July 3, 2017; American Prospect
Nearly every week, the country is introduced to new, literally unbelievable revelations. First, the lowest number of people to ever attend an inaugural; then, accusations of wiretapping and voter fraud. Trump sees dead people and undocumented immigrants in voting booths. Fake news. Tapes, and then no tapes. Now, President Trump’s first budget provides an opportunity for he and his cronies to place fake policies and programs into our universe. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and his band of merry men have used the budget to thumb their noses at proven programs, nuanced policies, and data-driven solutions.
One recent target is the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds the widely popular AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps now joins Meals on Wheels, afterschool programs, climate change, banking regulation, geopolitical negotiation, affordable housing, community development block grants, Pell Grants, work study, and a slew of other programs and policies on the chopping block in the name of making America great for a very small number of people.
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AmeriCorps is one of the few programs that by design benefits both volunteers and participants, organizations and communities served. Participants span the country’s millennial demographic. They include students financially able to serve a year while receiving a small stipend and first-generation higher education students who need education benefits. This built-in camaraderie reaches across racial, religious, ethnic, and income lines. It’s considered “the domestic Peace Corps,” and now both respected organizations fight to continue their work in the face of drastic funding cuts and existential threats from the budget office.
Presidents may shift their views on prioritizing community service, but rarely discount its value. Even Trump held the opposite view during his campaign. Bush Sr. extolled the virtues and potential of volunteerism through his Points of Light initiative. The Corporation for National and Community Service is one of Clinton’s signature initiatives. Not exactly a history buff himself, Trump might be surprised to learn that the U.S. infrastructure which fascinates him so has its origins in FDR’s Depression-era New Deal programs, often considered a precursor to the Corporation for National and Community Service’s work. He might not be so quick to assert that funding the Corporation’s work “is outside the role of the federal government” and should be left to “the nonprofit and private sectors.”
When news of impending cuts was released, Republican heavy hitters were among the first to denounce budget plans to raze the organization by allocating dollars only to cover its dismantling. Who are these people who advise and influence President Trump? Do they believe in altruism, service, and giving back? What about civic engagement, instilling American values in young people? Don’t they want nonprofits’ good works to flourish? Do they understand that life is more than amassing money and power? Doesn’t appear they do. This is a selfishness that believes, “As long as I am not affected, consequences don’t matter.”—Mary Frances Mitchner