by Nancy Hanover, WSWS
Last Friday, September 30, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced a plan to institute a National Service Reserve for the purpose of recruiting five million young people between the ages of 18 and 30 for a minimum of a year of service. This initiative is not a milquetoast “reform” as it is being described in the media, but represents a dangerous shift towards wider wars abroad and a more militarized society at home.
While she packaged the idea as a local/national volunteer force, Clinton’s proposed corps are modeled after the Armed Forces Reserves. Volunteers would receive “basic training” and be on-call for natural disaster, public health campaigns or “other projects,” according to the Washington Post .
In return, Clinton offers possible college credits, time off from work and/or a “modest” living expense for volunteers, contingent on demonstrated financial need. Significantly, the federal government would not pay even for these limited rations; her plan suggests she will negotiate with corporations to do so.
Clinton also called for tripling the size of AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000, increasing its loan forgiveness/stipend allocation to a miserable $23,000 for two years of full-time work plus another year in public service. Finally she advocated for the expansion of the Peace Corps and the enlistment of the over-55 age bracket for volunteer opportunities.
She has advertised the Reserve corps as an appeal to the “volunteering spirit” of millennials whose support she needs in November. Posted comments online, however, reacting to media reports indicates that most of the intended audience would prefer student-loan forgiveness and a decently-paying job rather than working for near-free. Even more fundamentally, they are deeply skeptical of the military implications of National Service.
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