I just read through the text of HR 393, submitted by Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. The summary says:
To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed services or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, to authorize the induction of persons in the uniformed services during wartime to meet end-strength requirements of the uniformed services, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make permanent the favorable treatment afforded combat pay under the earned income tax credit, and for other purposes.
Now, supposedly, Rangel submitted the bill because he wants to stir up some trouble over the fact that the children of the people who got us into this war are not at risk to fight in it.Â But, even if that’s true, this is a bad bill:
- The President would have the sole power to determine what qualifies as national service. He could conscript people from Massachusetts to pick up trash in Crawford, TX.
- Although the summary of the bill refers to “during wartime”, the bill would also permit military conscription during a national emergency (as declared by the President) or during any military operation authorized by Congress.
- The President gets to set the criteria for deciding whether someone has performed adequately in civilian service, and the penalties for failure to do so.
- The President gets to choose the manner of selection.
- There’s a provision that everybody inducted for national service has to undergo a physical and mental examination; being found unfit may get you a deferment…but not necessarily. (For military conscription, you do have to meet the same standards as a volunteer.)
- Although it says every citizen (or resident) between 18 and 42 is obliged to serve, it doesn’t specify whether you’re automatically discharged on your 42nd birthday (maybe you can be inducted the day before, and kept for 2 years?); nor does it mention whether a non-citizen has the option to leave the country to avoid service.
It seems to me that, if a Congressman submits a bill, even if it’s just a strawman that he doesn’t want to be passed, he should hold it to a higher standard than this. As written, this bill would basically authorize the President to order anybody he wants to do anything he wants. “Oh, gee, Senator, looks like your name came up for the post of crash test dummy.”