations - international trade certainly existed, not like we see today though. The corporation of the 1950's isn't what I mean, either - I mean the corporation of the 80s, 90s, and beyond. Wealth disparity increases (please don't call me a socialist for pointing this out), and the fact is, people need services. As wealth disparity increases, necessarily, some people lose out and don't have resources anymore. In a town where most everyone is working, it's easier for private charity to handle issues - and that's fine.

When the economy turns down, though, and when your corporations dump jobs to increase the bottom line, what happens? Those people have to "retrain," and submit themselves to the wants and desires of their businesses. And if not, they end up jobless. "Private charity." Doesn't have the infrastructure to handle it, and honestly, why is it that wealthier people avoid areas with homelessness? It's because they don't want to see a problem. Why shouldn't they have to help pay to address the issue? Letting them have the benefit without the cost is unfair.

The concept of the greatest good for the most people is what really comes out here. The greatest good, though, isn't absolute, forced, mandated equality, or a planned economy. Innovation is something we get from capitalism. It's important for people to be able to be very successful if they come up with good ideas. But you can become very successful (financially) for swindling, deceiving, cheating, etc. And that's why we have regulation of the financial industry. But the people who suffer from the excesses of the wealthiest require services. Right? I mean, I know Liberty One doesn't agree with me here. But they require services. Food, water, shelter. Or they will simply die on the street.

As the economy sheds jobs and tanks, a safety net is beneficial. Peripheral services have big benefits. We aren't a country where you can easily open up a shop, start a farm, etc. Most of the property is owned and it is cost prohibitive to purchase it. The scenario was just different. The government should stay out of some things, I agree, but I think that we need to be aware of the environment in which we live, and adjust to compensate for it.

llama726 4 years ago

And as far as what cuts we'd like to see? I think most of us would like to see an end to the pet projects (and I don't care, I know Obama pursued some. Everyone plays the game) and an end to huge government contracts for services. A rethinking of how we fund the bureaucracy. Give them a budget, and if they identify savings within their department, allow them to keep it within their department. Otherwise, there's no motivation NOT to spend all of the money. If I give you a thousand dollars to do a job, but demand any leftover money back, you have no inclination to save anything. That way, if a new service is to be added within that department, you don't have to identify new funds right away, because they could operate on a little surplus within their own department. That wouldn't work universally, but it's an idea.

And also, why does it always have to be cuts? The fact is, the GDP was $9.3 trillion in 1999, and is about $14.11 trillion in 2010.

Revenue in 1999 was $1.82 trillion (from taxes) against $1.70 trillion in expenses.

Revenue in 2010 was $2.38 trillion (estimated), and expenditures $3.55 trillion

GDP increased by over 51% (we gained over $5 trillion). Revenue from taxes, though, only increased by just under 31%. Expenses increased by over 100% (more than doubled) in that timeframe. We did participate (and still are) in a number of wars, though. Defense was $300 billion in 1999, $663.7 billion in 2010. A 121% increase.

Jimo 4 years ago

"This is not a function of federal government. Local funding and private donations need to drive this program."

Yes, yes - democracy is slavery. We know your b/s.

We having a system of donations. It's called taxes. Pay up!

jafs 4 years ago

Why do you assume that your idea about what the federal government should do is correct?

See my post to bozo above - what's your answer to the question?

usnsnp 4 years ago

It is the same old thing, the Republicans say every little bit of cuts help, but when it comes to raising taxes on people that make over a Million dollars they say it would not help at all. It should be that every politician be made to say how laws that they pass will impact them, then you will see how many of the laws they are passing will not impact them or gives them more of a break, example are farm subsidies, how may of them or their families benefit from them.

gkerr 4 years ago

unsnp,

The program put forward by the party of taxes and bigger government is not to increase taxes on folks making 1 million dollars a year and above, but to raise taxes on small business and individuals single making 200 thousand per year and more, and married couples making 250 thousand a year and more. At the same time they propose eliminating tax deductions on very important expenses such as mortgage payments, charitable contributions and a myriad other items. Further there is serious talk about a national sales tax or value added tax which in Europe is an additional 20% or so on all purchases at all levels of the supply chain.

The government bureaucrats and politicians are hungry for your money. Why? because that is how they give out the goodies that get them votes to get reelected, to keep getting wooed by special interests who enrich them and their families with off the table investments that cant miss, large lobbying fees for sons and daughters and wives and concubines, jet plane trips back home or on semiofficial jaunts abroad to say Paris or Rome or Copenhagen or Brussels or Cancun, etc. . I have family who have been inside the onion. It isn't pretty and nearly everyone is markedly compromised.
Gkerr

ivalueamerica 4 years ago

Lastt time they tried cutting AmeriCorps, the GAO was asked to audit the program.

