From the March 2009 Idaho Observer:

YOU WILL VOLUNTEER—one way or another

Congress passes "GIVE" Act

THE IO—The U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 1388, the "Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act," sponsored by Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and George Miller (D-CA) by a 321-105 vote March 18, 2009. The bill aims to "leverage investments to increase State, local, business and philanthropic resources to address national and local challenges." It now goes to the Senate.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos of reported in her article, House Passes Volunteerism Bill Critics Call Pricey, Forced Service (3-18-09), that it is the most sweeping reform of nationally-backed volunteer programs since AmeriCorps. But some opponents are strongly criticizing the bill, she said, calling it expensive indoctrination and forced advocacy.

If signed into law, the GIVE Act has an alleged operating budget of $6 billion over five years, with $1.3 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service which already oversees AmeriCorps and its existing $260 million budget. The act would create 175,000 "new service opportunities," more than doubling the number of participants in AmeriCorps. It would also expand volunteerism into new sectors, including a Clean Energy Corps, Education Corps, Healthy Futures Corps and Veterans Service Corps and it expands the National Civilian Community Corps to focus on additional areas like disaster relief and energy conservation.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) opposed HR 1388 in committee, questioning the utility of the cash-strapped federal government making such huge investments in what should be community-inspired projects and programs.

Rep. Miller countered Rep. Wilson by claiming, "National and community service can help make Americans a part of the solution to get our country through this economic crisis."

Rep. Miller’s spokesperson Rachel Racusen added, "...a cost-benefit analysis of AmeriCorps shows that every dollar invested in the programs yields almost $4 in direct, measurable benefits."

The bill's opponents say young "volunteers" could be forced into service since the bill creates a "Congressional Commission on Civic Service," tasked with exploring a number of topics, including "whether a workable, fair and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the nation."

"We contribute our time and money under no government coercion on a scale the rest of the world doesn’t emulate and probably can’t imagine," said Luke Sheahan, contributing editor for the Family Security Foundation. "The idea that government should order its people to perform acts of charity is contrary to the idea of charity and it removes the responsibility for charity from the people to the government, destroying private initiative."

"The act will leave no student, or senior behind and no one in between," wrote Judi McLeod at

In case you think the Corps means everybody but you, HR1388 also offers "increasing service opportunities for our Nation’s retiring professionals" and "members of the Baby Boom generation."

The Senate is considering a similar bill, S 227, the "Serve America Act," sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sir Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).