President John F. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps and challenged young Americans to volunteer in developing countries.
Now, nearly 60 years later, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, one of at least two dozen candidates seeking to retire Donald Trump, has unveiled his National Service Education Guarantee.
If elected, the North Shore Democrat pledged to provide education or job-training benefits tied to national service. He would also create a Federal Green Corps to combat climate change and protect the environment.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my time in the Marines because it was so incredibly impactful in many very positive ways,” Moulton told The Item. “I think having young Americans serve their country is one of many ways to help bring this nation together.”
Last month, the Iraq War veteran joined the race for president promising to run a campaign that would “bring this country back together, by talking about patriotism, about security, about service.”
His program is modeled after the GI Bill, the federal education benefit provided to assist veterans cover the costs of schooling.
More than 33 million Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 would be asked to serve their country, Moulton said.
In return, a new Cabinet level position and a federal agency would be created to provide 60 percent of the cost of in-state tuition, or a job-training benefit of up to $14,000, for a one-year commitment; a benefit of 80 percent, or a job-training benefit of up to $19,000, for a two-year commitment; and a benefit of 100 percent of in-state tuition or $24,000 in training, for a three-year commitment.
Those Americans who answer this call to serve would have several service options:
Join the newly-created Federal Green Corps, a service organization to confront the effects of climate change. Much like the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps built and maintained the National Parks in the 1930s, its members will take on projects to protect communities from rising oceans and floodwaters, ensure clean air and water for all, and retrofit public buildings to make them more energy-efficient.
The other option is to sign up for an expanded AmeriCorps, FEMA Corps, or AmeriCorps VISTA, working to rebuild America’s infrastructure, tackling lead abatement, planning response and relief efforts during a disaster, or
spear-heading anti-poverty projects.
Service would be voluntary, but an expectation, he said.
“That’s how we surmounted the Great Depression, that’s how we won World War II, and how we put a man on the moon,” he said. “We called on everyone to get behind a common mission and having everyone do their part. We need a National Service GI Bill to unite millions of Americans around solving these problems, and to reward them for doing so.”
Moulton did not say how much the program would cost or how he would pay for it. If about half of eligible Americans, or 17,000,000, take advantage of the program at an average of $19,000 in benefits, it would have an annual price tag of more than $323 billion.
In contrast, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that in 2018 it spent about $11 billion on 700,000 beneficiaries on the GI Bill, according to the Congressional Budget office.
“If you invest in America, America will invest in you,” Moulton said. “That’s the kind of forward looking we need to meet the challenge of a changing world.”