April 1st, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Right time to spend $6 billion on national service programs?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It looks like the Obama administration is on track to spend about $6 billion over the next five years to expand national community service efforts. Both houses of Congress have now passed legislation that would increase funding for thousands of volunteers in everything from clean energy to health care and education.

The AmeriCorps volunteers pictured here are seen building a house for hurricane victims.

The president is expected to sign the bill into law soon. Among other things, "The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act" would:

● More than triple the number of positions in the AmeriCorps program to 250,000
● Create four new national service corps and other initiatives - including a so-called "Summer of Service" program to increase community service by students
● Create a "Silver Scholars" program which would encourage older Americans to volunteer. They would get a $1,000 reward for putting in 350 hours of service.
● It would also increase the stipend offered to AmeriCorps volunteers

Supporters insist that during a time of economic crisis, we need service and volunteering more than ever. But critics say the bill is fiscally irresponsible in light of our slumping economy. They also say the idea of volunteerism is undermined by paying people to do community service.

Here's my question to you: Is now the right time for the U.S. to spend $6 billion on expanding national community service programs?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Doug from New Mexico writes:
Frankly, Jack, all young people should spend time in either the military or a national service program as service to the country. It might make a real difference in attitude while improving oh so many things.

Thom from Negaunee, Michigan writes:
I think it would best be spent on tuition for needy students to go to university. Also, we do not need any more temporary fixes. What is needed is JOBS. Plain and simple. Full time, fair wage and benefit jobs that are permanent and with some hope of making a career out of them. Jack, we do not need pretend jobs for citizens. Especially not at this point in time. Maybe when the economy is booming.

Justin writes:
Now is absolutely the time, and I plan on joining the Summer of Service, as I am a sophomore in high school.

Jane from Wisconsin writes:
This seems like another backdoor way for the Obama administration to funnel money to corrupt groups such as ACORN and the other "community organization" groups who helped to get him elected.

Bob writes:
Entry level jobs are hard to find, so I support programs like this that will teach skills at low cost. This money will come back to us many times over as young people gain the experience they need to better care for themselves. What's more, these programs harness our national pride as ALL ages help rebuild America's infrastructure - for zero salary!

D. from Santa Cruz, California writes:
Absolutely! During the Great Depression, FDR put over 3 million people to work, not volunteering, but making National Parks, etc. I'm a disabled Baby Boomer but I still have a lot to offer. I will answer my country's call in any way I can. We need to stop complaining and roll up our sleeves to get out of this mess!

Filed under: Community Service
soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. Venia PA

    Yes, they have been neglected far too long. Besides it beats the republicans plan (if you can call it that) on stripping these programs, cutting taxes on the rich and increasing military spending.

    April 1, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Allen, Hartwell GA

    Jack, the country is in an economic crisis. Obviously all government spending should stop except for the war in Iraq, so that the contractors hired by Bush and company would continue to get their payola.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  3. Bob Bradburn

    Entry level jobs are hard to find, so I support programs like this that will teach skills at low cost. This money will come back to us many times over as young people gain the experience they need to better care for themselves. What’s more, these programs harness our national pride as ALL ages help rebuild America’s infrastructure — for zero salary!

    [left this off the first entry, sorry]:
    Bob Bradburn
    Fullerton, CA

    April 1, 2009 at 6:07 pm |
  4. Benjie from Laredo

    I think it's a great time to be putting money into these community service programs! By funding it, we are giving something concrete back to the American people, something we lost in our Bush years... volunteerism, helping each other improve our lives, helping to create things like homes and water systems, etc. that will last a lifetime or more. It's also giving back to our future generations.

    I'm going out on a limb here but, I know it's what Jesus would do... maybe not Republicans... but Jesus definitely. We need more programs that have long lasting positive effects on our country and ourselves.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:08 pm |
  5. Ken in NC

    Many new jobs could come from this program. Many companies could find good employees in these programs and it is better to spend the money now when it is most need and will do the most good. If you see at what the Republican budget proposal looks like, you will understand why there is so much that must be done now. They have stalled and put off many needed programs for years. If we do not do them while rebuilding our country now, they will never be done AGAIN.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  6. Ken

    You say "service," I say "save us." Let's call the whole thing off.
    Fresno, CA

    April 1, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  7. Tommy from Michigan

    I believe that national community service is a great thing to do. Everyone should help everyone. If this country is supposedly based on Christian values then a nationwide community service would be the right thing to do.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Luis

    Absolutely. Nothing is for free. Why should service?

    San Juan, PR

    April 1, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  9. Tony IL

    Jack, why not, the President Administration already wants to raise the deficit to astounding levels, what is another $6 billion going to matter. The amount of people doing volunteer work has grown with the slump of the econmy. Why do we need incentives like scholarships to do public service.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  10. Chris from Brooklyn

    Jack, there's no wrong time to expand community service and volunteer programs. If we had as many people overseas doing the work of Americorps as we had soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world might have a slightly better opinion of us, and it might be a far better place to boot.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  11. Bill from Maine


    Believe it or not, I'm sensitive to the critics of the President's plan. They are correct, i.e. volunteer community service is not generally associated with receiving a "pay check." On the other hand, paying people for community service means more money put back into the economy and even the Republicans know that's important. Furthermore, since the Republicans are always whining about giving people a handout, I'm surprised they're not thrilled to death with the idea of having people actually "work" for a government stipend.

