Rep. Jeff Flake is well-known on Capitol Hill for being a nasty foe of anything that smacks of government giving a helping hand to struggling working-class and middle-class families.
"You're on your own, folks," is the mantra of our do-nothing congressman.
His sponsors, like the anti-family Goldwater Institute and the greed-is-good elitists of the Club for Growth, have a perfect representative in the selfishness-worshipping Rep. Jeff Flake. Too bad those of us stuck with a congressman who makes Ayn Rand look like Mother Teresa can't say the same thing -- unless we've suddenly been thrust into Bizarro World.
Yesterday a routine resolution came before the House. It was simple: to honor the 542,000 American citizens who since 1994 haven taken the AmeriCorps pledge to 'get things done for America' by becoming AmeriCorps members.
These unselfish folks have served a total of more than 705,000,000 hours nationwide, helping to improve the lives of our nation's most vulnerable citizens, protect our environment, contribute to our public safety, respond to disasters, and strengthen our educational system.
Members of the House were asked to simply agree to this:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) encourages all citizens to join in a national effort to salute AmeriCorps members and alumni, and raise awareness about the importance of national and community service;
(2) acknowledges the significant accomplishments of the AmeriCorps members, alumni, and community partners;
(3) recognizes the important contributions to the lives of our citizens by AmeriCorps members; and
(4) encourages citizens of all ages to consider serving in AmeriCorps.
All Democrats and the vast majority of Republicans voted aye.
Horse's ass Jeff Flake voted nay.
Why does Jeff Flake hate AmeriCorps? Because it proves, time and again, that a little helping hand from the government can make some people's lives easier. And that contradicts the rigid ideology that Jeff Flake has sworn allegiance to, much to the detriment of his constituents with real needs.
Jeff Flake wants to get rid of AmeriCorps. As an editorial in the Everett (WA) Herald titled "AmeriCorps should be lauded, not threatened" explains:
Let's face it: Not everyone has the desire or the opportunity to go to college and pursue a traditional career in public service. That doesn't mean young people shouldn't get the chance to focus on doing good in their community. The federal AmeriCorps program is a great way to create a valuable pool of volunteers to do just that.
Even though it's billed as a volunteer program, participants receive awards once they complete their assignments. The grants are meant to be used to further volunteers' education or to pay off student loans.
The award - less than $5,000 - is hardly an incentive by itself to commit to a yearlong project. The partial-year stipends are even less, about $2,300 for between 300 and 900 hours of work. AmeriCorps volunteers are mostly in their mid-20s and make the conscious decision to put better-paying career paths on hold in order to perform admirable tasks.
Last week in the House of Representatives, AmeriCorps faced funding cuts from two different amendment packages. One, sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), would have cleaved $25 million from its federal grant package, divided between a program focused on underprivileged youth and various programs for the elderly.
Stearns wrote a letter to others on the House Appropriations Committee in which he mischaracterized the nature of AmeriCorps, calling the stipend a contradiction for volunteers.
The other, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), would have removed all $226 million funding AmeriCorps receives at the state and federal levels, effectively ending the program.
Fortunately, neither of the amendments gained enough support to continue up the legislative chain.
Officials for Washington Campus Compact, a service learning organization housed at Western Washington University, said that $27 million in AmeriCorps grants have been spent at state schools. Locally, Everett Community College has seen $847,349 of that money and $583,570 has been used to finance education at Edmonds Community College.
For some people, public service means holding elected office. For others, it's tutoring adult literacy classes, working in a soup kitchen, doing clerical work for a health clinic or planting trees.
AmeriCorps volunteers do that kind of work because they believe in the causes and take pride in offering their time and skills. Government should commend them and the organization shouldn't have to worry about having to scrounge for donations in order to operate.
Shame on you, Jeff Flake.
And shame on us for having an enemy of hard-working American families as our congressman.