A New York Times piece by security analyst Thomas Ricks argues that high school graduates should be conscripted to fulfill a variety of mundane Keynesian stimulus projects. His article is titled, “Let’s Draft Our Kids.”
A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.
Those who don’t want to serve in the army could perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly. After two years, they would receive similar benefits like tuition aid.
Why do this? Because:
The pool of cheap labor available to the federal government would broadly lower its current personnel costs and its pension obligations — especially if the law told federal managers to use the civilian service as much as possible, and wherever plausible. The government could also make this cheap labor available to states and cities. Imagine how many local parks could be cleaned and how much could be saved if a few hundred New York City school custodians were 19, energetic and making $15,000 plus room and board, instead of 50, tired and making $106,329, the top base salary for the city’s public school custodians, before overtime.
In other words, Ricks’ answer to the bloated public bureaucracy is to replace it with slave labor. But at least libertarians get to opt out:
And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.
Can I opt out of paying for these things? It’s hardly minimal government if my tax dollars are still being used to subsidize college loans, Medicare, and mortgage guarantees. In any case, a government that replaces its unsustainable public workforce with forced labor is certainly not minimal; it is totalitarian.
The solution to the fiscal crisis is to slash spending, cut pensions, and privatize. Anyone who thinks that FDR-era work programs crossed with Orwellian social controls will solve our problems just doesn’t get it. To label the plan as one that accommodates libertarian sentiments is even crazier.