    Right now, we need people who are willing to take responsibility for themselves and their neighbors. If this is a way to bring that about, the sooner the better. Frankly, the Republicans would do well to stop being a dead weight around the necks of the American people and start being part of the solution instead of one more element in the problem.

    Thanks for asking!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Jane - WI

    This seems like another backdoor way for the Obama administration to funnel money to corrupt groups such as ACORN and the other "community organization" groups who helped to get him elected.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  13. Justin

    Community service is one of the most powerful forces for good that now would be the time even if he planned on spending 60 billion.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  14. Debra

    Absolutely not. With so many people out of work now why would it be a good idea to fund volunteerism? What happened to job creation?

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  15. Tony Robertson

    I think now is a great time to increase funding to community service. With as many people unemployed, it creates a great way for people to keep busy. It also helps students pay for college, with increasing tuition costs this is very necessary.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  16. Joshua Tejkl

    Yes; the communities in America should be first. Not the war in Iraq or trying to tell people how to run their countries. We might be the rulers of the free world but we do not need to waste money on others when more and more of our country are sleeping in tents and under bridges.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  17. Kerry

    Still more people on the government gravy ... the Socialist train keeps gathering converts.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  18. EK

    And which people are they going to get to volunteer? The ones that work 4 jobs for 7.00 an hour or the ones that have 3 jobs for 9.00 an hour? I have never been so ashamed of my country in my life. We deserve what we get.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  19. Rohan

    Of course! Now is the time for the government to start spending a lot. We need as much money as possible in circulation to end this economic crisis.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  20. Janie

    Sure, it's not REALLY community service if you get paid, but obviously people aren't doing it for free if it still needs to be done. And besides, at a time like this what we need most is to come together as a community and help each other through difficult times. Hopefully despite the pay, people will be drawn towards it for the community.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  21. Mary [From Mississippi]

    Yes, It would put 1000s of jobless people back to work and would help seniors to be able to eat better. Its hard out here!!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  22. Andrew Sylvest

    We are already printing money we don't have to pay for things we can't afford. Why don't we stop spending and try to live within our means?

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  23. Seth

    I spent all day Monday at AmeriCore's Campus Compact Northeast Regional Conference. There are thousands of good people out there doing amazing and positive work. As a student volunteer who does over 300 hours of service a year, some paid and most non-paid, I think this is a tremendous opportunity that will allow more people to do good in their communities. One of the major reasons people don't do service is because they're unable, often for financial reasons. Americore really doesn't pay that well as it is, but thankfully it enables people to do service. The stipend they give is not a means of incentive but a means of enablement. I say go service, go.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  24. Sue -Idaho

    Jack, since most of our young people can't afford college anymore and there aren't anymore job training programs available to them maybe the job service corp is the only way some of them will ever learn a trade.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  25. bighand

    well at this moment i dont think thats a good idea because of the recession

    April 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  26. Lenny New York

    When will it be the time to spend money for those citizens who played by the rules or just stop the instanity of spending, my money and my childrens money. Where is all this money going to come from? We need to stop burying our heads in the sand and be responsible.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  27. Anthony, Morgantown WV


    I have one question: What is this $6 billion creating?

    People hail FDR's New Deal as pulling us out of the Depression. In reality, all most of those programs did, and all this will do, is keep people from realizing how bad things really are and how much the Government really ISN'T doing.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  28. JASON

    Yes, no better time than the present. It would have been nice if former president Bush could have asked Americans to tighten their belt ONCE during his two terms of shock and awe on the economy. Amazing how he was laughing all the way to the Haliburton bank while we were going bankrupt while we spend blindly.
    This program will do more good for the morale of the country than the bad of increasing our deficit.
    Too bad George Bush couldn't say the word recession for the first 12 months it was happening!
    All hail Obama!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  29. Rosemary Ludvick

    Absolutely needed. A wonderful idea.
    Palmer, Alaska

    April 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  30. Ricki

    Community service means people helping people either out of the goodness of their heart or the judge demanded it. In neither case should anyone get paid. It's not a job – it's SERVICE.

