Family Crisis
Government, Policy, and Family Crisis

Big government, Little government, Decentralized government.  Get the government off our backs. Citizens for Reconstructed Government. Is "big government" a problem for families? What exactly can the government do to help families and children?

We can start this discussion by enumerating many of the things government has done in the past to make the "American Dream" a reality for many, many people. Remember what the American Dream actually is?
James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.

It is Government's job, through the development and enforcement of public policy to insure that every American has an opportunity to participate in the American Dream. Here's a very incomplete timeline of big government ideas:

-Thomas Jefferson in 1776 drafts an incendiary "declaration of independence" noting in it, among other highly radical concepts, the idea that people are created equal and inherently hold certain rights that cannot legally be undermined. Status Quo politics would have all Americans living under the British, Spanish, and French rule. We celebrate this day by drinking beer, eating hot dogs, and shooting off illegally obtained fire crackers.

-President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation at the beginning of the Civil War which legally ended slavery in the U.S. Status Quo politics would have allowed a continuation of one of the most inhumane of American practices.

-President Theodore Roosevelt established Anti-Trust legislation, which disallowed continued monopolies and introduced more competition. Status Quo politics would have allowed continued price fixing and unfair competition (capitalists hate real competition).

-The New Deal domestic reform program of President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to provide recovery and relief from the Great Depression through programs of agricultural and business regulation, inflation, price stabilization, and public works; numerous emergency organizations.

  • The Securities Exchange Commission was established to regulate stocks and commodities trading.
  • The National Recovery Administration (NRA) which put people to work where there was no work before.
  • The U.S. Social Security Act (1935) established unemployment compensation, retirement insurance, and federal assistance for state welfare programs.
  • Wages and Hours Act, legislation passed by the U.S. Congress (1938) to establish employment standards for workers engaged directly or indirectly in interstate commerce; also called Fair Labor Standards Act. The measure initially provided for a MINIMUM WAGE of 25 cents per hour and a maximum work week of 44 hours, and the Wage and Labor Division was created in the Dept. of Labor to oversee its enforcement. Since that time, coverage under the law has been extended to additional categories of workers. Congress has also periodically raised the minimum wage, which by 1991 had reached $4.25 per hour. By the way, if minimum wage had actually kept up with inflation, since 1938 the inflation adjusted wage would be around $6.50 per hour.
-Toward the end of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill of Rights -- that guaranteed these soldiers would have opportunities for the future they had just helped preserve. The G.I. Bill helped forge an economic renewal and reaffirmed the right of every American to receive an education, to invest in their own futures and in the future of America. Eight million veterans took advantage of the law, which assisted them in establishing careers, raising families, and seizing a part of the American dream. Past and future servicemen would find themselves with more opportunity after the G.I. Bill of Rights was passed.

-In the 1960s, President Johnson skillfully prodded Congress into enacting (1964) an $11 billion tax cut and a sweeping Civil Rights Act. He launched a program of social and economic welfare programs to create what he termed the Great Society. It included Medicare and Medicaid, federal aid to education, increased antipoverty programs (including Head Start) and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The younger among you may not realize that prior to this administration, voters in many states (particularly in the South) had to encounter Poll Taxes and Literacy Tests before being allowed to vote in any election. These were devices designed to keep certain voters, specifically African-Americans, away from the voting place.Through these efforts in the early 1960s, child poverty was literally cut in half

-Through the Nixon administration's conservatism, almost all of the gains in reducing child poverty were eradicated, and by the end of his presidency in 1974, more children were living in poverty than before he took office. .

