How to prepare for disasters

Marin Independent Journal                             

MARIN VOICE                                September 23, 2005

Dwayne Hunn

Another Katrina will happen.  Another earthquake will.  With Mother Nature stuff happens, and you can’t always avoid it.  However, you can competently and humanely temper its aftermath.

Another Iraq and Vietnam may happen.  Another extremist act may.  With politics and policies, stuff happens.  However, you can avoid a lot of stupid policies from becoming bloody economic disasters.

Ø      How?  By making Americans and the world smarter.

Ø      How do we do that?  Give Americans a visionary program in which a significant number serve, share, understand, learn, and teach their young.  From that, America grows a super majority of smarter citizens.  That super majority then votes America away from stupid, costly mistakes that cost us dearly in blood and economy.

Ø      What is that vision?  It’s the citizen-initiated World Service Corps proposed in Congress.

If passed in Congress this year, the proposed laws would annually ramp up America’s best resource until by the sixth year one million Americans, or .6 of 1% of those aged 20 – 60-plus, would voluntarily serve in their choice of the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, Head Start, Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, OxFam, State Conservation Corps, etc.

Why would Americans volunteer to do the WSC?  Because Americans enjoy serving, like playing on great teams, and prefer building over wrecking.  In addition, the proposed legislation would offer simple, cost effective federal financial incentives to volunteers.

Upon completing service, WSC members would receive two years of community plus two years of state college tuition, equivalent educational loan pay off, or equivalent investment in Medical or IRA Accounts, which would be transferable to family relatives.  This updated mini GI Educational Bill of Rights gives the do-good governmental and non-governmental organizations the mix of enthusiastic, experienced, can-do Americans, aged 18 – 60+, who make the world safer and better.

In less dangerous and testing times, John Kennedy wanted the Peace Corps to put a million PCVs into the world.  Then, he felt, it would become a significant force bettering the world and America.  Today, one ofAmerica’s best and most cost effective programs has only about 177,000 returning Peace Corps volunteers.  The World Service Corps proposals legislate a million of our most cost effective resources into dealing with and learning from world and domestic problems.  It does so at a total (stipend plus incentives) annual cost less than 1/10th what it costs to maintain each of our military personnel, which is soaring past $500,000 each when supplemental and off-budget costs are added.  What a huge, long run cost and blood savings bargain.

Sure, a million WSC members physically improve the world.  They do so by working shoulder-to-shoulder with the world that wants to idolize them.  Perhaps more importantly, they enlighten the world’s superpower, whose steps can improve or destroy chunks of the world, by directly exposing Americans to global village needs.

Only about 15% of Americans take out passports.  Many of them have corporate or Club Med world experiences.  The WSC exposes more Americans to the classroom of world needs, so that their voting decisions are based on real life experiences, rather than on forgettable TV designed for couch potatoes.

The WSC raises America’s political and policymaking IQ.  That, then, keeps American voters from stumbling into shortsighted, costly, or bloody policies that we could avoid by pursuing visionary, practical, cost-effective policies.

Imagine, if the WSC had been running for years.  Its incentives would have inspired more states to start Conservation Corps.  The day Katrina struck thousands of those new and expanded state Conservation Corps, plus thousands of Red Cross, Americorps, Habitat, Doctors Sans Borders, International Rescue Committee, etc., volunteers would have been moving into Mississippi and Louisiana, with or without a Federal Emergency Management Agency passport.

We need peaceful, productive Special Forces to handle today’s special needs, as well as to reduce terrorist recruitment.

The World Service Corps www.worldservicecorps.us needs your local and national support.  Before the next hurricane or earthquake, before the next terrorist act, citizens need to enlighten local, state, and federal politicians, so they will enact the WSC legislation to send a million can-do Americans into our and the world’s classroom of needs.

 

Dwayne Hunn of Mill Valley is executive director of People’s Lobby and sponsor of the World Service Corps proposals.  He served in the Peace Corps.

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