    Everyday I hear about millions and billions of taxpayer dollars being tossed out there like Madi Gras beads. Where's the accountability and responsibility. This is insane.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  31. Caitlin - NY

    In America, we need to redefine ourselves. The selfish "I can have it all by myself" act can't work anymore. America will not be the same, and we need these service programs to change this attitude.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  32. Justin

    Now is absolutely the time, and I plan on joining the Summer of Service, as i am a sophomore in high school.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  33. Anna Kelley

    Yes, because our president needs to keep the people busy in some manner. If not he will have riots like the UK and France.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  34. M MacLeod

    I'm all for expanding national service. It's a direction we should be moving in anyway. My issue is while expanding the programs, they didin't take the opportunity to expand the health insurance offered to participants. Currently, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you can't get it covered. This makes it very difficult for young people with physical and medical disabilities to participate-shame on us.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  35. Susan Knapp

    Absolutely - it's like the Depression era investment in the CCC - it will give meaningful jobs to young people that they would not otherwise bve able to find and some income to seniors to make up for the losses they have experienced to their incomes this past year. The consequences of NOT having such programs would be idle youth with nothing to do and seniors going on welfare rolls. Money well spent.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  36. James

    If you listen to some people there is NEVER a right time to render money for things that encourage labor movement. People always seem to talk about the deficits of the future and what they will be doing to the economy...., but when will it EVER BE the right time to spend money when we are a debt taught, debt encouraging, country who was in debt since the day we took this away from the Native Americans. No....i am not Native American

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  37. Melissa

    I am an AmeriCorps volunteer with City Year this fall. I am ecstatic at the federal support given to these programs. I wince every time I hear of willing applicants getting turned away. Obama has called us to service and there cannot be a better time to harness people's enthusiasm. Non-profits were created to aid the many social problems of this country, and Lord knows we need the help!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  38. Rich

    Hey Jack, read the full bill. Its a take over of high schools by the Pentagon. The language of the bill requires mandatory "volunteering" for all high school students. It will be run under "consultation" by the Department of Defense. No need to implement a draft when the military has 4 years to intimidate, coerce, shame and bully high school kids into thinking they have to sign up.

    And as a side note, maybe those people in England in protesting have the time because they are out of work.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  39. Antonio

    When Barack Obama unveiled his plans for a large-scale community service program, I thought it was genius. However, times have become increasingly dire, and I think fiscal responsibility, not volunteerism, should be the virtue of the day. It's still a great idea, but we need to scale back government spending as much as possible. It should be streamlined or just postponed until we see at least a little light at the end of the tunnel.

    Decatur, IL

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  40. Tim Duncan

    Yes, now is the time and better late than never. While unpaid volunteer work is the highest level of altruism, it is hard in a recession/depression for many to feel altruistic. Bravo to those who do volunteer whatever their reasons.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  41. Buck young

    Jack, this is my first time writing in, though I love your piece.
    Obama is doing the right thing. We need to get back to the basic "help your neighbor" mentallity here in America.
    Most government spending provides us with infrastructure: bridges and roads. But this bill reaches deeper and will provide some community values.


    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  42. Keith Powers

    Hi Jack,

    Yes. It is the right time.

    Besides the obvious benefits to our communities – what most people don't talk about is cost and difficulty that the Armed Services have recruiting for our modern military – The same demographic that readily signs up for National Service programs like City Year and Teach For America.That is why Republicans and Democrats love this bill.

    We need to instill a sense of citizen service for every American. This bill helps move us in that direction! Be a soldier, a teacher, a nurse... whatever – just serve!

    Keith Powers
    Palo Alto, California

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  43. Patti, San Diego, CA

    We should not be spending money like this while our economy is in a slump. Why can't Washington do what we have to do when things are tight, like cutting back on expenditures? It's way too easy to spend other people's money.

    Also, why are we paying "volunteers"? No wonder Americans have such entitlement issues. It's one of our greatest societal ills.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  44. Lee in MN

    Absolutely Jack

    It is time for Americans to take a vested interest in the country. This is one way to move the country from corporate greed to sincere caring people being entrusted in the country. Having worked as a volunteer with many of the Americorp students, it is a tremendous program which brings values back to our college ages generation. This is the best effort for all of America since John F Kennedy had his programs and also a complimentary program to Habitat for Humanity and many other excellent programs. Volunteering for worthy causes if medicine for the heart and mind and better than any $$$.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  45. EK

    You are right, Cafferty, this is not our parents' America.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  46. E. Knight

    more than $6 billion should be spent..
    might find "another Obama" for the next generation

    He is a good example of a community organizer.

    Winnipeg Canada

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  47. Mike Freezer Williamsport, PA

    I think the money would be better spent on programs like they initiated during the great depression. Spend the money hiring the unemployed and establish the Civilian Conservation Corps again to work on National and State parks. It will get money flowing back into local economies and desperately provide needed repairs and upgrades at these parks. The work the CCC did in the 1930's is still benefiting us today.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  48. T.E. from OK

    If it isn't now, our great grands will sure have a worse time. Things won't get better unless it is fixed soon.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  49. Ken

    When else would forward-looking programs get funded? In times of plenty, money is squandered; what Obama is calling for is investment in our children's future, and yes, we should sacrifice some of our comforts for that. It ain't nearly as bad as it's gonna get, so while we're bailing out the boat, we need also to be plugging holes and building sails.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  50. Augustine - Savannah, GA

    This is less than what we spent in Iraq in 1 week. What is wrong with rewarding people who volunteer for community service. It does not stop it from being volunteering. Let those who oppose the idea volunteer and turn the money down if they so wish.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  51. Jill

    This is ridiculous. Why are we needing to encourage "volunteers" by paying them. If they need to pay people to do these jobs, then call it what it is-low wage job creation.

