Characterizing this proposal as "bald faced authoritarianism" is a bit over the top. Certainly one can question the necessity for, and appropriateness of, a federally mandated service-learning graduation requirement, but this idea has a long history, and in some school districts such programs are already in place.
To be absolutely clear, my problem begins and end with the use of the word require and what that word implies. There is a difference between encouraging and requiring and that difference matters when you are talking about the coercive use of government power. Lets change contexts to put this in perspective.
Exercise is good for you, right? Everyone ought to exercise every day. We have federal government programs that attempt to encourage exercise. Most high schools and colleges have some sort of fitness requirement for graduation.
So why not create a federal requirement that all Americans exercise? If its good for most people its good for everybody, right? Lets require 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise from each citizen once a day. No exceptions will be made. If you do not perform the required exercise you will be imprisoned for not more than two years and fined not less than $100,000.
Is that unreasonable? If you think the President's fitness challenge is OK but the sort of requirement I'm describing is not, there has to be a line that you'd draw where you would oppose these requirements. Why do you draw that line where you draw it?
You seem to want to have pragmatic reasons for drawing the line. I have structural reasons. I don't oppose a daily federal fitness requirement because I don't think it would be effective. In fact, I DO think it would be effective. I would personally be better off if we had it. I oppose it because I think its antithetical to a free society.
When the government taxes your time and your labor, this is something catagorically different from when it taxes your money. Thats where I draw the line. Its possible that an existential threat to the future of your country can put you in a position where you have no choice but to institute a military draft, but unless you have reached that point, the way I see it, you can either choose to be a free society, or you can choose to force innocent people against their will to give up their time to serve the interests of the state.
Generally speaking, I think the people who support these requirements know that they are antithetical to freedom, and that is why they do not and would not impose them on themselves or their peers. These requirements are generally imposed on minors. The adults who write these laws, enforce these laws, and vote for politicians who support these laws are not saying that they, themselves should be subject to a government requirement that they perform 50 or 100 hours of community service a year. They are saying that other people, who do not have the right to vote, and who would be in the minority even if they could vote, should be required to do this.
Generally speaking, communities that impose these requirements on their public school students do not make any space available in those student's lives in order to satisfy this requirement. Becky the wealthy suburban kid with all kinds of time on her hands faces the same requirement as Jimmy, who works nights and weekends to help his family put food on the table and is barely keeping is head above water.
In my view, "no forced labor without representation" might be a useful slogan in response to these impositions if not for the fact that the adults who support them don't have enough respect for the minors they are imposing them upon to take such a slogan seriously. They'll say "Awe, isn't that cute, the child wants political rights." I'm sure if pressured most of the adults who support these programs will laughingly explain that they, themselves, cannot possibly be made subject to them as their lives are enormously more complicated than those they seek to enlist. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but history has long known these kinds of rationalizations. And that is the sinister heart of the matter.
Obama's program is rare in that it, in fact, does include a small group of enfranchised Adults, as long as they are students in college. In this case they attempting to offset the economic imposition of the program by lowering tuition costs, but if everyone has a check for $4,000 some would argue that because the scarcity of college resources hasn't changed, the tuition prices will simply go up by the same amount. So it might look good enough on paper to pass through Congress, but real people will be forced to drop out of college as a result.
Its interesting that the boldest of these programs is from Maryland. A lot of Congressional Democrats live in Maryland. If you want a liberal program instituted nation wide that state is a good place to advocate it. However, I think that everyone who is shoved into these programs against their will and doesn't come out inspired to work for a non-profit will become inspired to vote for Republicans. Herein this party sows the seeds of its own future irrelevancy.
RE: Changes at Change.gov