Continuing this tradition of Big Government interference in the lives of ordinary citizens,
President Clinton and the 1992-1998 Congress has:

  • Increased Head Start funding by almost $800 million to provide early education to tens of thousands of additional children in need.
  • School-to-Work Opportunities Act gave schools greater flexibility to use federal aid and develop effective teaching innovations to help economically disadvantaged students achieve their full potential.
  • Launched an Educational Technology Initiative to connect every classroom to the Information Superhighway and provide all students with access to computers by the dawn of the next century.
  • Reformed the student loan program, making college more affordable this year for 5.5 million students and saving taxpayers billions of dollars by cutting red tape and providing loans with flexible repayment options, including pay-as-you-earn plans. (Student Loan Reform Act)
  • Enabled 45,000 volunteers to earn money for college by serving their communities and their country in the AmeriCorps program. (National Service Act)
President Obama's administration has had its constructive moments as well, including the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and many many more issues, largely without the help of congress.
Click here to find out more of what the current presidential administration is doing to bring the pursuit of happiness to more Americans.
Despite what we all think of politicians and big government hyperbole, most of us are much better off because of big government ideas and actions. I teach and you attend a publicly funded, state chartered university which exists precisely because of big government.

Below are some excerpts from the ongoing debate over big government and the economy:

The Devolution of Welfare Debate

I. "Blocking" Devolution:
Why Block Grants are the Wrong Approach to Devolution and Three Alternatives
Ed Kilgore and Kathleen Sylvester. February 1995.

Congressional Republicans have adopted block grants as an all-purpose strategy for producing short-term federal budget savings while claiming to "devolve" power to states and localities. PPI Senior Fellow Ed Kilgore and PPI Vice President of Domestic Policy, Kathleen Sylvester, argue that block grants weaken rather than strengthen the partnership between the federal government and the states, and often fail to supply the sweeping flexibility that the name connotes. The paper offers three progressive alternatives to block grants: performance-based grants; devolution by swapping divided functions; and direct devolution from government to citizens.

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I. Equality and the American Creed: Understanding the Affirmative Action Debate

Seymour Martin Lipset. June 1991.

Lipset argues that affirmative action has forced a sharp confrontation between two core American values: individualism and egalitarianism. The traditional view, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, emphasizes equality for individuals defined as equality of opportunity. The more recent approach stresses equality for groups, defined as equality of result. In addition, Lipset contrasts the meritocratic view of equality that prevails in the United States and the class- or group-based view common in Europe. The politics of affirmative action and group preference has broken the national consensus on civil rights forged during the 1960s. To rebuild a progressive consensus for public actions to ensure equal opportunity, Lipset urges policymakers to refocus affirmative action on universal education and economic development, rather than those limited by race, gender, or ethnicity. Home Page| About DLC-PPI| Library| Join/Order| The New Democrat
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Crime is both big business and very troublesome to most Americans.
I've presented most of the report here because the California situation regarding juvenile crime mirrors much of the nation, except for the very high illegal immigration rate. Pay attention to the sheer amount of crime committed by juveniles, as presented in this report.
For a complete copy of the report, point your browser to The Juvenile Crime Challenge

III. From The Juvenile Crime Challenge: Making Prevention a Priority
September 1994 Report #127 - State of California

California's prisons, jails and youth institutions are overflowing, violent crime has risen alarmingly and citizens feel increasingly vulnerable in their homes, schools and job sites. The academic commentators who study the convergence of statistics, trends and policies see no relief in the future despite tough-on-crime rhetoric and reality. Crime will continue to be a major concern as the State's population growth persists, the economy remains stagnant and a swelling, alienated underclass rejects societal standards of behavior.

A significant, disproportionate and increasing share of California's crime problem is made up of juveniles. In addition, many of the adults in prison today began their criminal careers as youths and teenagers. Thus, any systematic attempt to reduce crime and the societal costs associated with it needs to place a high priority on addressing juveniles.

Having completed a prison-focused review of the adult criminal justice system, the Little Hoover Commission early in 1994 turned its attention to the juvenile justice system. The Commission's investigations led to several overriding conclusions that form the foundation for the Commission's approach to the juvenile justice system. Those conclusions include:

The root causes of crime are many and diverse. Any hope of addressing those causes successfully requires multi-faceted strategies, bits and pieces of which can be implemented by neighborhoods, communities and various levels of government. There is no silver bullet -- no simple, expedient answer that can be imposed from above.