    This drives me crazy-I am a volunteer for a couple of organizations and there is no need to pay people. Will people on welfare and unemployment be eligible?

    April 1, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  52. Chris Burns

    The Frenchman, Alexis de Toqueville said emphatically that the success of America depended more on the manners of the American people than on its laws, constitution and geography. Allowing for changes in meaning, de Toqueville was referring to "culture" the social impact of institutions,professions and values that influence behavior. If at this momen, America finds that it is financially bankrupt, it is more so culturally. With that said, the habits of a people are formed by action and the influence of government to focus attention beyond the purely private interest must be viewed as an essential ingredient to saving us from decline.

    I vote for a program inducing volunteerism.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  53. Mary

    We should not complain about 6 billion dollars for service here AT HOME in AMERICA at a time when we really need it. Afterall, we allowed our previous administration to send 10 billion dollars to Iraq each month for years!!! What good has that done for us? The jury is out on that question.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  54. marshall

    yes, increasing the budget for community service is a great idea. a national program that would bring citizens together in common goals done for the general welfare will create opportunity for our people to get together and share the experience of working for others in need and for the betterment of our country.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  55. kay king

    We can't afford to fill all of Obama promises. Why do I think groups like Acorn would be involved in programs like this? The spending has to stop. We have a crisis of debt, citizens struggling to survive this economy – we can't afford to be magnanimous and create massive new programs now.
    When will it stop? If the first two months are an example of spending levels under Obama, this country will be bankrupt before the end of his first term.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  56. JT Irvine

    I personally love it. I was chosen to be my high school representative at my states HOBY Seminar. I now volunteer my time during the year with HOBY and have since completed over 500 hours of service in my community. Volunteering in your community and your nation build your character and build you as a person. I really hope this program takes off and kids from preschool to graduate students help their community. People should not be paid for service, but I do agree with financial help for college in return for service.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  57. Danni Sherwood

    This is a terrific time to offer these programs. I live in a state where only 24% have a college education. Giving youth a chance to volunteer in exchange for money for college is a terrific plan. I've worked where I could observe Americorps volunteers in action. It's a win-win situation because these volunteers can fill the gaps in educational systems already strapped for cash. Our youth suffer when programs like this are not funded.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  58. Thomas Kelanic

    It is too late to ask if we "should" spend the 6 billion. Congress has spoken; we ARE spending that money. The horse has left the barn.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  59. Vicente

    Jack ,

    This program will be like a psychological support that someone in depression needs. The worse thing to do in hard time is to isolate yourself. Community services can help reduce crime and insecurity across the country, by bringing people together , so than we can rise again together, this is the USA, and we will rise again.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  60. Kay Mahoney

    With so many American youth with few prospects for employment, nothing could be better than increasing the opportunities for community service. Anything that encourages serving the common good is a welcome change from the concentration on materialism we have seen. This is a wonderful idea. Bravo!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  61. EK

    " ALL ages help rebuild America’s infrastructure — for zero salary!-Bob Bradburn"

    You must be in the financial sector. You go work for zero salary and see how you like it.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  62. Pembroke Apperson

    I understand "mandatory to mean" one must comply. I understand "volunteer" to mean one has a choice to participate.
    I understand "government financed" to mean the taxpayers pay for it. What does "Mandatory Volunteer Youth Services Program" mean???

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  63. Cathy

    Yes. Organizing and running these programs are not free. If young people can find summer jobs then volunteering should be an option. They still need to learn a godd work ethic. I hope these programs include young teens, the 12 – 15 yr olds – those that are to old for summer camp and too young to get a job. These kids are at high risk of getting into trouble, especially, now with parents have fewer dollars to spend on keeping their teens busy and little time supervise them. Where do I sign up?

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  64. Susan MacDonnell

    Increasing funding for Americorps volunteers, in particular, could be a huge help in providing "people power" for important service and community based work that might otherwise go undone due to the inabiity of organizations to make them permanent paid positions. Volunteering could also provide an incredibly valuable way for individuals, laid off from their jobs and at the end of unemployment benefits, to take the "risk" of trying something brand new for a year. Maybe their experience working with the disadvantaged, or disabled, or on environmental cleanup projects will have a happy result in pointing them in a new direction. I was a VISTA volunteer in the early 70's, and those two years allowed me to develop confidence, knowledge and skills I might not have otherwise developed at just 20 or 21 years old.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  65. Kevin LaBarr


    I think now is a great time. We are going to have alot of people out of work and what a better time for them to do some community service. Maybe GM's Rick Wagoner and AIG's execs will offer their time and use the money they earn to get a better education and learn how to run a company. Oh wait they don't have to worry like 95% of the country does when they lose theirs.

