When the Founding Fathers established the Constitution of the United States of America "to promote the general welfare," it is safe to say they could never have envisioned Hillary Clinton's latest welfare-promoting gimmick.
This week, the senator from New York unveiled the "Calling for 2-1-1 Act of 2003." The legislation, co-sponsored by Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (shame on you, Kay!) would provide $200 million to establish a nationwide community help line, including almost $4 million for Clinton's "home" state.
The federalized phone service would help callers find the "essential services they need -- from information on child care to elder care, job training, schools, volunteer opportunities, housing, and countless other community needs. . . . Someone could call and say, 'I need child care' or 'I need job training' or 'I need affordable housing,' and we could direct them to not-for-profit agencies that can address the problem."
There are already 2-1-1 call centers operational in 21 states, staffed by private volunteers and funded by local and state governments, corporate sponsors and the United Way (which pioneered the idea in 1997).
There's also the old-fashioned telephone book.
Not to mention the community bulletin boards at every local library, supermarket and church.
Oh, and then there's the Internet that Hillary's old friend Al Gore invented, where countless Web sites such as www.govbenefits.gov "provide improved, personalized access to government assistance programs" for everyone from farmers to cops, students to veterans, victims of disaster, violence, abuse or crime, members of Alaskan Native villages, and citizens of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
But leave it to Hillary to attempt to "solve" yet another non-problem through government central planning. "Right now, there is no single source of information," she complained. "We need a central clearinghouse."
Centralize, centralize, centralize. From health care to education to the economy, it's the Clinton way. She views her constituents as hapless, confused victims -- unable to cope with information overload and in dire need of one-stop federal aid at all times. Clinton's latest pet project is quite reminiscent of an earlier Clinton-Gore brainchild, the national "N11" hotline, which would have used the 211 number as a national clearinghouse for traffic information, such as road conditions and bus schedules.
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