Obama’s Service Plan

On Wednesday, July 2, 2008, the Democratic Presumptive Presidential Nominee Sen. Barack Obama, in his speech at the University of Colorado on national service, promised that, if elected as president of the United States of America he would “set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year.”

Sen. Obama has promised that he would ensure that these federally mandated goals are met by, among other things, attaching strings to federal education dollars. States whose school systems and universities didn’t meet federal quotas for student performed public service hours would be denied federal educational dollars.

While this plan does not – despite some conservative pundit’s rants – violate the 13th Amendment which outlawed slavery and most other forms of forced servitude, it is still a vile and pernicious assault on both States’ rights and individual liberty.

One must remember that a similar (mis)use of federal education dollars to enforce a federally mandated curriculum, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), has been reviled and complained about for years now. Yet it at least centered on curriculum and results-oriented accountability, whereas Obama’s proposed use of federal education dollars is for the purpose of mandating public service efforts by students.

Perhaps Sen. Obama should spend less time analyzing how he could, if elected as president, circumvent the 10th Amendment – which strictly limits the powers of the Federal Government – and spend more time reviewing the relevant Child Labor laws such as the the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

NOTE: This post only deals with that part of Obama’s National Service plan that deals with using federal education dollars to coerce the States into requiring public service work-hour quotas from students. There are other points in his plan that I endorse in principle, though as in all things involving the federal bureaucracy, I am skeptical of the implementation.

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9 Responses to “Obama’s Service Plan”

  1. Christy Says:

    Thanks for highlighting this.

  2. Gabrieloneverything Says:

    I didn’t actually hear the speech. I went to his website and read stuff about it. I don’t like the idea of schools being forced into community service with the looming threat of budget cuts. You are right in the assertion that it is like the NCLB act. Just another similarity to show us that politics are politics no matter what the party.

  3. jonolan Says:


    No problem at all – pointing out these things it part of what I do with this blog đŸ˜‰


    As you can surmise by my rant, I am also not in favor of the Federal government coercing the States into such things. I referenced the 10th Amendment to our Constitution both deliberately and advisedly.

    Now, I’m not against the goals of NCLB; it was an attempt to make the States accountable for how the federal education dollars they received were spent. It just was an expectedly poor way of doing it. And of course it was still a case of the Feds overstepping the spirit of the 10th Amendment if not the letter of it.

    I’m also not against the stated goals of Obama’s plan. Instilling the idea of national and community service in our youth is a quite laudable. This is just a piss-poor way of trying to do it.

  4. Christy Says:


    I’m well aware. ;p Just making explicit my appreciation and not simply being a silent consumer.

  5. in2thefray Says:

    This will be a CityYear meets Selective Service precedents and clothed in JFK Peace Corps glory. The lemmings will lap this up including many cities and academic entities. The schools especially will roll this into some kind of way to get more $$ from students. I can see the resume building and coop ed ads already in my head.

  6. jonolan Says:


    The universities may like this idea, but Obama’s plan also includes effectively mandatory public service quotas for middle schools and high schools. I doubt that those institutions will enjoy being held over a barrel in such a manner.

  7. mikeb302000 Says:

    Yeah, there’s been a lot of that “vile and pernicious assault on both States’ rights and individual liberty” going around lately. The last few weeks I feel myself sliding back into the cynicism that I so reveled in for decades. Obama sure makes a good speech. I’m looking forward to seeing if he can make some good changes too.

  8. jonolan Says:


    Yes, Obama is good at talking, but we will – if he’s elected – have to see if he’s equally good at actions. I don’t know if I hope that he is or if I hope that he isn’t. His platform has always been rooted in the far Left and that more than worries – this post being an example of those worries.

    In this specific case, I like the idea of expanding civilian National Service, but I don’t like some of the details of his plan. Sadly, it’s the parts of the plan that I detest that would be the easiest for him to enact.

  9. lm Says:

    What a lazy ass — no one should do public service, and no one should support public service, cause there’s no public to be served except for white little libertarians who want to end public transit, end the public school system, and stop giving all that aid to the Katrina victims who deserve what they got.

    What a great political platform!

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