    Binghamton, NY

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  66. Trell Johnson

    Jack: This program sounds like a drop in the bucket compared to the money given to the banks. Currently, most money is created via debt. What is so wrong with creating a little money out of underpaid work by "volunteers"?

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  67. Lee McQuarrie

    I definately think this is a good time to invest in community service programs. The value per dollar will be huge. I worked for a volunteer service a few years ago in Arizona and we provided many major services for an overall cost of about $1.10 per hour. These services were directed at older adults and people on disability and ranged from shopping, transportation to doctor visits, and simple handyman services. Because the providers were volunteers the cost was very low and the only payment these wonderful people ever received was gas money to provide the services. I found that many people want to volunteer but are wary about being caught up into something that will take over their lives but a well organized opportunity for volunteer oportunities resulted in over 4000 volunteers and this program is still providing these services, so I'm all for spending money on volunteer programs and I think it's a very smart way to invest tax dollars.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  68. gerald

    When is the right time to spend money on anything?
    The country and the economy are in dire distress. This is the right time to spend money on anything that will uplift the economy. Volunteerism always helps. I have been a volunteer for many years. What satisfaction there is in helping people down on their luck to get on their feet again to look forward to a better future. This is the essence of Americanism. I can't think of a better way to do it.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  69. Christine

    I'm not certain if people should be paid for volunteering, however, this will create jobs, which is exactly what this country needs right now. Many non-profits who do good societal works are struggling just to survive, which many people depend on. I think this is a necessary thing to do, and agree when Obama says volunteerism is needed right now. We're all in this together, and that's exactly how we need to get out of it.

    Philadelphia, Pa

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  70. Annie Britner

    My grandfather got work with the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) back in the thirties after his father lost his job during the depression. The small monthly wage he received kept his entire family from starving, and without it I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even be here now to write this. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and surely if we can spare the billions to bail out corporations and banks, we can spare the millions for these types of work relief programs.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  71. Ken Southwood-Smith

    It'll probably be never if not now. The devil has work for idle hands. I think the country will benefit from more people - especially the young - having some responsibility.
    Ormond Beach, FL

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  72. Kathy, Des Moines IA

    I agree with Jack. The country is in an economic crisis and the government should concentrate on finding ways to solve this crisis instead of this continual onslaught of out of control spending on social programs. Why are government jobs one of the only sectors in the economy that is able to expand jobs with tax payer money when the private sector continues to lose jobs at record numbers? Something just doesn't add up.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  73. Ken

    What goes around comes around, Jack. The bankers apparently felt that what comes around goes in their pockets. Service is the right way to focus our means and energy on saving ourselves.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  74. Mike from Little Rock

    Yes, now is the time. There are several initiatives that the president has to enact right now such as health care and education reform, because they've been neglected for far too many years. If we use the current economic situation as an excuse to hold America back, then when do we move forward?

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  75. flying wolf, Manchester NH

    Yes, yes, yes!. National service is the best way to help people at a lower cost. I used to work for Social Services in NY, and they were severely limited in what they could do for people. Everything had to be according to the "book." People, especially older people who know how to get around the roadblocks of life, can do more help to the "bottom-stuck" people. I know I got more help from the little programs than from the main-line ones, because people who were in the little programs could tell me more ways to get out of the fix I was in and the "big programs" could only direct me to their sponsors.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  76. Charles Borden

    Sounds as if volunteers will get about three bucks an hour. Hopefuly, this will cover their gas and lunch! Was the great depression a good time for CCC? Youngsters, look it up in your wikepedia!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  77. James Wiscasset, ME

    If you listen to some people there is NEVER a right time to render money for things that encourage labor movement. People always seem to talk about the deficits of the future and what they will be doing to the economy…., but when will it EVER BE the right time to spend money when we are a debt taught, debt encouraging, country who was in debt since the day we took this away from the Native Americans. No….i am not Native American

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  78. Yvonne

    Yes Jack this is a good time to encourage Volunteers. Does anyone thinks that giving someone $1000.00 is paying for thier service it equals less than 3.00 per hour. It is amazing to me what people think is important. Any real business person knows that to create a behavior you must do some to encourage that behavior..thanks for getting your promise Mr. President.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  79. Manuel

    I've not been very satisfied with President Obama's work thusfar, but I think this is one of the smarter wastes of money in his budget. It will have a negligable impact on the country financially, compared to some of our other initiatives, but will give a huge morale boost. Paying people to volunteer may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but that will soon be forgotten once all the 501c3's and, as an extension, communities start reaping the benefits.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  80. Alexander Frey

    Dear Jack,

    6 billion now for new volunteer corps? Sure, why not? As long as we're spending billions on numerous bailouts, 6 billion is not so much. As Everett Dirksen once remarked, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money!"

