Jewish World Review July 10, 2001 / 19 Tamuz, 5761

Michael Chapman

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Consumer Reports

Bush, the GOP, and conservatives: They’re all socialists now -- The Republican Party bills itself as the champion of limited government and free enterprise. Many conservatives tag along, claiming support for the Constitution and an end to the welfare state. The priorities of President Bush, the GOP, and conservatives today, however, prove that such talk is ... well ... talk.

Republicans and many conservatives have adopted countless Third Way welfare-state plans as their own. They now praise Social Security, public school "reform," health care "reform," national energy "plans," national labor "policy," the minimum wage, the Fed (credit controls), and Lincoln, FDR and Truman, to boot.

The latest welfare plan cheered by conservative politicians is Bush’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. Yes, some Christian conservative lobbyists have criticized the plan because it might corrupt charities with federal rules. But their remarks miss the point: Bush’s initiative is a welfare program and should be opposed as such. Whether the plan will "work" doesn’t matter. It is unconstitutional and anti-liberty. Conservatives have no business backing forced charity anymore than they do supporting forced education (public school), forced health care (Medicare and Medicaid) or forced savings (Social Security).

On a related point, the Bush initiative includes a big tax-paid boost for the national service program AmeriCorps. This was known when the plan was released. Yet Christian conservative leaders said nothing then. And conservative politicians apparently are saying nothing now.

The GOP Congress from 1994 to 2000 called for ending AmeriCorps. Many GOP stars blasted the program as another welfare scheme: paying people to "volunteer." AmeriCorps is a "political patronage game," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), "costly, inefficient and bureaucratic." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) regularly called for abolishing AmeriCorps, as did then-House Budget Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio). Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), now vice-chairman of the House Budget Committee, has repeatedly called AmeriCorps a "failure."

In an April 2000 statement on hearings of the Corporation for National Service, which runs AmeriCorps, Hoekstra said: "It is really a government bureaucracy, and it is no more accountable—and perhaps a good deal less so—than any other federal program."

Yet now, conservatives and the GOP seem to love AmeriCorps. They’ve circled the wagons around the "W" machine. They won’t bite the hand that feeds them—and principles be damned. In microcosm, "conservative" support for AmeriCorps reveals what’s wrong with the GOP and conservative leaders. They’ ve tasted of the Third Way and they apparently like it. They like Big Government conservatism: public/private "partnerships" and regulations and taxes that paint government intervention pretty. Put Bill Bennett or Dick Cheney in charge of a program and, well, it must be okay—a "conservative" is running it. AmeriCorps, like most federal handouts, epitomizes what conservatives supposedly oppose. But they won’t touch it now that "their man" is in the White House.

AmeriCorps costs upwards of $750 million a year. Since its start in 1994, it has spent more than $3.5 billion of taxpayers’ money. About 150,000 "paid" volunteers have passed through its ranks. These volunteers, according to the GAO, cost taxpayers about $30,000 a year—that covers an education voucher, a living allowance and administrative costs.

There are nearly 500 AmeriCorps "programs." Some of these include work in federal agencies. And AmeriCorps money has been spent to promote ideological agendas, including "Green" education and sex education. Other AmeriCorps work includes:

  • Sponsoring a "Maxine Waters Day of Caring."

  • Attending Earth Day rallies.

  • Giving $400,000 of taxpayers’ money to the Human Resource Development Institute, a subsidiary of the AFL-CIO.

  • Paying $400,000 for the National Multicultural Institute to conduct diversity training.

  • Aiding the EPA in its "environmental justice" campaign.

Yet many conservative politicians are silent. Along with Bush, they say they will "reform" the Corporation for National Service. Just as Bush and the GOP say they will "reform" health care, Social Security and the public schools. What a racket.

There used to be a time when conservative leaders and the GOP said one could not "reform" welfare or any other form of Third Way socialism. There used to be a time when the GOP and conservatives railed against FDR, the New Deal, the Fair Deal and the Great Society. But conservatives don’t rail anymore. As House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said of the Faith-based Initiative, "Government can play a partnership role in helping America become a more civil society."

With Bush in charge, the GOP in lockstep, and conservative leaders keeping the troops in line, it’s not unfair to say, "They’re all socialists now."

Michael Chapman is a writer at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Michael Chapman