Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) has reintroduced a bill that would require every U.S. citizen and permanent resident between the ages of 18 and 25 to perform two years of national service, either in the military or by performing civilian duties like helping to rebuild New Orleans or working in a poverty-stricken community. It would be like being in the Peace Corps, he says, except you’re based in the U.S. But his real motivation is to get more people to serve in the military.
If Rangel’s bill, which was originally introduced in 2003, were to become law, says San Francisco State University political scientist Robert Smith, it would not alter in any major way the disproportionate representation of Blacks, Hispanics and low-income people in the military.
Rangel, who is a Korean War veteran, believes that too much of the burden of defending this nation has been borne by just 1 percent of the American population.
“The largest segment of our fighting force comes from large urban centers with high unemployment, and from economically depressed small towns,” Rangel said. “This small portion of the population forces many soldiers to take multiple tours of duty, sometimes as many as six deployments.”
The New York Democrat can’t call for an outright draft, however, because such legislation would not advance in Congress. Under his bill, young adults would be inducted to perform military service only if there is a declaration of war in effect or the president declares a national emergency that would require people to perform military service. It also allows education deferments through age 24 for full-time students.
(Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)