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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 12:49 pm

Bush’s economic draft

The military uses a temp agency to recruit the poor

President George W. Bush’s handling of Iraq has been such a mess that his numbers are in the ditch. I’m talking not about poll numbers (which are at new lows) but about his recruitment numbers.

The Bush administration doesn’t need polls to show what the public thinks about its Iraq policy — the public’s judgment is clearly reflected in the Pentagon’s continuing failure to meet its monthly quotas. As one Army recruiter put it: “The problem is that no one wants to join.”

Well, duh. More than 1,800 of our troops have died there, the insurgency is more aggressive than ever, and the Bushites have no exit strategy. Who wants to join that?

So, to goose up recruitment, the Army National Guard has signed an oily deal with a national temp agency called Labor Ready. Recruiters from the Guard are given access to Labor Ready’s 700 offices around the country, where they’ll try to hustle day laborers. These people, used for manual labor on short-term jobs, are among America’s working poor, and they’re some of the most vulnerable workers in the country. That’s exactly why the Pentagon is targeting them, hoping that they’re so hard up that they’ll take a killing job.

Of course, Labor Ready makes it sound as if it’s doing a favor for these poverty-wage workers by helping enlist them. “Young people can get a career,” gushes a Labor Ready employee. “If they’re down on their luck, they have an opportunity . . . to see the world.”

That’s right, they can see beautiful Baghdad or Basra — and lots of explosions. Meeting the military’s quota by targeting people who are afforded no other real opportunities amounts to conscription of the poor — it’s an economic draft, and it’s an outrage.

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