So much for the new era of fiscal responsibility. The federal government's dependency drones have been spared the chopping block. After vowing to eliminate funding for President Obama's bloated $6 billion AmeriCorps social justice army, House Republicans retreated — and will shrink the AmeriCorps budget by a minuscule 6.7 percent.
Politicians originally sold AmeriCorps as an alternative to big government — a program to "renew the ethic of civic responsibility and the spirit of community throughout the United States." With bipartisan support, the program has morphed into an all-purpose progressive slush fund. Instead of reining in the national service boondoggle, Washington has turned taxpayer-subsidized helping hands into a legion of Nanny State handout helpers. Goodbye, AmeriCorps. Hello, FoodStampCorps.
Yes, across the Internet, the feds are recruiting AmeriCorps VISTA ("Volunteers in Service to America") workers to apply for jobs as publicists for the welfare state. Their mission: to sign up as many people to federal food stamp rolls as possible. Because, you know, the record-breaking 12 million that have been added since Obama took office is apparently not good enough.
Here's a typical job ad in Boston: "AMERICORPS VISTA: FOOD STAMP COORDINATOR (INTERNSHIP) Through this project, the Elderly Commission will be able to provide information, assistance and support to senior citizens of Boston in applying for food stamps. Develop a full knowledge of the Food Stamp program and application process. Assist seniors in senior housing and community centers to fill out Food Stamp applications; assist seniors with gathering necessary proofs together for applications; follow up with the Department of Transitional Assistance to ensure seniors receive awarded benefits. Recruit volunteers to be trained on the application of the Food Stamp program."
In New York, Philadelphia and a total of 30 sites across the country, AmeriCorps and the Department of Agriculture are funding the "National Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps" to "increase access to food stamps."
National Affairs managing editor Meghan Clyne reports that the administration is roping in left-wing churches to aggressively promote food stamps. With institutional support from first lady Michelle Obama, the FoodStampCorps will train church members to apply for food stamps after religious services; and "'encourage eligible families to enroll their children in (government-subsidized) school meal programs'; if organizations operate day-care or after-school programs, they are advised to pursue reimbursement for meals and snacks through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (a federally funded, state-administered welfare program). Places of worship are asked to serve as feeding sites for the Summer Food Service Program — another federally funded, state-run welfare project."
With billions poured into the welfare state at the local, state and national levels and enrollment at an all-time high, why should taxpayers be underwriting make-work jobs for future Democratic flacks-in-training? Shouldn't it already be the job of the vast network of existing social services and welfare agencies to publicize and assist food-stamp applicants?
More troublesome: AmeriCorps workers are themselves being encouraged to sign up for food stamp benefits — giving new meaning to "hands-on" (or rather, "hands-out") experience.
An AmeriCorps blogger provided a thorough advice manual on working the system: "Plenty of jobs come with perks," the worker wrote. "For some these come in the form of company cars, dental insurance, or a spending allowance. For VISTAs, it's food stamps." The step-by-step guide tells AmeriCorps workers: "If you apply for food stamps after you become an AmeriCorps VISTA member, you will have a decreased food stamp allotment. So if you're debating applying, you should do it now."
Another AmeriCorps tip for those preparing for their in-person eligibility interview with food stamp administrators: "These social service agencies are only open during regular business hours, so you will probably have to take the day off (some sites don't count it against your 20 vacation/sick days)." Oh, and don't forget to "bring a book." Says the wise AmeriCorps welfare-system expert: "While food stamps are handled by a different agency in every state, they all generally have a reputation that mirrors that of the DMV: too little staff, too high demand, and wait times that can border on extreme. While my own wait was only three hours, I've heard some VISTAs waiting as long as eight. Yes, I know you may have an appointment, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to see you at that time. So bring a book, an iPod, that screenplay you've been tinkering with — whatever, because you're going to be waiting a while."
Make no mistake: Americans are suffering as a result of this profligate administration's job-stifling and anti-economic growth policies. No one questions the need for a basic safety net to care for those most in need of help. But the community-organizer-in-chief is squandering billions on failed Alinsky-ite rackets that are geared toward ever-expanding service not to the individual, but to the insatiable state.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.