    Alex in Berlin

    April 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  81. Laurie McDonald

    No now is not the time....With the way our government is spending and running things....with the lack of oversight on all this money. NO....with groups like ACORN aren't they one of those volunteer government action groups....We don't need any more of that kind of government volunteerism. All this money is being milled out to government cronies that siphon it off for personal gain.


    April 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  82. John Stohrer

    Obama has it right. Absolutely, this is the right time. I am reminded of FDR's instruction during the depression: Do something, and if it works, do it some more. If it doesn't work, then do something else. Pardon my paraphrasing, but that was a long, long time ago, requiring all the memory this octogenarian can muster

    John Stohrer

    April 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  83. Autumn

    Ya know, most of these things could be accomplished by making our prison inmates do them. Not only would we save the majority of that $6 billion, but we'll also be making these inmates earn their keep. What ever happened to the day when prisons were supposed to be hard? Now they just lay up and watch tv. We definitely don't utilize their working potential enough.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  84. Don

    The program is "nice", but perhaps in our dire economic condition we must focus on the essentials and skip spending money on "nice" programs. On the other hand, it could be an effective way of leveraging money to provide essential services that might otherwise be funded at full price through social programs. I'll just cross my fingers and hope it's mostly the latter.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  85. John Vine

    It seems logical to me that, so long as there remains a "volunteering" element to this program, there will be a multiplier effect that produces a value to society far greater than the cost to the government. In fact, this may turn out to be one of the most EFFECTIVE uses of "stimulus money", ever – right up there with the benefit to the U.S. of the dollars spent through the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that enabled Hoover Dam to be built!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  86. Lauren Allmayer

    I am a college student who has served two years in Americorps programs and logged in over 1,000 hours of service work during my college experience. In just one part of my service work, I have run a student program which sent out 100 students over spring break to donate almost 6,000 hours of productivity all over the country. Our small group stimulated the economy by over $40,000 through our volunteer efforts. Programs like these could not be run without the support of Americorps grants and scholarships. For as much positive impact volunteers have on our local and national communities, don't we deserve a little stimulus too?!

    Lauren Allmayer

    April 1, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  87. Elizabeth

    Absolutely. Service work builds self esteem and new skill sets. For adults who are unemployed, it offers the opportunity to re-purpose skills and discover new talents. Not only will our communities benefit but the people rebuilding them will become more productive – creating a new momentum in our economy. I think in retrospect we will see that this is $6b most wisely invested.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  88. Koseve Ko

    It is interesting that conservatives and rich people always pledge for supporting life, but refuse to pay higher taxes or help those in need with a basic necessity like heath care. They are worrying about not be able to make charity contribution because of higher taxes, I believe no one will need charity if everyone does well.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  89. Rich, San Francisco, CA

    Yes, absolutely. It's about time we began investing in positive steps to improve our nation, and provide work opportunities to our citizens, instead of spending money on imperialist wars that only benefit defense contractors and oil barons and that kill thousands.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  90. Karl from SF, CA

    Yes it’s time. It creates jobs when we are in dire need of them at all levels. I assume the critics are the ones that don’t know who their leader is, and haven’t since November, or what they even stand for but they have an opinion on this. Until the Republicans can find their back side with both hands, they need to sit down and shut up. Their ignorance is showing and rational people are tired of it.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  91. John, University of San Diego

    Specifically responding to the comment of undermining the spirit of volunteerism...

    If you want to know what someone values take a look at their check book and their calendar. It's about time that our government started to value our "heroes" (teachers, soldiers, firefighters and VOLUNTEERS) with things other than empty rhetoric.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  92. Anna Kelley

    Yes, because our president needs to keep the people busy in some ways, esp. if there are no jobs. 2 bill is a small priced to pay. If not, he might have riots liek the UK and France.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  93. Thomas Bunnell

    No. This Socialist Government is out of control. When you volunteer you do it for free. It reminds me of a friend who once volunteered to drive someone home and then complained that they didn't give him any gas money. Maybe Barack was referring to the Job Corps?

    Manassas, Va

    April 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  94. Terry, Vermont

    To argue that the idea of volunteerism is undermined by paying people to do community service makes as much sense as trying to argue that members of our all volunteer armed forces should not be paid. AmeriCorps members work full time for a year to two years performing valuable service to others in our communities. They clearly more than earn their small stipend and educational award.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  95. Marna, Urbandale, IA

    Jack, to be able to properly judge whether it's right or wrong to invest in National Service, one needs to fully comprehend what these programs do for fellow citizens. I was with AmeriCorps for 4 years, which is the longest time allowed, and it was the best decision I made. We ran camps for at-risk youth which was proven to reduce crime in our city. Homeless shelters helped grow produce in our gardens to feed themselves. We provided over 1,000 food baskets and toys at Christmas for the poor. Members work with future homeowners in buiding their homes. We cleaned lots from illegal dumping to improve the environment. And the list goes on. Jack, I can tell you that AmeriCorps changed my life and gave me self-worth plus self-confidence. In today's hard times, I believe we all can use a shot of that!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  96. Rusty Stahl, New York City

