James Joyner reacts to the news that 1 in 8 Americans is on food stamps with surprise (a surprise I share) and has the following to say:
I’m of mixed minds on all this. We should help the working poor — and their children — get enough to eat. Ditto those too disabled to work and provide for themselves. De-stigmatizing aid to such people — and even reaching out to make sure they know help’s available — makes sense.
But, rather clearly, we’ve taken this to absurd levels, creating a self-licking ice cream cone in which the program’s main focus is on expanding the program. Do we really need to be providing food stamps to able-bodied college graduates who are Americorps volunteers? Or, indeed, if we think Americorps is so valuable, why not provide a stipend so its “volunteers” can afford to feed themselves rather than treating them as indigents?
Hey! We agree! We should help those who can not feed themselves otherwise, and if we value Americorps volunteers, we should afford them a stipend and not make them have to use a program designed to be a stopgap measure.
But here is the thing- we can’t do anything about it. I’m sure the House could pass a bill containing a small stipend for Americorps volunteers- in fact, I bet it would get a good bit of support. It might even be very popular with the entire country, as well as being good policy! Likewise, I bet almost all the Democrats and even some Republicans in the Senate would be in favor of passing that bill.
Except the bill would never pass, and I’m surprised James does not recognize that he is operating in a fantasy world. Once the bill hit the Senate, the fun would begin. Even though in the past there were probably numbers of Republicans who supported Americorps, the large majority of them would just flat out say no.
Wanting to negotiate in good faith, having never learned a lesson ever, the Democrats like Baucus and Conrad would slow down the debate to give the Republicans time to participate. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe would work for a couple weeks with Senate leadership, get a couple things they want in the bill, then sigh and utter their public regrets that they just can not support the bill. Chuck Todd, the Politico, and other dullards in the beltway media would run a few pieces wondering why Obama hasn’t reached out more to moderates. While this is happening, the wurlitzer’s media blitz starts.
First off, we all know who loves Americorp- the Clenis. From there, it is all downhill. Breitbart would seize upon the bill, and claim that the anonymous stipend is just President Obama seeking to pay off his campaign volunteers- just like the KHMER ROUGE, POL POT, STALIN, AND DUVALIER! They would find some innocuous aspect of Americorps and turn it into something that is no doubt worse than Hitler. Like, for example- Americorps VISTA:
AmeriCorps VISTA members serve full-time for a year in anti-poverty organizations and agencies throughout the nation, working on issues such as fighting illiteracy, improving health services, creating businesses, increasing housing opportunities, improving college access, and bridging the digital divide.
VISTAs perform indirect service, which means they help build the capacity of organizations to deliver valuable direct services to people living in poverty. VISTAs typically create new programs, write grants, and recruit volunteers. For example, a VISTA could establish a tutoring program, recruit and train volunteers, and raise money for the program—but would not tutor the children.
And you all know how this story goes from here- improving literacy would become “socialist indoctrination.” Improving health care would become “socialized medicine.” Bridging the digital divide would become “giving laptops to welfare queens.” And you just know that someone in Americorps may have one day talked to someone from ACORN.
The subservient GOP drones in the blogs would pick up everything Breitbart has said. Instapundit and Reason magazine would wake from their glibertarian slumber to denounce this “vast, wasteful expansion of government.” The Fonzi of Freedom, Nick Gillespie, would make fifty idiotic web videos decrying the bill, in between appearances on Fox News and penning stupid op-eds with Matt Welch in the NY Post. Pete Suderman and Megan McCardle would exchange links to each other, giving us all an eye into the steamy world of glibertarian pillow talk. Welch would do his own part, pointing out that the French have something very similar to Americorps, and he really enjoyed their services while he and his wife were in France, but now that they are here in America and rake in enough money that they don’t need those services, he will loudly and in the most smug manner possible oppose Americorps. Also, he is still pissed that his car was not accepted for Cash for Clunkers.
Malkin would start printing the addresses of Americorps volunteers, and would have her internet sleuths post a facebook picture of an Americorps worker drunk four years ago while in college. By this time, the noise machine is in full swing, and Rush, Glenn Beck, Hannity, the Heritage Foundation, the rest of the Koch funded “think tanks,” Fox News, the NY Post and the Washington Examiner, the NR, and the Weekly Standard and the other wingnut welfare publications would all embark on another disinformation campaign.
Somewhere around this time, Randy Scheuenemann and Meg Stapleton would post a bunch of nonsense on Palin’s facebook page, maybe declaring that Americorps is just like Hitler Youth Corps. This would get picked up by the Weekly Standard’s resident Palin fluffer, Matt Continetti, repeated by the increasingly loathesome Michael Goldfarb, and mainstreamed into CNN by Stephen Hayes in one of his typical fact-free appearances. Bill Kristol would pick up the ball and run with it, and before you know it, Fred Hiatt’s fishwrap would have 20 editorials railing against Americorps.
At this time, we would have tea partiers packing guns to town hall events, terrified of a socialist takeover of, well, something, carrying racist signs and chanting “Keep Government out of Americorps!,” and the rest of the MSM can start their coverage. Sensing an opportunity, shitheels like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu sense the bill is in trouble, and would start to pack the goodies into it for their home state. Lieberman and Marshall Wittman would sense that liberals really want this, and then start voicing grave concerns about the bill, and Marty Peretz and company would call anyone who noted Lieberman is just being an asshole an anti-Semitic Jew hater. Evan Bayh and other “fiscal conservatives” would then start mugging for every camera they could find, and would make appearances on all the Sunday shows with mean old man John McCain talking about the need to cut government and why war should always be off budget.
At around this point, the Democratic firing squad starts. The usual suspects would start blaming this on Rahm, and screaming “Why isn’t Obama using his bully pulpit more” and “Bush would have gotten his bill!” Folks like me would start yelling at the usual suspects, instead of the Republicans and the noise machine which is to blame for this mess.
And then, quietly, the bill that James and I and the majority of the House, Senate, and American people all agree would be a good thing, slowly and without any dignity dies. The beltway pundits, feeling no shame for their part in amplifying the bullshit from the noise machine, would then begin 100,000 horse race pieces discussing how this is bad for Obama and good for Republicans, and what role this will play in the 2010 elections.
Most frustrating of all, when you point this all out to reasonable conservatives like James Joyner, that Republican obstinacy is keeping legislation that even they in the past have supported from passing, they’ll just dismiss you and say the Republicans are just playing hardball politics.
And that sick feeling you have in your stomache right now? That just means you know I am right.
*** Update **
I forgot two things:
You forgot the part where James O’Keefe showed up at an Americorps office dressed as a pimp, doctored the audio to make it look like Americorps would help him run his pimping exercise, got the ombudsmen of the Times and Post to say this meant they needed to hire more conservative reporters, and got Jon Stewart to run a witty piece about how the media wasn’t investigating Americorps enough.
And the other thing is that, if by some miracle, the bill does pass and is signed into law, the first people back to their districts with Publishers Clearing House checks at signing events will be the Republicans, and no one but Rachel Maddow will notice. Instead, Rick Klein and others will be running Q&A sessions asking people who is more at fault for the lack of bipartisanship.