The GAO came back that for every dollar invested in Americorps, more than $2.38 was returned including people transitioning off public assistance, increased literacy rates without the usual connected increased public education costs, and a wide variety of other issues.

this program pays for itself, and to cut it is simply, ignorant and wasteful.

parco814 4 years ago

You said it, ivalueamerica, and you said it well. Thank you!

letsgiterdone 4 years ago

This is another program that should be cut from the fed gov. I agree it should be funded on a local level. Get rid of it!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

The work done by Americorps volunteers is usually controlled at the local level. What difference does it make where the funding comes from, especially when many of the communities in which these people work lack the funding to do it?

deec 4 years ago

Americorps volunteers are paid a stipend of $803/mo. They are forbidden to have any other employment. They make less than minimum wage, since they work full time. They are required to work additional hours if needed, for no additional pay. They provided needed human labor on the cheap. Some even work in religion-based charities.

Godot 4 years ago

And to think, I have volunteered hundreds of hours in my lifetime without the expectation of receiving money that was taken, by force of law, from my neighbors, my fellow taxpayers. I am such a sap.

llama726 4 years ago

Look at you, embodying the true spirit of service by bragging about how awesome you are for volunteering.

AmeriCorps volunteers don't work two or three or five hours. They work about 155 hours a month, for $803 a month. A whopping $5.19 per hour.

Man, how greedy are those folks, helping their communities for $5.19 an hour? You, though - you're a real American hero. Everyone, please salute Godot - American hero. Volunteer extraordinaire.

monkeyhawk 4 years ago

Did we forget about this, or maybe we never knew (or cared)?

"Obama fires AmeriCorps’ inspector general Official had investigated a nonprofit led by an Obama supporter

President Barack Obama says he has lost confidence in the inspector general who investigates AmeriCorps and other national service programs and has told Congress he is removing him from the position.

Obama's move follows an investigation by IG Gerald Walpin finding misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star.

St. HOPE Academy, a nonprofit group that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program.

St. HOPE Academy ended up repaying more than $400,000 in government funds.

Grassley had written Obama a letter pointing to a law requiring that Congress be given the reasons an IG is fired. He cited a Senate report saying the requirement is designed to ensure that inspectors general are not removed for political reasons.

Grassley said Walpin had identified millions of dollars in AmeriCorps funds that were wasted or misspent and "it appears he has been doing a good job."

Misuse of funds The IG found that Johnson, a former all-star point guard for the Phoenix Suns, had used AmeriCorps grants to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car.

The U.S. attorney's office reached a settlement that requires the St. HOPE Academy to repay nearly $424,000 — almost half of the $850,000 it received — in return for the government lifting its suspension on future grants." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31325894/ns/us_news-giving/t/obama-fires-americorps-inspector-general/

I can't wait to see who knocks this source....

parco814 4 years ago

My hunch is that you oppose AmeriCorps and President Obama; I support them, so I want to be up front about that. I've got a bias and I'll never apologize for it or try to hide it.

You might expect me to knock your source, but I won't. Your post is a valuable one and so is the source. I suspect my take on it is different from yours, however.

You probably assume that the President removed the IG because and only because of the investigation of a nonprofit led by an Obama supporter. If you do assume that, it's because you want to assume it.

The article does emphasize the Kevin Johnson fraud, that's for sure, probably because that's an attention-getter. But that emphasis doesn't lend one bit of support to anyone who wants to conclude that Obama sacked the IG just because the IG busted KJ.

I'll check and see if this is the full article or just an excerpt. It might suggest that the President fired the IG as retribution, but that suggestion doesn't bother me at all. I'm for freedom of the press. I'm also for people reading critically. You and some others on this thread strike me as the kinds of folks who are uncritical of articles in which you find something that confirms your negative opinions of the President and critical of articles in which you don't find that confirmation.

In other words, the issue isn't what bias this article does or doesn't have. It's the bias that you bring to it. Plus, you shouldn't rely on just one article when forming an opinion on the situation. Nothing ideological about that, just common sense.

monkeyhawk 4 years ago

"You probably assume that the President removed the IG because and only because of the investigation of a nonprofit led by an Obama supporter. If you do assume that, it's because you want to assume it."

Are you the letter writer?

Please let us know if you uncover the reason this man was fired. I heard Mr. Obama had a shoot around that day, so he could not be bothered to answer questions regarding this matter.

There are a plethora of informative sites discussing this matter. Try AP.

"...strike me as the kinds of folks who are uncritical of articles in which you find something that confirms your negative opinions of the President and critical of articles in which you don't find that confirmation."

Wow! You're the one who admits confirmation bias. I just point out the other side. "In other words, the issue isn't what bias this article does or doesn't have. It's the bias that you bring to it."
Is that merely by posting it, or was it the long editorial I wrote to go along with it?

monkeyhawk 4 years ago

Here is more:

"The High Cost of Volunteering

The Obama budget aims to grow the CNCS program known as AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 workers, promising “to give more Americans the opportunity to serve.” But all Americans have an opportunity to serve their neighbors and give something back to their country, and millions do so every day—most without any help from AmeriCorps or other government programs.

