O'Donnell Proposes Youth Slavery
by Ari Armstrong, August 30, 2006
"[I]t's time to institute a national service corps for men. I propose that after the first semester of 12th grade, all young men in America do six months of service. For those who drop out of high school, they replace those lost years with additional service. No one would be exempt, rich kids couldn't buy their way out of service, and it wouldn't involve the informality of AmeriCorps. Young men could have a choice of where to serve, such as homeland security, armed forces or community service."
So who is it that suggested that every young male be forced to go to the Jungen camps to sacrifice a minimum of six months of their lives to the state? It is Rick O'Donnell, the Republican running in Colorado's Seventh Congressional district, who, fantastically, had been tagged as a "free market" type.
But a free market is the institutionalization of individual rights in the economic sphere. O'Donnell is operating from the opposite premise of individual rights: the premise that the state owns our lives and can dictate how we live them. O'Donnell does not believe that young men should be free to pursue their education or start their careers; he believes they should be forced into "service" to the state. (By implication, taxpayers should be forced to fund this "service.")
Club for Growth's claim that O'Donnell supports "limited government" is a despicable lie. Six months or more of slavery has nothing to do with a government limited to the protection of individual rights. A government with the power to enslave all young males for at least six months is a government that, in principle, has absolute power, under which any residual "freedom" is merely a permission slip that can be revoked at any time by political whim.
Further Analysis of O'Donnell's Proposal
O'Donnell offered his proposal in the January 3, 2004, Denver Post, in a "Colorado Voices" column titled, "A new rite of passage." (O'Donnell wrote the essay as "executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies," so he could hardly invoke the "youthful indiscretion" defense, as he did with his '95 essay on Social Security.)
O'Donnell begins the piece by describing a "rite of passage" to manhood. A father and son "spent a weekend near Salida hiking, camping and talking -- not father to son, but man to man. The last night, the son was left alone in the wilderness. Early the next morning, he came face to face with the bear. Fraternity, acceptance, adventure and risk are ingredients necessary for an initiation to manhood."
Okay -- anyone who believes that coming "face to face with a bear" turns a boy into a man is a complete idiot. Yet it is fitting that O'Donnell begins his essay with a comparison to primitive, tribal rituals. (I describe another sort of initiation rite in my June 8, 2006, column for Boulder Weekly.) In fact, coming into manhood (and womanhood) means accepting a code of morality and taking responsibility for one's life.
But, more to the point, what does a camping trip have to do with state enslavement of all male youth? O'Donnell points to various problems of male youth, then argues that the "largest contributor is the epidemic of absent fathers." O'Donnell argues, "Boys must learn from their fathers how to become men." Absent fathers, boys need some other mentor.
O'Donnell continues, "But even with more mentors, a bolder approach is needed to help boys successfully become men of character... If more than 25 percent of Colorado men drop out before the 12th grade, and for those who remain it is a blow-off year, why are we paying for it? Good questions." Then he proposes the "national service corps for men."
I have to keep fighting the feeling that O'Donnell's proposal is some sort of sick joke. O'Donnell's "reasoning" is so pathetic that I keep waiting for somebody to proclaim, "Ha! Ha! Just kidding. Boy, we had you going -- six-month enslavement of all male youth, here in America! Ha! Of course nobody would ever propose such a thing or use such lame arguments to support it."
First, as O'Donnell himself notes, "Almost 35 percent of boys live without their biological father." That means 65 percent of boys live with their biological fathers, and more live with a step father, grandfather, or some other male role model. So, while O'Donnell points to a real problem of "absent fathers," this hardly supports his proposal to enslave all male youth.
Second, it is obviously false that the senior year of high school is "a blow-off year" "for those who remain" in school. Sure, a lot of seniors take it easier, but most continue to keep up with their studies. And many seniors continue to prepare diligently for college. So O'Donnell would have these dedicated students sacrifice their education so they can patrol the Mexican border, chop down trees, or perform some other sort of state-sanctioned "community service." "No one would be exempt."
O'Donnell's proposal is horrifically immoral.
Third, usually students who drop out of high school get jobs. Some go on to earn a general equivalency diploma later. Why is providing mandatory "service" to the state superior to working?
Fourth, why does O'Donnell assume that mandatory state "service" would provide children with appropriate moral guidance? What sorts of people would sign up to organize and implement such a program? What sort of morals does a system of slavery encourage?
O'Donnell worries, "It's sad that for too many young men, sex, sports and violence are all that is left as anchors of their souls, rather than family, faith and hard-work."
Besides the fact that "many" does not imply "all" or even anything other than a small minority, what reason does O'Donnell have to believe that mandatory, national "service" would instill the values of "family, faith and hard-work?" As defined by whom? Does he really want to spend tax dollars to instill religious "faith" in young males forced into "service" programs? Does he really believe that students who would otherwise drop out of high school would be motivated to work hard as slaves? What if they refuse, as any self-respecting person would do? Will it be whips, chains, or merely locked cages for the incalcitrants?