Any solution to juvenile crime must be bipartisan and involve all sectors of society: individuals, families, schools, churches, community groups, governments and businesses. While the scope of effort involved should be as broad as all of society, the Commission believes its report also must serve as a wake-up call to individuals. Individual initiative at the most local level and personal acceptance of responsibility for bringing about change is the key to reform. As one popular maxim puts it, "Think globally, act locally."

The State has no particular "ownership" of the juvenile crime problem. The inclination toward crime often arises from factors at home; the impact of crime is felt in neighborhoods; the arrests, prosecutions and, in most cases, dispositions are city and county operations. Only 2 percent of juveniles arrested eventually are placed in state institutions. While the State is a bit player in the day-to-day staging of the juvenile justice system, it has the ability and responsibility to carve out a powerful role as a policy leader and facilitator for local solutions.

Prevention works better and is cheaper than treatment. The sobering reality is that improving to the optimum extent how juvenile criminals are treated once they are apprehended will only reduce recidivism by at most 10 percent, experts agree.1 While keeping that 10 percent from continually recycling through the juvenile justice system -- and ultimately, the adult system -- would free significant resources, the fact is that prevention and early intervention hold far more promise than good rehabilitation programs for actually reducing crime. Children are much harder to "fix" once they have become criminals than they are when they first show signs of deviant or anti-social behavior.

Personal accountability for actions and decisions is the cornerstone of a civilized society. Children should be taught -- both at home and in schools -- informed decision­making processes. And they should learn that, in theory and in practice, there are swift consequences for poor decisions and both tangible and intangible rewards for good decisions. To reinforce these lessons, all of the actors within the juvenile justice system, from the policeman on the beat to the judge in juvenile court, must strive to make the system work more effectively in providing consequences at all levels of criminal severity.

The state, local governments and communities should approach juvenile crime from the perspective of outcome­based goals, chief of which should be deterring first­time offenses and reducing recidivism. The collection of reliable data and its systematic, validated analysis is crucial for good decision­making about policy and programs.

Private enterprise involvement at many levels and in multiple modes is critical to successfully addressing root causes of crime. This ranges from partnerships with schools to improve education and mentoring roles with at­risk children to providing opportunities through programs such as the Free Venture enterprises in California Youth Authority facilities and creating targeted hiring practices.

Based on these concepts, the Commission developed a report to reform and improve the juvenile justice system that 1) does not rely on a single solution; 2) focuses on the appropriate role for the State while recognizing that responsibility -- and the best chance for success -- lies at the local level; and 3) places a priority on prevention.

Teenage boys commit a disproportionately high share of all crime -- a trend that remains true over time and geography.

  • Of California's 3.5 million youths, about 250,000 are arrested annually.
  • Violent crime by juveniles increased dramatically during the 80s, stabilizing at a high rate during the early 90s. Almost twice as many youths were arrested for violent crimes in 1992 as in 1983.
  • More that $1 billion annually is spent on the juvenile justice system, which involves both state and local agencies.
The typical criminal is a male who begins his career at 14 or 15, continues through his mid-20s and then tapers off into retirement. While comprising roughly one-sixth of the nation's population, they make up a full one-quarter of all people arrested and account for nearly one-third of the arrests for the seven crimes in the Uniform Crime Index (homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, vehicle theft and larceny).2

This perspective is echoed by RAND's leading juvenile justice expert, Dr. Peter W. Greenwood: Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of all boys growing up in an urbanized area in the United States will be arrested before their 18th birthday....Although juveniles account for only a small proportion of the total population, older juveniles have the highest arrest rates of any age group. Furthermore, studies of criminal careers have demonstrated that one of the best predictors of sustained and serious adult criminality is the age of initiation and seriousness of the delinquent career.
Greenwood also notes that 16 and 17 are the peak years for crime in all countries and all states, regardless of culture and geography. He says the fact that a disproportionate share of crime is committed by 10- through 17-year-olds remains true as the population fluctuates: Nationally in 1981, that age group made up 16 percent of the total population and were involved in 34 percent of the arrests, while in 1991 the age group was 13 percent of the population and 28 percent of the arrests.