In fact, the examples of service are everywhere. Consider the spontaneous response of Americans—collecting and delivering food, offering shelter, giving blood, filling sandbags—when disaster strikes; the church or synagogue that takes food to shut-ins, runs a soup kitchen, or shelters a battered woman; the law firm that does pro bono work for immigrants and the indigent; the physician who quietly provides “charity care”; the volunteer team that builds homes for the homeless and hopeless; the Little League dads and Scout moms who instill values of good citizenship and hard work in young people.

All of these people serve their neighbors and nation—and few, if any, receive the government benefits provided to an AmeriCorps volunteer.

As the Congressional Research Service details, the AmeriCorps benefits package includes a living allowance, an education award to pay for college-related expenses, student-loan forbearance, healthcare coverage, and child care. A 2000 Government Accountability Office report estimated AmeriCorps’ per-participant costs to be $23,426. Even the AmeriCorps website brags about offering “a wealth of benefits.” http://american.com/archive/2009/march-2009/the-high-cost-of-volunteering/?searchterm=americorps

I wonder how many of these AmeriCorps volunteers are in Reading or Joplin right now? While I'm sure there are people like Godot who are dedicating their time and efforts to help others (with no promise of free child care or health insurance).

parco814 4 years ago

The programs that the letter writer mentions are cost-effective investments in the future of people and the future of our country.

The message board opposition to these programs is not about saving taxpayer money. It is about contempt for these volunteers, for the people they help, and for the positive future the programs help build.

If there were sufficient private funding for programs like these, federal funding would not be needed.

monkeyhawk 4 years ago

"The programs that the letter writer mentions are cost-effective investments in the future of people and the future of our country."

When I stopped laughing at that drool, it occurred to me that you should donate some of that plasma you're bleeding.

"The message board opposition to these programs is not about saving taxpayer money. It is about contempt for these volunteers, for the people they help, and for the positive future the programs help build."

No contempt here, but I wonder how many of the volunteers would hang around without the incentives?

"If there were sufficient private funding for programs like these, federal funding would not be needed."

What is stopping you from having a bake sale? Open your own wallet and quit digging into other people's for your bloody causes.

parco814 4 years ago

That's more of a tantrum than a response, hawk. Stop and think before you post, for a change.

You want to know about the volunteers' motives? Getting to know some of them might help. I do know volunteers for these programs and they don't fit your profile.

As for opening my wallet for "bloody causes" that you think belong to me exclusively, you have no basis for assuming that I don't.

There are millions of Americans who like, work for, and benefit from these programs and they are as American as you are. Nor do I expropriate your precious hard-earned wages.

I'm no thief, just a tax-paying (and charity donating) US citizen who votes for those who share my values. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don't, but when they do, I'm glad they have more of a say in the direction of this country than you do.

monkeyhawk 4 years ago

Ouch. You got me. I teared up.

FYI - I never have tantrums because this board is meaningless. Some take it waaaay too seriously.

"Stop and think before you post, for a change." Well, who do you think you are schooling me - Benjamin Netanyahu? I love knee jerk reactions so I will never take your advice, or was it a command? Should I be more pc? You really should see what I leave on the cutting room floor.

I will ask again since you have never answered any of the questions I posed:

How many of these AmeriCorps volunteers are in Reading or Joplin right now?

parco814 4 years ago

From monkeyhawk: "I wonder how many of these AmeriCorps volunteers are in Reading or Joplin right now? While I'm sure there are people like Godot who are dedicating their time and efforts to help others (with no promise of free child care or health insurance)."

Instead of just wondering, why not go to Reading or Joplin and find out (along with a little volunteering yourself)? Show some of that all-American initiative, that can-do spirit you celebrate.

And if you do find out there are some AmeriCorps volunteers there, do you have any intention of getting to know them as people and learning about what they do? Do you have any genuine interest in them as American individuals? Do you even think of them as individuals, or are they just government functionaries out to rob you?

The American Enterprise Institute's take on this is a nice place to start gathering information. Their fellows make strong arguments and they have the time and resources to do so, being funded generously by private donors who have enormous influence at every level of the political process. But why stop there? Unless you've already made up your mind that they have the first and last word? Although they are privately funded, they are still members of a cultural and intellectual elite and their authority should be/must be questioned.

monkeyhawk 4 years ago

"And if you do find out there are some AmeriCorps volunteers there, do you have any intention of getting to know them as people and learning about what they do? Do you have any genuine interest in them as American individuals? Do you even think of them as individuals, or are they just government functionaries out to rob you?"

Why do you think your causes should be mine as well? Do you care about what I care about, or anyone else who doesn't share your affinity?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Clearly, your only cause is yourself. Are you asking for help in that cause?

monkeyhawk 4 years ago

Here comes boozo to chime in. Do you have that creepy stalker robo thing that alerts you to your favorite adversaries?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

I guess this means you don't want my help. (not that I was offering.)

jafs 4 years ago

The point about interpretations is a very good one.

Many people seem to post a bunch of facts that they think prove something, but don't actually prove anything, unless you interpret them in a certain way.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.