The only thing more shocking than the fact that O'Donnell wrote this essay is the fact that the Republican Party nominated him for the U.S. Congress. The Republican commitment to limited government (properly limited to the protection of individual rights) and free markets has always been a sham, but no longer can Republicans even pretend to have anything to do with those things. The Republican Party has put up a candidate for U.S. Congress who advocates the six-month enslavement of all male youth.
Obviously O'Donnell's essay should disqualify him for the position. But I will personally go a step further: I will not vote for a single Republican in Colorado this November who does not explicitly and unequivocally renounce O'Donnell's position. (That does not imply that I will vote for any Democrat.) O'Donnell's proposal is so inimical to rights, and so far over the line into statism, that I believe Colorado Republicans have a moral responsibility to denounce it. Those who refuse to do so cannot be taken seriously by any defender of liberty.
Perlmutter Opens the Debate
Nothing in this article implies that O'Donnell's opponent, Ed Perlmutter, is any better. The tragedy of the race is that one of the men will end up winning.
Perlmutter's campaign issued an August 29 release on the matter. (Perlmutter's release and O'Donnell's reply are archived below.)
The first thing to point out is that Perlmutter's release is dishonest. O'Donnell clearly explains that border patrol is only one option for "service" and that "[y]oung men could have a choice of where to serve" (but not whether to serve). Perlmutter's release pretends that O'Donnell offered only the option of border patrol.
Perlmutter's claim that "O'Donnell wanted to abolish Social Security" is also misleading. As I have argued in a previous article and in a first and second follow-up, O'Donnell wanted to replace Social Security with mandatory accounts (though he has since changed his position).
The second interesting aspect of Perlmutter's release is what it does not contain: any sort of principled statement against enslavement of youth. Perlmutter's release argues that it would be a bad idea to force "all male high school students, many only 17 years old, to forgo their last semester of school, end their college preparation, leave their families" and perform "service." Would Perlmutter support forced "service" under different conditions? The release doesn't say.
Perlmutter's response prompted an August 29 story by Christopher Osher of The Denver Post. Osher correctly states in his opening that O'Donnell's proposal included "the option of securing the Mexican border."
O'Donnell's reply describes the plan for national youth enslavement as "one possible remedy." Then, amazingly, O'Donnell took to "me-tooing" the Democrats: "As evidence of his bi-partisan, reform-minded approach to governance, Rick O'Donnell suggested a possible solution in his 2004 article based on ideas from Democrats. From Bill and Hillary Clinton to Senator Evan Bayh, since the 1990's many new Democrats have advocated national community service. In fact, the Democratic Leadership Council strongly advocates something very similar to what Rick proposed in his article..."
Well, that's just great. I guess if O'Donnell is following in the footsteps of Bill and Hillary Clinton, then everything's okay. Because surely what Republicans and independents in the Seventh Congressional are looking for is to vote for a Hillary clone. All that O'Donnell's reply demonstrates is that, in addition to being an irrational statist, O'Donnell is also politically inept.
What O'Donnell should have issued is a complete renunciation of his 2004 essay and a full apology. Instead the release endorses his previous plan and suggests that Perlmutter join him in supporting it. O'Donnell's campaign manager says in the release, "It's startling that Mr. Perlmutter would oppose having young men serve their country and community."
What's startling is that Jones ignores the rights of people to live their own lives, intentionally confuses voluntary service and mandatory service, and then seems to think she can get away with it.
Perlmutter Denounces O'Donnell Immigration Plan to Draft High School Students into Border Patrol -- 8/29/06
** News Release **
For Immediate Release: Contact: Scott Chase
August 29, 2006 303-324-1121 (cell)
Perlmutter Denounces O'Donnell Immigration Plan to Draft High School Students into Border Patrol
(Golden, CO) -- A day before the U.S. Senate holds its field hearings in the 7th Congressional District on illegal immigration, Democratic candidate for the 7th Congressional District, Ed Perlmutter, denounced his opponent, Rick O'Donnell's proposal to "help boys successfully become men of character" by drafting all teenage boys in their final semester of high school to serve as border patrol agents.
In what can only be described as a bizarre and dangerous plan in 2004, O'Donnell pushed for a "new rite of passage" that would make it mandatory for all male high school students, many only 17 years old, to forgo their last semester of school, end their college preparation, leave their families and do active duty "securing our border with Mexico." O'Donnell proposes that "instead of wasting time in 12th grade... (teenage boys) would undergo a society-wide rite of passage into manhood, one that provides... a sense of adventure and risk." O'Donnell argues that this "bolder approach is needed to help boys successfully become men of character." In addition, O'Donnell plan calls on those students who drop out of school before 12th grade, regardless of the reason, to serve additional years patrolling the border. O'Donnell proposes paying for the national service corps for boys with the "billions of dollars" that would come from eliminating the final semester of high school for all male students. O'Donnell's initiative does not address female high school students, who presumably would be allowed to continue their last semester of high school and preparation for college or post-graduate opportunities.
