America is, in my opinion, the greatest country on Earth. I realize that’s a bold statement, but it’s one I feel comfortable making. We enjoy the highest degree of personal freedom, civil rights guaranteed to us from the language that defined our Nation, and the resources, both ecological and human, that have together propelled us in a relatively short time into position as the only true superpower left on our little planet. Having said that, I feel it’s important that in the interest of humility and as responsible citizens, we must seek and identify areas where we could make improvements that best reflect current situations in a manner that will have a lasting positive effect on our republic.
This can be a difficult task. We Americans are a stubborn people that largely resist changes. One need only study our Constitution to see that the Framers crafted our government with this in mind. By design, change in our system works at a frustratingly slow pace as a means to protect us from ourselves. When we force it to happen faster, we wind up with disasterous results like the Volstead Act and the Patriot Act.
Not all change is bad, though. We have no trouble finding opposition to change in our two party system, so to facilitate meaningful changes, sometimes we need to look outside the box. Here I have just such an idea.
The post Reagan years have been an interesting time in our national development. Technology has advanced faster than even the period of industrialization. Telecommunications have changed the world forever. More Americans are attending college and universities than ever before, and as a result, we have a surplus of well educated people seeking a place in our vibrant economy.
We have also been at war for nearly two decades. This has placed a burden on our operational readiness. Retention is down, and enlistment has been lethargic. The socio-political climate has also played an active role in this trend. Social media has fueled a divisional rift in our social fabric, and we have a generation that’s drifting further and further away from the ideals of American pride and patriotism.
I was up late, reading my various news feeds, and quite honestly, getting frustrated hearing the usual suspects spewing their usual diatribes, both liberal and conservative alike, about things we hear every single day and nauseum. Voter fraud, voter suppression, social safety nets, gender equality, government giveaways, the list is as long as my arm. None of the politicos offer any reasonable solutions, because they see everything as a zero sum gain, an all or nothing game of political attrition. They’re not thinking outside the box.
So, at 3:00am I started to form an idea that deals with a few of these political hot potatos in an interesting way. First, on gender equality; the Supreme Court recently ruled it unconstitutional to exclude women from Selective Service registration. While important, it falls short. Make registration mandatory regardless of gender. Previously, the objection was that because women weren’t in combat roles, registration wasn’t necessary. Well, women have been in combat for over twenty years now, it’s time we move into the 21st century.
Next, let’s link a universal voter registration into the Selective Service system. When we reach the mandatory draft age, we also reach voting age, so combine the two and issue a voter ID. It could be updated when drivers licenses and state IDs are updated. We have the technology that allows these systems to work together, let’s use it.
I know that registering for armed services will trip an alarm in the heads of some individuals less apt to fight unless it’s within the confines of a Cheeto encrusted recliner, and there’s a solution for that too.
In 1993, under the Clinton administration, we created Americorps. Americorps promotes public service and jobs training to Americans aged 17-25, and is often seen as a domestic version of the Peace Corps. This could be a viable option for those who must register for Selective Service but are conscientious objectors. Participation in the program could fulfill that particular role of civic responsibility.
While registration would only be relevant in the unlikely event that the draft is reinstituted, Americorps could be expanded in a way to help with another pressing issue- student debt. Student loan burden is a hot topic right now, and the current thinking is limited to flat forgiveness and taxpayer subsidies for education, which naturally is objected to because it engorges the government and increases the socialist agenda.
Currently, enrollment in Americorps comes with a limited benefit towards college expenses, in addition to some stipends for living expenses, food and housing. If we expanded the program to offer college expenses similar to those offered by the Montgomery GI bill, it would reduce the debt burden substantially and not be a “giveaway”. It would be part of the compensation for a contracted term of civic service. If we ran the numbers, we may see this option is actually cheaper than the cost of collection on defaulted loans, and most certainly cheaper than loan forgiveness.
While I fully understand this is an idealistic pie in the sky concept, if you look closely at it’s parts, there’s nothing here that’s particularly complicated. The hardest part would be convincing our elected ruling class that there are alternatives out there, but to find them they first need to start looking outside the box.
For more information on Americorps, click here