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Town Square

Monday, July 1, 1996

Table of Contents
Groups To Watch
What Works
Cautionary Tales
Thoughts On Civil Society
Privatization Competition Awards

GROUPS TO WATCH

Michael Reagan Surfs the Web

          Watch out, Al Gore. Popular conservative radio commentator Michael Reagan has joined the information superhighway. Brought on-line on October 1, 1995, the Reagan Information Exchange web site has since drawn 265,000 Internet visitors. The site's offerings range from the serious to the comical: from "Hot Topics," a politically frank discussion of current events, to "Liberal Man," a comic strip about the adventures of a liberal superhero. Web surfers will also find quotes from Reagan's father, the former president, and an opportunity to share thoughts with Reagan. "It's a way to bypass the traditional media and to get the information from Mike's show in the hands of the people without the spin of the liberal media," says Andy Beal, the president of MediaFax Technology, who manages the site.

          Those of you who don't share Reagan's enthusiasm for technology could tune into his radio show, broadcast by nearly two hundred radio stations across the country between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST. Of particular note is Reagan's Constitutional Minute. Part history lesson, part hard-hitting commentary, it examines how lawmakers can distort the principles of the Constitution to escape its constraints.

          Reagan Information Exchange--Web site: http://www.reagan.com. The Michael Reagan Talk Show--tel: 818-380-6827, fax: 818-380-6823.

Citizenship on the Tube

          While the major networks draw fire for their vulgar entertainment programming, a small network is tackling profound issues at the heart of good citizenship. National Empowerment Television's Political NewsTalk Network offers television programs focused on limited government and personal responsibility, the cornerstones of a free society.

          Launched in December 1993, NET broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week and reaches 12 million households. Programs include "The Right Side," with social commentary by columnist Armstrong Williams; "Straight Talk," a show on the politics of the family hosted by Family Research Council's Gary Bauer; "BorderLine," which features live discussions about immigration, language, culture, assimilation, population, and the environment; and "Legal Notebook," which showcases live debates about court rulings, court opinions, and judicial appointments.

          NET--tel: 202-544-3200, fax: 202-543-5605, Web site: http://net.fcref.org.

Cost of Government Day

          Americans for Tax Reform has declared July 3 Cost of Government Day (COGD)--the day of the calendar year on which the average American worker has earned enough in gross income to pay off all of his or her government-imposed financial obligations. These obligations include federal, state, and local taxes; federal regulatory costs; and state workers' compensation and tort-law costs. They do not include state regulatory costs, which are substantial but difficult to quantify. Still, by year's end, the average American will have spent 184.6 days--more than half of the year--in essence working for the government. COGD arrives one day earlier than last year in part because 1996 is a leap year. In recent years, the day has fallen as late as July 11, but defense cuts have offset continued growth in social and discretionary spending. Republicans have also reined in the growth of some spending programs.

          Americans for Tax Reform--tel: 202-785-0266, fax: 202-785-0261.

Black Conservatism

          February 29 was the occasion for the launch of the Center for New Black Leadership, a D.C.-based think tank devoted to promoting "a market-oriented, community-based vision of public leadership for black communities in America." It supports policies consistent with the black community's long-held commitment to individual initiative and personal and civic responsibility. The center sponsors debates, symposia, and conferences; publishes essays, papers, and op-eds; files amicus briefs in important appellate court cases; offers testimony before Congress; and holds media roundtable discussions. Run by president Brian W. Jones, the center is guided by a distinguished board of directors that includes Minnesota banking executive Peter Bell, Arianna Huffington of the Center for Effective Compassion, Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution, Phyllis Berry Meyers of the National Center for Leadership Training and Recruitment, and Glenn Loury of Boston University. To date, the Center has filed an amicus brief in support of school choice in Milwaukee, commissioned a scholarly analysis of Clarence Thomas's jurisprudence, offered testimony to the U.S. Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee regarding federal contract set-asides for minority contractors, and commissioned a review of polling data on the black community's attitudes on important social and political issues.

         Center for New Black Leadership--tel: 202-638-0651, fax: 202-638-0652.