Perlmutter stated, "First Rick O'Donnell wanted to abolish Social Security when he worked for Newt Gingrich, now his answer for illegal immigration is to draft high school boys in their final semester of school to patrol the Mexican border. Rick O'Donnell has said that illegal immigration is his #1 issue, but during his entire career with Governor Owens, his only solution to the problem was this ridiculous and dangerous idea that places high school boys at the borders to deal with the illegal immigrants, criminals and drug smugglers who too often enter our Country." Perlmutter added, "This absurd idea is just another example of how out of touch Rick O'Donnell is with the hard working families in the 7th CD. My opponent needs to understand that parents don't want their sons forced to patrol the border and they don't need Rick O'Donnell to help them with any rites of passage into manhood."
Perlmutter concluded, "Illegal immigration is a serious issue that President Bush and the Republican led Congress has failed to address. We must be more vigilant at protecting and securing our borders, prosecuting employers who ignore the law and cracking down on the organized crime element that forge documents, traffic and exploit people and profit from illegal immigration. We need appropriate resources, pragmatic solutions, tough leadership and action, not ridiculous policy positions and ideology that are not based in the real world."
For Ed Perlmutter's full position on illegal immigration and securing America's borders, please visit www.Perlmutter2006.com.
------PRESS RELEASE --------
For Immediate Release
Perlmutter Makes Reckless
Second Time in a Week Perlmutter is Reckless with the Truth
WHEAT RIDGE -- For the second time in a week, bankruptcy attorney Ed Perlmutter levied a desperate attack against congressional candidate Rick O'Donnell that recklessly distorts the truth. Furthermore, in criticizing a "Colorado Voices" column Rick O'Donnell wrote for The Denver Post on January 3, 2004, Mr. Perlmutter shows how out of touch he is with new ideas to move America forward -- even ideas promoted by his fellow Democrats.
In the article "A New Rite of Passage," Rick describes the overwhelming evidence that America is failing to adequately prepare its boys for manhood, including: "Men commit suicide four times more than women. The federal prison population is 93 percent male. Only 47 percent of Colorado's sixth-grade boys pass the writing CSAP, compared to 62 percent of girls. For every 100 women who get a college degree, only 67 men do."
Deeply concerned with these alarming facts, Rick proposed in his article that community service to their country could be one possible remedy for young men struggling to mature in an environment where "sex, sports and violence are all that is left as anchors of their souls, rather than family, faith and hard-work."
As evidence of his bi-partisan, reform-minded approach to governance, Rick O'Donnell suggested a possible solution in his 2004 article based on ideas from Democrats. From Bill and Hillary Clinton to Senator Evan Bayh, since the 1990's many new Democrats have advocated national community service. In fact, the Democratic Leadership Council strongly advocates something very similar to what Rick proposed in his article, (quoting at length from http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=253462&kaid=115&subid=145):
"National service ought to be more than a small demonstration project on the margins of big government. It must take a great leap forward or risk going the way of the Peace Corps and VISTA, noble endeavors that languished after an initial burst of inspiration and failed to reach critical mass.
(Underline and bold emphasis added.)
"Three years ago, before immigration and border security became the top priorities of the nation and before concerns about Dubai operating American ports shed further light on our unsecured ports, Rick proposed an idea that even the DLC's website today echoes," said O'Donnell campaign manager K.C. Jones. "This just goes to show you that Rick is the candidate of bipartisan ideas. It's startling how unfamiliar Ed is with the centrist Democrats -- I guess it is because he isn't one."
In his press release, Mr. Perlmutter stated that Rick wrote in his article that he wants to draft, "all teenage boys in their final semester of high school to serve as border patrol agents." Rick O'DonnellŐs article says nothing of the sort, and this statement -- as well as Mr. Perlmutter's entire press release -- is a reckless distortion of the truth.
In fact, Rick O'Donnell wrote that "young men could have a choice of where to serve, such as homeland security, armed forces or community service. After a basic-training type orientation, they would be given various duties in sore need of attention: securing our border with Mexico; thinning our national forests to reduce fire risk; providing homeland security at ports and other vulnerable locations."
"The voters deserve better than Ed Perlmutter's reckless distortions and fabrications," said K.C. Jones. "But, as a candidate without any new ideas of his own, Ed can only baselessly attack his opponent."
"We can only imagine how the nation could have responded to the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita if we had thousands of trained young men at the ready to offer support," Rick O'Donnell said today. "We need new ideas in Washington, and that's exactly what I will take to Congress: new blood and new leadership. We can not afford to have the same old blame-and-complain, truth distorting partisan politics that my opponent represents."
"It's startling that Mr. Perlmutter would oppose having young men serve their country and community," said KC Jones. "Doesn't Ed know that the Colorado National Guard, without carrying weapons, is providing support for the border patrol today? Doesn't Ed know you can be 17 and still in high school to join the National Guard? What could be wrong with young men providing peaceful, unarmed support to keep our country secure? But when you consider that Ed is soft of crime, soft on immigration reform and soft on the war on terror, perhaps it's not so surprising after all."