President Bill Clinton's AmeriCorps--a federally funded network of paid "volunteers"--was once a favorite punching bag for conservatives, with the Heritage Foundation, among other right-wing forces, denouncing it as a $575 million boondoggle. Yet President George W. Bush has pledged to "expand and improve the good efforts of AmeriCorps [and] recruit more than 200,000 new volunteers." A few limited-government types expressed outrage, but, as the left-wing American Prospect gleefully noted, many Republicans have suddenly embraced AmeriCorps. James Bovard, who documented the program's follies in Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years (2000), remains a critic, reason National Correspondent Mike Lynch spoke with Bovard in March.
Q: What are the good works of AmeriCorps?
A: I saw an AmeriCorps program paying people to go door-to-door to sign people up for food stamps. I've talked to people who were very proud of using AmeriCorps to put on puppet shows. Other AmeriCorps programs have busied themselves trying to sign up people for welfare of one type or another. It's a very soft program. The folks who run it have chosen not to do evaluations on what it actually achieves. Instead they are simply counting raw numbers of activities, a Soviet bloc type of measurement. The program is incorrigible; once a boondoggle, always a boondoggle.
Q: Why would the Bush administration want to expand it?
A: Temporary insanity. For Clinton, AmeriCorps was largely a photo...