NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Americorps Knee Deep In Politics And Welfare Promotion

August 1, 2000

President Bill Clinton likes to laud AmeriCorps, the so-called "national service" scheme created in 1993. In fact, in his final budget Clinton proposed to increase spending on AmeriCorps from $433 million to $533 million a year.

But critics say that the 50,000 recruits on its payroll engage in activities ranging from the inane to the political -- including encouraging people to sign up for welfare.

Here are two examples of activities which critics call inane:

  • In San Diego, AmeriCorps recruits carried out the "First Annual Undergarment Drive" -- a campaign to collect used bras, panties and pantyhose for a local women's center.
  • In Los Angeles, they sewed a quilt to send to victims of the Oklahoma City bombing -- then didn't even bother to finish the project.

As for promoting welfare applications:

  • In Charleston, S.C., AmeriCorps members went door-to-door seeking small businesses to apply for government-subsidized loans.
  • In Chicago, members compiled a directory of welfare programs to help trainees get food stamps, subsidized day care and public housing.
  • In New Jersey, members recruit middle-class families to accept subsidized federal health insurance for their children.
  • In Washington state, AmeriCorps is bankrolling the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition -- whose director says the public doesn't trust poor people enough to spend their money wisely, "so we don't give them enough."

Many AmeriCorps recruits are themselves on the dole and unskilled. The average recruit costs more than $23,000 a year -- the equivalent of almost $12 an hour for minimum-wage tasks.

Source: James Bovard, "AmeriCorps: Salvation Via Hand-Holding," American Spectator, July/August 2000.


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