    Jack – Thanks for asking about this important legislation. National service enables young and old Americans to contribute to bettering our society by contributing their time and talent in the nonprofit sector. In turn, this infusion of funds would infusion new talent into our nonprofit sector - which is a huge employer and economic driver in many communities. Nonprofits are actually a larger a larger economic industry than the construction and some other parts of the economy – yet it gets very little attention when discussing jobs and stimulus. As a New Yorker and a nonprofit professional, I feel that after September 11th our federal and local governments failed to take renew our American ethic of service and sacrifice. Nearly a decade into the wars that began that day, and 17 months into this recession, now is the time to mobilize Americans to sustain our communities!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  97. Sarah

    Right now is the exact right time to bolster national service programs in the United States. An increased number of national service programs would take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of ready and willing qualified workers applying for unemployment benefits each month. These individuals could be receiving living stipends for work accomplished through extended Americorps programs, as opposed to conditional benefits and aid without the added sense of purpose. To those who claim that this undermines the spirit of volunteerism, I would respond that the "spirit" of volunteerism is not enough to ensure that all necessary public services are provided. It's a market just like any other segment of our economy, and making it a viable employment option brings us closer to ensuring all of the necessary services ARE provided.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  98. Guy

    Now is the perfect time to spend less than a corporate greedheads bonus to 'stimulate' community involvement. For years the corporate mantra to the American people has been spend, spend, spend, now it's time to look outward from ourselves and give again. Heck there's enough unemployed people to fill ANY community volunteer needs. So what there's an incentive? The banks got one to just do the right thing (which they haven't) so send some our way.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  99. Darryl

    It is precisely the right time to increase funding for national service programs. First, these programs bring those who have the time and resources together with those less fortunate, with the benefit being education and/or exposure to education and resources available to the less fortunate. This is a time in our nation when our ability to compete globally should be one of our highest priorities. All of that filtering down to the less fortunate via community service programs is priceless.

    Let's look at the “Silver Scholars” program which would encourage older Americans to volunteer. They would get a $1,000 reward for putting in 350 hours of service? That comes out to about $2.86 per hour, for all of those years of experience and education. Sounds like a great deal to me.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  100. Jennifer, Toronto Ca

    Jack, Something smells awfully fishy here. The administration plans to collect all data on these young "volunteers" including hours of labour, jobs they have done and are good or bad at, their attitude towards the jobs and other volunteers etc...... Ask yourself this, Why is it necessary to collect all of this data and what does the administration plan on doing with it ? If I were raising my kids in the USA right now, I wouldn't let them go near this program.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  101. joel , jamaica

    what ever the government needs to do to get out of this recession well they must do it so if spending 6 mill is gonna help with that well its a good idea

    April 1, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  102. John, Fort Collins, CO

    If we are going to create jobs to fix the down economy, we might as well invest them with the young. We old farts have social security and medicare to tide us thorough.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  103. Rick in Vermont

    "National...," "community...," "service...." These are the hallmarks of our American cultural heritage. Yes, now, more than ever we need to return to what makes our country what it is. For the price of a few corporate bonuses we can grow what is already happening in many communities into a country-wide movement. This is why we need government; to bring us together to do what no one of us can do alone. Money well-spent.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  104. Barbara, Henrico, VA

    I love this idea. One of the reasons I voted for our new President was his ability to think "outside the box" and recognize that sometime the thing that may seem to be of little import can turn out to be one of the most important of all. Once again the "community organizer" has it right. Bravo, Mr. President!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  105. S.Byrd,Georgia

    What do we the[ USA] spend money on besides bullets?

    Our young people need a direction and a renewed belief that to help others can eventully help yourself.

    If we do not spend money now we will continue to have a select few who are truly educated and the past eight years of dictatorship, by a select few of fairly uneducated run the country in to ruin. The school of thought that what is good for me the wealthly has to stop.

    The middle class has quickly become the working poor and the working poor and non-working poor have to beg, borrow and and steal to survive considering the state of affairs the past administration has left for President Obama.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  106. Lauren Allmayer

    Sorry, forgot to say I'm from Ypsilanti, Michigan

    April 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  107. Kelly - Arizona

    This is absolutely the right time to expand service opportunities. Service is a way for citizens to do their part and help address the tough problems people are facing right now. It's an investment in America's greatest resource: its people. And it's bipartisan. When was the last time we saw our government come together in a bipartisan way to invest in everyday Americans? I say job well done, finally.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  108. Claudia & John Jacobson

    Yes. This is the best time to invest in people. For many, who have the will to contribute to the good of society, and improve their skills there are too few opportunities.
    Americorp was very successful in upstate NY until the Bush administration cut its funding. During the Depression era the CCC contributed labor, which created forest trails, campgrounds, reforestation, built bridges for campground trails, fought forest fires and earned one dollar a day. Yes, we need to do something similar today.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:34 pm |
  109. Jan Wilson

    Now is exactly the right time to increase investment in national service programs. Our country needs the optimism and passion of people who want to make a difference. Americorps volunteers, for example, personally touch those in need in our society–individual contact is the most proven means of assisting our most troubled and downhearted.

