Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Perriello Report, or, Double Shift Part Deux

Tom Perriello has done two very noteworthy things this week, one involving AIG and the other having to do with the benefits of national service and volunteerism. 

First, Tom issued a richly-deserved verbal smackdown to the AIG tools who decided they still deserved multi-million dollar bonuses even after completely failing at that whole capitalism thing and shamelessly taking a bailout from the federal money-for-incompetence program. He also co-sponsored a bill to re-take all bonuses over $100,000 that AIG execs have awarded themselves. Given the emerging conservative talking point that actually defends the AIG bonuses based on the "they're just honoring a prior contract" argument, I think this is a pretty excellent quote:

“AIG hides behind claims of contractual obligations, but the car companies who received bailout funds found a way to cut wages to line workers. Why is it okay for companies to force cuts on workers but not scale back million dollar bonuses for the executives who knowingly caused us this mess?”

Someone give that man a chairmanship.

Tom also led the charge to create a national volunteer reserve corps that would enlist former volunteers for future efforts in times of national disasters. The GIVE Act, which is expected to raise the number of available volunteers to 250,000, passed the House overwhelmingly today. The bill is supposed to make it easier for Americans to volunteer their time on projects to improve our communities; U.Va. politics professor Larry Sabato has proposed something like this before, noting what a great advantage a reserve corps could have provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. Here's a YouTube clip of Tom speaking about the bill:

There will also be financial incentives--higher ed funding and the like--to encourage additional volunteerism. This would work great for someone like myself; It would have been much easier to afford a trip to the Gulf to rebuild houses had I known I could help pay my college bills in the process.


Tyler Craddock said...

Why should government be in the business of "encouraging" (read "coercing") anything? I never read that part from the Founders about the role of the US government being based in part on encouraging behaviors that someone somewhere deems "good."

Max said...

Hi Tyler, thanks for the comment. To answer your question, I see this more as lowering a barrier to entry. I think there are plenty of people throughout the country who would love to volunteer their time in some capacity or another, but they simply do not have the money or resources. The example I gave of wanting to join friends in New Orleans to rebuild houses is one I think is very common; I couldn't volunteer because I didn't know how I would pay for the plane ticket and living expenses that were involved.

I also think there's a lot for us to gain as a country when as many people as possible are exposed to as much of our country as possible. Spending time in other states or even in other neighborhoods in our own community can offer new perspectives and have a maturing effect on our lives.

As for whether or not it's in the interest of the government to have a standby corps of volunteers, I think of all the Americans who build Habitat houses, give blood and start up nonprofits--they're idealistic and they're passionate about helping people, so why not tap into that? This bill makes it easier for them to do what they do best, and I think it's a refreshing change for our leaders to call on us to get up and help, rather than simply wait for FEMA to botch everything it touches.

Tyler Craddock said...

Thanks for the reply, Max. I still beg to differ about whether should be in the business of "encouraging" things it deems "good" or "helpful," but I appreciate your response nonetheless.