WHAT WORKS

Businesses BID to Improve NYC

          All across America, businesses are pooling their resources to pick up where city government is leaving off. Nationally, there are approximately a thousand Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)--local business zones whose corporations tax themselves to pay for cleaning and patrolling surrounding city streets and to provide services to the homeless. Unencumbered by bureaucratic rules and procedures or inefficient labor contracts, many have blazed trails in solving social problems.

          With 34 already in place and 39 to come, New York City has a greater number of BIDs than any other city in the country. The most famous is the Grand Central Partnership (GCP), which covers a 50-block section of midtown Manhattan and represents 14 percent of Manhattan's total office space. In City Journal, Heather Mac Donald holds up this district and others in New York to demonstrate that BIDs work. The improvement of midtown Manhattan is palpable. Since it started in 1988, GCP has reduced crime in its jurisdiction 60 percent; graffiti has disappeared; new lampposts, planters, and trash receptacles have been installed. GCP is doing a better job battling urban blight than the government ever could.

         Of course, BIDs have their critics: business "experts" and academicians who complain that additional taxes will drive businesses from cities, social-service professionals whose jobs are threatened by successful BIDs, liberals who object to private action in public spaces, and redistributionists who fear that BIDs contribute to growing disparity between the rich and the poor. But Mac Donald notes that the Partnership's 24-hour social service center has helped move the area's homeless into jobs and off drugs.

         "BIDs Really Work," by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, Spring 1996.

Welfare Reform

          In "Welfare Reform in the States," a two-part series published in Capital Research Center's Alternatives in Philanthropy newsletter, leaders of 17 state public-policy think tanks examine state-level welfare reform and propose new ideas for transferring responsibility for welfare services to charities and nonprofit organizations. Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, demonstrates how Governor John Engler has revolutionized welfare in Michigan by requiring welfare recipients to work in exchange for benefits and allowing welfare beneficiaries to keep their earnings without receiving a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their welfare benefits. David G. Tuerck of Massachusett's Beacon Hill Institute wants to encourage private charity by giving taxpayers a 100 percent federal tax credit for contributions to private charities--up to 25 percent of their total federal tax liability.

          Tom Tancredo and Dwight Filley of the Colorado-based Independence Institute believe welfare reform is a key weapon in the battle against fatherlessness. Sally C. Pipes and Katherine Post of California's Pacific Research Institute support a welfare-reform initiative in their state that would reduce benefit levels and eliminate welfare increases for households in which there is any increase in the number of adults or children but underscore the importance of delivering social services privately by highlighting two successful California nonprofits.

          Joseph Bast of the Illinois-based Heartland Institute criticizes reforms in his state for "throwing good money after bad, and reshuffling bureaucracies." Peter Barwick of the Pennsylvania-based Commonwealth Foundation defends work requirements against three criticisms, including the argument that they undermine family.

          Amy Frantz of the Public Interest Institute in Iowa backs Individual Development Accounts--IRAs for low-income people that are managed by and can receive matching funds from community organizations.

          Kelly McCutchen of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation writes that welfare reform as conservatives understand it receives overwhelming support from Georgians--across race lines.

         Writing for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, state senator Maurice E. Washington describes three faith-based organizations that are helping the needy in his state achieve self-sufficiency.

         Gary Palmer of the Alabama Family Alliance highlights a privately funded Christian elementary school that charges no tuition and breaks the welfare dependency cycle by giving its children an outstanding academic and moral education. And John Hood, president of the North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation wants to reform the largest of all welfare programs, Medicaid, by issuing vouchers to low-income people to purchase private health insurance, enroll in managed care, or make deposits to medical savings accounts.

         "Welfare Reform in the States, Pts. I and II," Alternatives in Philanthropy, April 1996. Capital Research Center--tel: 202-393-2600, fax: 202-393-2626.

CAUTIONARY TALES

Property-Rights Reversals

          Average Americans oppose legislation that protects their property from uncompensated takings by the government. This is exactly what land-rights activists discovered in Washington state when a statewide referendum on property rights in the fall of 1995 went down to defeat by a 3-2 margin.

