Monday, November 22, 2010

Are the rich abandoning America?

Tom Ricks thinks rich Americans pretty much don't care about their country. Ricks is a national security reporter who's written a great book about Iraq called "Fiasco."

Ricks points out that the draft ended in the '60s and the Reagan tax cuts began in the '80s. We don't usually compare those two events, he says, but
...we may come to see them together as the moment when the wealthy checked out of America and moved into physical and mental gated communities...
Ricks has an interesting idea: reinstate the draft -- not the old draft, but a draft where you can do something useful for low pay for 18-24 months. Libertarians could choose to do nothing for their country, and in return they would get nothing:

The military option. ...18 months of military conscripts could do a lot of work that currently is outsourced: cutting the grass, cooking the food, taking out the trash, painting the barracks. They would receive minimal pay during their terms of service, but good post-service benefits, such as free tuition at any university in America...

The civilian service option. ...We have lots of other jobs at hand. You do two years of them -- be a teacher's aide at a troubled inner-city school, clean up the cities, bring meals to elderly shut-ins. We might even think about how this force could help rebuild the American infrastructure, crumbling after 30 years of neglect. These national service people would receive post-service benefits essentially similar to what military types get now, with tuition aid.

The libertarian opt-out. ...Here, you opt out of the military and civilian service options. You do nothing for Uncle Sam. In return, you ask for nothing from him. For the rest of your life, no tuition aid, no federal guarantees on your mortgage, no Medicare. Anything we can take you out of, we will. But the door remains open -- if you decide at age 50 that you were wrong, fine, come in and drive a general around for a couple of years.