    The payments given these volunteers are only basic living stipends or help to cover the cost of volunteering such as vehicle expenses. The savings to our country and contributions by these volunteers are far greater than the cost. This is clearly a commitment to our future!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  110. Joe Pecarich Wabasha, Mn

    Jack, the obtuse liberals on the hill are going to pass a bill that would reduce work in this time of economic crisis? To boot, they are going to use $6 billion to do it?
    They need to put their romantic apparitions aside and focus on what americans really need. Jobs, secure borders, and leaders who know how to think independently.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  111. Jan Wilson

    Now is exactly the right time to increase investment in national service programs. Our country needs the optimism and passion of people who want to make a difference. Americorps volunteers, for example, personally touch those in need in our society–individual contact is the most proven means of assisting our most troubled and downhearted.

    The payments given these volunteers are only basic living stipends or help to cover the cost of volunteering such as vehicle expenses. The savings to our country and contributions by these volunteers are far greater than the cost. This is clearly a commitment to our future!
    From Aurora, Colorado

    April 1, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  112. Deborah Shlian

    Rather than giving stipends for volunteers (since, by definition, volunteers should not expect payment), some, if not all of that money should be used to indemnify retired professionals like physicians who want to provide free services, but at this moment, are precluded from doing so in states like mine (Florida) without carrying malpractice policies. Many of us would like to volunteer for recognized 5013c not-for-profits like Remote Area Medicine (featured on 60 Minutes last Feb) which provides free healthcare to needy Americans.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  113. Gia in Los Angeles, CA

    It is EXACTLY the right time. The time couldn't be better!

    April 1, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  114. A.Rice

    These services will provide jobs, childcare for those who cannot afford it and additional care for health services. Those, who need work and can provide services throughout communities. Providing pay, for work performed is smart.
    In the midst of, the worst financial crisis, we have seen, it is a time for people to come together and help one another. Let's stop bickering, help clean up the Capitol Mall, Clean up our streets and grounds and help those, who cannot help themselves. Are you listening out there??
    Then, ask yourself; When was the last time, you volunteered for anything?

    April 1, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  115. Sherry, N. Calif.

    I am a vounteer. Pin a rose on my nose! What is the point of volunteering if you are going to get paid? Does not make sense to me. I do not think we need to pay volunteers. This is ridiculous. Give the money to the programs the volunteers support which in turn will help those in need. Those that already have, do not need anymore especially the Silver Foxes(like me). I am nearing the finish line in life(58) and I do not want more things or money. Please, let's help those that need it the most. The unemployed and homeless.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  116. UMAR R. A. RAHIM

    I remember you from your early days in New York. Glad to see you're still reporting, and giving your twist to the news.
    I think the legislation is a good idea. Many new graduates from H.S., and college need employment, and gain experience. The gov't is the only entity that can jumpstart the economy. I have not heard one idea from Wall Street or the Financial services industry. This like other parts of the Stimulus bill will preserve or create jobs, that are sorely needed.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  117. Terry from Hoover, AL

    At the risk of sounding like Bill Clinton, I suppose it depends on your defination of public service. As a member of the last class subject to military conscription, I have been against any form of forced service until recently. People in this country (especially the right wing) have become progressively more bold and self centered. The South has resurrected the Civil War states rights mantra, eg, I'll be damned if anyone will tell me what to do. Maybe I was wrong about public service. I learned real fast in the Army (by pushing up Fort Dix) that there are times one must do what is best for all, not just what I want to do. For those who worship football, I believe it is called teamwork. Possibly two years of mandatory public service for everyone of all social classes immediately upon leaving high school would not be a bad idea. Service would not mean only toting an M-16 as I did, but forest service, soup kitchens, working on public works projects, etc. After two years of learning to sacrifice and obey orders, the kids could be offered tuition assistance, a period of free health care, or some other GI type benefit. Possibly they will also learn to be much better citizens than the bunch out there now.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  118. Michele Newlands Rowe

    Anything legal that puts money in people's pockets is a good idea.

    And I must add this. I keep hearing that we should give companies better incentives to keep jobs and workers here in the U.S.

    That’s Crazy!!!

    Penalize the companies that send our jobs out of the country. And send illegals back home. They do not have American Constitutional Rights. They are not Americans! The next person who displays the American flag upside down should be jailed, American or foreign.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  119. Greg

    Obama's national service plan is against the 13th amendment of the Constitution. Making kids do service or serve in the Army is against basic human rights.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:55 pm |
  120. Carrie M

    If it were not for many community programs in place currently, I would be on the streets without a way to take care of myself and my son. I currently am a volunteer to many local youth programs that focus on improving choices for youth.

    April 1, 2009 at 6:56 pm |