At least part of the increasing number of arrests is due to the population growth of 10- through 17-year-olds. The number of youths in this age range in California remained stable at around 3.1 million from 1983 through 1990. In 1991, the population began to climb, rising from 3.2 million to 3.5 million by 1993, with projected increases through the year 2000. The graph on the next page shows the results when these population figures are taken into account and arrests are calculated as a rate per 100,000 youths. Source: California Department of Justice

Both the arrest statistics and the arrest rate data are in sharp contrast to the public perception that juvenile crime is increasing uncontrollably. In fact, juvenile advocates often cite the declining arrest rate and fairly flat number of arrests as evidence that there is no need for get-tough hysteria about juvenile crime. They believe their argument is bolstered by general California crime statistics that show most crime incident categories have either held steady or dropped.

But a closer examination of the components of the raw arrest figures and the arrest rates for violent crimes indicates why juvenile crime is a focus for the public. Arrests of juveniles for violent crimes -- particularly homicide and assaults -- have climbed rapidly in the past decade, as the graphs below indicate. Source: California Department of Justice

In 10 years, arrests for both types of crime more than doubled -- assaults from 5,902 to 12,005 and homicides from 286 to 645. Linking the homicide figure to national statistics indicates that one out of four juveniles arrested for homicide was in California at a time when the state had only 11 percent of the nation's juvenile population. The total juvenile arrests for all violent crimes (homicide, forcible rape, robbery, assault and kidnapping) and the arrest rate per 100,000 for violent crimes is shown in the table below:

    TABLE 1
    Juvenile Arrests for Violent Crimes 1983-1992
    Year - Number of Arrests - Rate per 100,000
  • 1983 - - - 12,321 - - - - - - - - - - 397.7
  • 1984 - - - 11,853 - - - - - - - - - - 384.3
  • 1985 - - - 12,421 - - - - - - - - - - 401.4
  • 1986 - - - 12,541 - - - - - - - - - - 403.7
  • 1987 - - - 12,336 - - - - - - - - - - 397.3
  • 1988 - - - 13,998 - - - - - - - - - - 453.8
  • 1989 - - - 17,469 - - - - - - - - - - 568.5
  • 1990 - - - 20,658 - - - - - - - - - - 655.5
  • 1991 - - - 21,158 - - - - - - - - - - 655.4
  • 1992 - - - 21,549 - - - - - - - - - - 650.1 Source: California Department of Justice
The U.S. Justice Department recently reported that the number of juvenile court cases involving serious offenses -- such as murder and aggravated assault -- rose 68 percent between 1988 and 1992.6

In addition, the perception, fed by media stories and individual anecdotes, that juveniles are causing a disproportionate share of crime is borne out by statistics. At slightly more than 10 percent of the State's population, the 10- through 17-year-olds were arrested in 1992 for 14.3 percent of all violent crimes and 26.6 percent of all property crimes, including:

      • 50.6 percent of all arson.
      • 36.6 percent of all motor vehicle thefts.
      • 31.2 percent of all burglaries.
      • 26.2 percent of all robberies.
      • 19.0 percent of all homicides.
      • 16.9 percent of all thefts.
      • 14.0 percent of all forcible rapes.7
Violence, rather than number of crimes, is key problem. According to the Legislative Analyst's calculations, since 1987 the rate of juvenile arrests for violent offenses has increased 63.7 percent compared to a 20.2 percent increase for adults. The increasingly violent nature of juvenile crimes is also reflected in California Youth Authority statistics about new admissions to its facilities:

While the proportion of violent juveniles held steady around 40 percent from 1983 through 1989, the proportion of violent new admissions rose steeply in 1990 to 47.6 percent, in 1991 to 51.3 percent, in 1992 to 57.2 percent and in 1993 to 59 percent.8

The changing type of juvenile crime is addressed by a system that structurally is largely the same as it was when it was created at the turn of the century, although its processes have gone through several overhauls. The system is distinctly different from the system that handles adult offenders. This is true even at the first point of contact: The police officer on the beat has discretion to counsel and release a youth, take him to his parents or school, informally refer him to a community program, issue him a citation or take him into custody and deliver him to a probation officer. The juvenile courts require that officers use the option that "least restricts" the juvenile's freedom while at the same time protecting community safety. For a complete copy of the report, point your browser to
The Juvenile Crime Challenge

Partnership For A Drug-Free America Home Page and Site Map offers a information for drug prevention to parents, as well as a forum for the discussion of solutions.
Here's an excerpt from their site:

Today, the widespread use of alcohol and other drugs subjects our children, families, and communities to pressures unheard of 30 or 40 years ago. Frankly, many of us need help to deal with this frightening threat to our children's health and well-being. Fortunately, we also know more about what works to prevent drug use by our young people.

As parents, we can build on that progress in our own families by having strong, loving relationships with our children, by teaching standards of right and wrong, by setting and enforcing rules for behavior, by knowing the facts about alcohol and other drugs, and by really listening to our children.

Teaching Values

  • Communicate values openly. Talk about why values such as honesty, self-reliance, and responsibility are important, and how values help children make good decisions. Teach your child how each decision builds on previous decisions as one's character is formed, and how a good decision makes the next decision easier.
  • Recognize how your actions affect the development of your child's values. Simply stated, children copy their parents' behavior. Children whose parents smoke, for example, are more likely to become smokers. Try to think about and evaluate your own use of tobacco, alcohol, prescription medicines, and even over-the-counter drugs. Consider how your attitudes and actions may be shaping your child's choice about whether or not to use alcohol or other drugs.
  • This does not mean that if you are in the habit of having wine with dinner or an occasional beer or cocktail you must stop. Children can understand and accept that there are differences between what adults may do legally and responsibly, and what is appropriate and legal for children. Keep that distinction sharp, however. Don't involve your children with your drinking by letting them mix a cocktail for you or bring you a beer. And though it may seem harmless enough, don't allow your child to have sips of your drink.
There are many things a lot of us do without thinking twice. It's normal. But if we want to send our kids the right message, it's a good idea to be careful about certain behaviors.
  • Watch for conflicts between your words and your actions. Remember that children are quick to sense when parents send signals by their actions that it's all right to duck unpleasant duties or to be dishonest.
  • Make sure that your child understands your family values. Parents assume, sometimes mistakenly, that children have "absorbed" values even though they may be rarely or never discussed. You can test your child's understanding by discussing some common situations at the dinner table; for example, "What would you do if you saw a stranger drop a dollar bill without noticing?"
Setting and Enforcing Rules Against the Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs
When making rules:
  • Be specific. Explain the reasons for the rules. Tell your child what the rules are and what behavior is expected. Discuss the consequences of breaking the rules: what the punishment will be, how it will be carried out, how much time will be involved, and what the punishment is supposed to achieve.
  • Be consistent. Make it clear to your child that a no-alcohol/no-drug-use rule remains the same at all times -- in your home, in a friend's home, anywhere the child is.
  • Be reasonable. Don't add new consequences that have not been discussed before the rule was broken. Avoid unrealistic threats such as, "Your father will kill you when he gets home." Instead, react calmly and carry out the punishment that the child expects to receive for breaking the rule.

go to the Government Website page for a fairly complete listing of Federal sites.
For more investigation into the Government's role in our lives,