          Ed Carson explains in Reason how this counterintuitive vote happened and teases out lessons for land-rights activists. The 1994 Republican revolution created a tremendous opportunity for property-rights activists in the state legislature. The result: Initiative 164, which requires the state to compensate property owners when land-use regulations diminish the use and value of their property, passed into law.

          Opponents quickly gathered signatures to put the initiative on the last year's November ballot as a popular referendum. The referendum on preserving the property-rights law as is failed by a resounding 3-2 margin, primarily because property-rights activists failed to sell the proposal to urban and suburban voters. Having spent so many years as a minority lobby in a minority party, the referendum's supporters hadn't developed a way to relate the effects of uncompensated takings (higher housing prices and limited job opportunities) to the lives of all Washingtonians.

          Opponents capitalized on widespread distrust of Republicans--even by Republicans--on environmental issues. They also argued persuasively that suburban taxes would rise to pay for new bureaucracy. Finally, the referendum was vague and poorly written. Carson concludes that land-rights activists will be successful pushing their agenda only if they pull suburbanites on board.

          "Property Frights," by Ed Carson, Reason, May 1996.

Older Men, Pregnant Teens

          Welfare reform correctly targets teen pregnancy as a cause of welfare dependency, Kathleen Sylvester of the Progressive Policy Institute reports. Forty-three percent of long-term AFDC recipients were 17 or younger when they gave birth the first time. But welfare reformers only attack half of the teen pregnancy problem when they attempt to reform young female behavior. Seventy percent of babies born to teen moms are fathered by men 20 years or older. At worst, these children are the product of child abuse or molestation; at the very least, they are the result of statutory rape--what many states now call "unlawful sexual intercourse." If we want to combat teen pregnancy, Sylvester argues, we need to punish these predators.

         Stiffening penalties for child abuse and unlawful intercourse is not enough--many states have already done so to no avail. The real problem: Child molesters and statutory rapists are prosecuted less frequently than other sex offenders. Prosecutors fear that teens are unreliable witnesses. And when they are prosecuted, these offenders rarely receive the stiffest penalties under the law.

         The importance of punishing men who prey on teens is underscored by the generational cost of failure. Studies show that even teens who consent to sex with older men often do so because they were once sexually abused and search for the stability an older man symbolically affords. But children born to women who have been subject to sexual abuse are often abused themselves. Failure to address this problem now will contribute not only to welfare dependency but to the continuation of child abuse as well.

         "Punish the Predators," by Kathleen Sylvester, New Democrat, May/June 1996.

THOUGHTS ON CIVIL SOCIETY

Marriage

         The May/June "issue of American Enterprise is devoted to the premise, as editor Karl Zinsmeister puts it in his introductory essay, that, "Marriage is the cornerstone upon which most of the rest of our social order rests." Once this cornerstone begins to crumble, all of our remaining social institutions are bound to become shaky, too. "That's why marriage reclamation must precede other forms of societal reform," he writes.

         One reason so many marriages are in trouble, argues film critic Michael Medved, is an ubiquitous but pernicious custom that "not only misleads individual couples, but also serves to undermine the best foundation for stable marriage in this society." This custom is known as the honeymoon.

         "A union that emphasizes at its outset the shallow and fleeting pleasures of a few days in the sun," Medved argues, "cannot have the staying power of a partnership of common purpose, supported by similarly committed friends and family." Medved contrasts the modern honeymoon with the Jewish tradition of Sheva Berachos, and with the 19th-century marriages between pioneers celebrated in the Aaron Copland-Martha Graham ballet, Appalachian Spring. In both cases, rather than escaping to some exotic locale, the newlyweds are joyfully inducted into the community in which they intend to make their lives. "Instead of thoughtlessly accepting the idea that newlyweds need to be cut off from company, we all have a stake in promoting wedding traditions that connect couples to their communities," Medved concludes.

         Another reason marriage is in trouble, argues sociologist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, is that prominent feminist thinkers no longer believe that it is important. She quotes feminist Katha Pollitt, who contends that "[i]f single women can have sex, their own homes, the respect of friends, and interesting work, they don't need to tell themselves that any marriage is better than none. Why not have a child on one's own? Children are a joy. Many men are not."

