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.
James Bovard: The Reality of Feel-Good Government
After nearly 20 years and billions of taxpayer dollars, AmeriCorps has little to show.
The government-supported service organization AmeriCorps got a boost from President Obama in April, when he announced a new program to “connect more professional scientists and engineers to young students who might follow in their footsteps.” According to a news release, the goal is to place hundreds of AmeriCorps members in nonprofits across the country to mobilize professionals in science, technology, engineering and math “to inspire young people to excel in STEM education.”
A lofty goal, to be sure, but not one AmeriCorps is likely to serve well. Judging by the program’s track record over two decades—or distinct lack of a track record in several cases—taxpayers have better ways to spend some $446 million a year.
A sort of domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps was created in 1993 to place adult Americans in community service with nonprofit and public agencies, especially in environmental protection, health, education and public safety. President Clinton declared that AmeriCorps is “living proof” that “if we hold hands and believe we’re going into the future together, we can change anything we want to change.” President George W. Bush was a big supporter, too.
But the halo on AmeriCorps exists primarily because few people have examined what the corps and its members are really up to. The grandiose achievements of AmeriCorps have always been a statistical illusion, full of impressive-looking numbers of people and causes served, and yet—as the Government Accountability Office has pointed out—often missing evidence of real accomplishment.