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Commentary and opinion on current civic, political, and religious events and issues.

Past Issue
31 July 2000

Northern City Journal
(ISSN 1528-9575)
Vol. 1, No. 29

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Gore's Proposals to Federalize the Nation Are Disappointing

by Jerome F. Winzig

While the United States has enjoyed a decade of economic growth and prosperity, it is increasingly apparent that the boom has not reached everyone. We face serious challenges about how to include all citizens in a prosperity that increasingly requires advanced education, technical skills, and economic sophistication.

The current presidential election campaign ought to be a forum where ideas on how to address this growing problem are addressed. Unfortunately, instead of suggesting creative ways to remedy the gulf between rich and poor, Vice President Al Gore has offered a dismal series of proposals that seem intended to federalize the nation. Taken as a whole, his proposals would inject the national government into every aspect of our lives. His unrelenting assumption is that the federal government is best equipped to solve all problems.

Gore wants the federal government to hire 10,000 new local prosecutors. He asks the federal government to help hire more police, pay cops overtime in troubled crime areas, and equip neighborhoods with the latest in crime prevention technologies. He wants the federal government to pay half of seniors' prescription drug costs up to $5,000. He would extend universal pre-school to all four-year-olds and an increasing number of three-year-olds. He has proposed establishing a new Energy Security and Environment Trust Fund to fund cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars and modernize aging power systems.

Gore has also called for $10.7 billion in bonds to help clean up so-called "brownfields," preserve and enhance open space, and create and restore parks. He has proposed what he himself calls "the largest single increase ever enacted under IDEA" (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). He wants the federal government to finish hiring 100,000 more teachers and add 75,000 more new teachers each year.

But that's not all. Gore proposes $25 billion to modernize up to 6,000 public schools. He says he will "double the investment in information technology research over the next five years". He would have the federal government finish connecting every classroom to the Internet, so that "one day a child can reach a hand across a keyboard and reach every book ever written, every symphony ever composed and ever painting ever painted."

There's still more. Gore would require non-custodial fathers to sign personal responsibility contracts. He says credit card companies should deny new credit cards or additional lines of credit to parents who owe a substantial amount of child support. He would have the federal government provide grants for marriage preparation, mentoring, and counseling. He proposes that we "double the amount of federal funds to facilitate non-custodial parents' access and visitation with their children."

He would expand the coverage of the Family and Medical Leave Act to include companies with as few as 25 employees and add 24 more hours of paid leave for parent-teacher visits and children's medical appointments. He would expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to include children whose families make up to 250 percent of poverty. He proposes allowing all other children to buy coverage under this program or under Medicaid. He wants to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to include parents. He would allow adults over 55 to buy into Medicare. He proposes extending federal funding to allow "children with disabilities requiring extraordinarily expensive services to attend local public schools."

Absent is an acknowledgment that government cannot solve all problems, and may in fact make some worse. Nowhere is there a sense that one reason some Americans are poor is because of high taxes. Nowhere is it pointed out that workers at the current $5.15 federal minimum wage pay 79 cents toward social security and Medicare. At the proposed new rate of $6.15 an hour, that rises to 94 cents.

Yet Gore is adamantly opposed to any privatization of social security that would let those at the low end of the income scale to participate in the nation's economy. Nowhere is there an acknowledgment that, in a high-tech economy, its absurd for some inner-city schools to have dropout rates in excess of 50 percent, a problem that goes far beyond teacher salaries, new buildings, and Internet access. We have a culture that does not value education.

We sorely need a national debate on the root causes that underlie why some people are left out of today's prosperity. This means discussing fundamental values and the roles of government, corporations, non-profit organizations, and churches. It means examining which government programs help and which ones are hindrances. It requires a serious review of what constitutes appropriate levels of taxation and regulation. It means reconsidering the complexity of government.

The last thing we need is an endless stream of new ways for the federal government to intervene in our lives. This election debate needs more substance, because George W. Bush doesn't have all the answers either.

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     Minneapolis, Minnesota

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