         But it turns out, Whitehead argues, that the big losers in any society that devalues marriage are women. "A society of more informal and easily dissoluble intimate unions, " she writes, "is a society where there is likely to be more male aggression against women--for crimes of violence against women are rooted mostly in male jealousy." The O.J. Simpson case was only "the most sensational" in a series of recent celebrity trials for battery and rape. As the American marriage takes on the characteristics of the American job--"short-term, contingent, subject to abrupt termination"--the occasions of "sexual rivalry, brinkmanship, and violence" are bound to increase, and the perennial war between the sexes will take on "a more aggressive, openly vengeful, and even violent edge."

         Because churches and synagogues conduct three-quarters of all marriage ceremonies in the United States, they have a special obligation to help couples accomplish two goals, argues nationally syndicated columnist Michael McManus: "First, avoid a bad marriage before it begins. Second, learn to resolve conflicts that are inevitable."

         Some churches and synagogues are rising to the challenge. Marriage Encounter, a lay movement that came out of Catholicism and now involves a dozen denominations, conducts weekend retreats led by couples with fulfilling marriages. Designed to help marriages that are under stress, Marriage Encounter has enjoyed phenomenal success. "Studies show that 80 to 90 percent" of the couples attending their weekend retreats "literally fall back in love."

         To counsel engaged couples, David Olson, a family psychologist at the University of Minnesota, developed a "premarital inventory" called PREPARE. Consisting of 125 statements that the engaged man and woman are both asked to accept or dispute, PREPARE is easily administered by a pastor or mentoring couple. "Remarkably," writes McManus, "PREPARE predicts with 86 percent accuracy which couples will divorce, and with 80 percent accuracy who will have a good marriage. More importantly, 10 to 15 percent of those who take the test break off their engagements . . . avoiding a bad marriage before it begins."

         Given these results, McManus concludes that any church can significantly reduce its members' divorce rate, provided that it thinks of itself as a marriage-saving institution rather than simply a "wedding factory." "Our churches need to involve themselves in preparing couples for life-long marriage, in strengthening existing marriages, and in saving unions headed for the rocks."

         "It Takes a Marriage," American Enterprise, May/June 1996.

PRIVATIZATION COMPETITION AWARDS

          The Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRI), based in San Francisco, is a think tank that offers less costly, more efficient government with market-oriented solutions. On May 7, PRI hosted its fourth annual Privatization Competition Awards Dinner, honoring citizens and private organizations who have developed successful alternatives to government-managed social services in California. The nominees were judged by William D. Eggers of the Reason Foundation, Arianna Huffington of the Center for Effective Compassion, and Eloise Anderson, the director of California's Department of Social Services. A description of this year's five winners:

         Chrysalis helps the homeless in Los Angeles find jobs by teaching job-hunting skills, offering assistance in writing resumes, videotaping mock interviews, teaching typing and word processing, and providing its clients with bus fare and work clothes for job interviews. Chrysalis places some individuals in need of job experience or temporary employment with a street maintenance company or employs them through its own temp agency. Since 1984, it has helped three thousand homeless (63 percent of the people it has served) find and retain jobs for at least 90 days. Chrysalis is 80 percent privately funded.

         Redwood Gospel Mission on average serves 6,116 hot meals and provides 2,256 beds to the needy and homeless of Sonoma County each month. The Mission also provides food and clothes, prepares the homeless for job searches, and treats drug and alcohol addictions. It accepts no government money.

         Challengers Boys & Girls Club is an after-school program that provides at-risk Los Angeles youth ages 6 to 17 with an alternative to crime and delinquency through education, leadership projects, physical education, and social activities. Challengers requires parent participation. It receives less than 20 percent of its budget from government sources.

         Center for Black Concerns is a think tank that has assembled a resource bank of educators, social workers, counselors, psychologists, and parole officers to address the needs and concerns of black people. Through Project Pride, the Center mentors minority students in danger of not completing school. The Center also operates a drug-free housing program for adult substance abusers. The Center does not receive any government funding.

         4-H After-School Program provides 1,200 children in public housing with after-school activities at 23 sites throughout Los Angeles. Participants receive tutoring and participate in community service projects. Fifty-five percent of 4-H's budget comes from the private sector.

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