AmeriCorps Responses in Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal published 3 letters responding to my article last week:

AmeriCorps: Keep the Good, Hold the Bad Accountable

I am the inspector general identified by James Bovard (“The Reality of Feel-Good Government,” op-ed June 13) as “fired” by President Obama for “refus[ing] to back down from a report condemning a prominent Obama supporter . . . for misusing . . . AmeriCorps grants,” and from another report of wrongdoing “in one of its largest programs.”

The validity of those reports is beyond dispute. The Obama supporter misused for himself $750,000 granted to educate needy youth. The second recipient program was successful without AmeriCorps funds, thus violating the statutory limit to “unmet” needs.

When I left law practice to accept President George W. Bush’s public-service call, I believed in AmeriCorps (and its parent Corporation For National and Community Service’s other “Domestic Peace Corps” agencies) for American youth, to harness enthusiasm and idealism and to help Americans in need.

Mr. Bovard concedes, “they have done much good,” but that overall it has wasted taxpayer funds. That waste is caused by the Obama’s administration’s withdrawal of meaningful oversight. It fired me for policing and then kept the inspector general position vacant for several years. It forced most auditors and investigators to depart by cutting funds. The effect is what this administration wants: no policing of CNCS’s spending of taxpayer money.

Another component is CNCS’s board of directors, appointed by the president, for overseeing the program. The directors were focused solely on good image, resulting in rejecting IG assertions of any material wrongdoing. They supported my firing because I criticized them for not performing oversight duties.

Without changes, the great idea of AmeriCorps won’t work, as Mr. Bovard concludes, and we should stop spending money on it. But if we can set it in the right direction with appropriate and unhindered supervision, including that of a supported IG, it should be given another chance.

Gerald Walpin

New York *****

It’s high time that government-sponsored boondoggles like AmeriCorps become subject to private-sector audits. If the government can hire outside auditors to comb through my medical records to see if I’ve overcharged my Medicare patients, then it can do the same for programs like AmeriCorps. Any money collected in audits of the countless government programs that are currently unsupervised can be split between the auditor and taxpayers as happens with Medicare audits. This way not all of the billions of misspent dollars will go to waste.

Rick Parkinson, M.D.

Provo, Utah   *******

From 2004 to 2005. I was an AmeriCorps member in rural Minnesota assisting public-school teachers in educating approximately 100 local fifth-graders each day. I have no doubt that not every AmeriCorps post is as worthwhile as mine was. A thorough assessment of AmeriCorps would undoubtedly reveal ways to improve the program. Mr. Bovard, however, doesn’t call for such an assessment, contenting himself instead to cherry-pick a few anecdotes to imply that the whole program is just government waste.

I believe that I was of use to my students, but I know for a fact that they affected my life deeply. AmeriCorps made me a more mature, responsible person, and I would happily have my tax dollars support similar experiences for other interested citizens.

Nathaniel Decker

New York


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