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Town Square

Wednesday, May 1, 1996

Table of Contents
Groups To Watch
What Works
Cautionary Tales
Thoughts On Civil Society
Achievements Against The Odds
Steve Forbes on Civil Society


Foundation Watchdog

In February, Capital Research Center announced it was adding a fourth newsletter to its stable of publications. Foundation Watch, a monthly, will investigate the cultural activity of large private donors like the Ford, Rockefeller, and MacArthur foundations, and examine how these foundations respond to dwindling federal support for the arts and humanities. The first issue, for example, reports on the role the Charles F. Kettering Foundation is playing in PBS's "Democracy Project," which the newsletter calls a "multi-million dollar experiment to reorganize the political process to [the foundation's] own liking." Laurence Jarvik, who has written two books on the federal government's role in the arts, joins CRC as a fellow in cultural studies and the editor of Foundation Watch.

          Capital Research Center -- Tel: 202-393-2600, fax: 202-393-2626, e-mail: %2074157.3004 [at] compuserve.com, Web site: http://www.capitalresearch.org.

Conservative Lawyers

          With the help of a grant from the E.L. Weigand Foundation, the Federalist Society is organizing 15 working groups in topics as diverse as criminal law and procedure, environmental law and property rights, financial institutions, religious liberties, and telecommunications and electronic media. Seminars and publications will help participants in these groups evaluate how conservative ideas can shape the U.S. legal system. Membership in the Federalist Society is a condition of participation.

          The Federalist Society -- Tel.: 202-822-8138, e-mail: %20fedsoc [at] radix.net.

Kay Coles James to Regent

          Kay Coles James, formerly Virginia's Secretary of Health and Human Resources under Governor George Allen, became the dean of Regent University's Robertson School of Government on March 1, 1996. James was an energetic advocate of welfare reform, and helped shepherd through the state legislature a reform bill with stiff work requirements for welfare recipients. James has served as a senior vice president of the Family Research Council, the associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the president of the Black Americans for Life Committee. At Regent, located in Virginia Beach, she will be stewarding a public-policy school in its fourth year.

          Robertson School of Government, Regent University -- Tel.: 804-579-4583.

Ecumenical Politics

          The new Center for Jewish and Christian Values will host its inaugural event, a leadership conference, at the Holiday Inn in Crystal City, Virginia, on May 20, 1996. The center was launched last December to promote discussion between Christians and Jews about moral issues, to encourage Christians and Jews to develop a common set of principles for building a more moral society, and to advocate needed changes in public policy and popular culture. At the event, Michael Novak, Jack Kemp, William Galston, Gary Bauer, Michael Medved, Wade Horn, Rabbi David Saperstein, and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Dan Coats will discuss the role of American law in the breakdown of the traditional family; efforts to match at-risk, fatherless children with responsible adults; Hollywood's effect on popular culture; adoption; and the role private religious institutions can play in delivering welfare. Chris Gersten, a former Bush administration official, is the director of the center. "I hope we will be able to create a coalition of Christian and Jewish clerical leaders and laity," says Gersten, "to challenge the moral decadence that has taken root throughout our country and in our cities."

          The Center for Jewish and Christian Values -- Tel.: 202-682-9571, fax: 202-682-1848.

Effective Compassion

          Last January, the Center for Effective Compassion named David Kuo as its executive director. Founded in November 1995 by Arianna Huffington and Marvin Olasky, the Center for Effective Compassion is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the government-centered, bureaucratic, and impersonal welfare system into one that is community-oriented, decentralized, and focused on people. It advocates providing the needy with help that is challenging, personal, and spiritual. Kuo has served as policy director for Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri and the deputy director of policy at Empower America. Kuo has also authored or coauthored five books, including the forthcoming Active Faith, written with the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed.

          Center for Effective Compassion -- Tel: 202-289-8928, fax: 202-289-6079.


Businesslike Nonprofits

          A former aide to Democratic senators Gary Hart and Bob Kerrey, Bill Shore left political life in 1984 to found Share Our Strength, a nonprofit anti-hunger organization run like a for-profit business. Today, Share Our Strength earns over $30 million a year, which it distributes to more than 800 community-based organizations in the U.S., Canada, and the developing world. In his book Revolution of the Heart, published last year, Shore describes the nonprofit sector as "rich in compassion and idealism" but "entrepreneurially bankrupt." Shore argues that nonprofits should stop relying on government and foundation grants. By combining social idealism with hard-headed business sense, he contends, nonprofits can become financially self-sustaining. Then they will be able to spend their money "in accordance with [their] best judgment, and not in ways distorted by the desire to please certain grantmakers."

          Revolution of the Heart also contains a resource directory of organizations that strengthen communities, such as Break Away, a group in Nashville, Tennessee, that "matches college groups with local nonprofits to provide 'alternative' spring breaks focused on volunteering and community service," and Rural Coalition, an organization based in Arlington, Virginia, that "works to meet the nutrition and health needs of low-income rural populations, especially farm workers and rural minorities."

          Revolution of the Heart: A New Strategy for Creating Wealth and Meaningful Organization by Bill Shore (Riverhead Books).

Reform Bureaucrats?

          While many welfare-reform advocates view work-oriented reform as a step towards reducing the size of government, Princeton scholar Lawrence Mead warns that we must not underestimate the importance of government in making reform work. Success in Wisconsin highlights the importance of government as an agent of change. Since 1987, welfare rolls in Wisconsin have declined by 26 percent. Governor Tommy Thompson has placed a two-year limit on cash welfare benefits, developed a state-of-the-art computer system for tracking welfare fraud, and has permitted local governments to contract out portions of their welfare services. Most importantly, however, Thompson has energized the bureaucracy by offering it a challenge: to help the poor gain financial security and independence through work. Today, welfare administrators in Wisconsin promote work and encourage people to seek support from nongovernmental sources, including extended families.

          "The Change in Wisconsin Welfare," by Lawrence M. Mead, Wisconsin Interest, Fall/Winter 1995. Wisconsin Policy Research Institute -- Tel.: 414-963-0600, fax: 414-963-4230.


Underchallenged Undergraduates

          In March, the National Association of Scholars (NAS), based in Princeton, released a 68-page study that concludes America's leading colleges are failing to provide undergraduates with a broad and rigorous exposure to major areas of knowledge. NAS examined the general-education and course requirements for the bachelor of arts degree at America's 50 highest-ranked schools in 1914, 1939, 1964, and 1993. After assessing the prevalence, content, and rigor of mandatory courses, NAS asserts that "today's students at leading colleges and universities are not held to the same exacting standards that prevailed as early as 30 years ago."

          Many of the required survey courses that once acquainted students with a range of subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences have been purged from university curricula; as a result, we are "in danger of losing the common frame of cultural reference that for many years has sustained our liberal, democratic society."

          "The Dissolution of General Education: 1914-1993." National Association of Scholars -- Tel.: 609-683-7878, fax: 609-683-0316, e-mail: %20nas [at] nas.org, Web site: http://www.nas.org.

Corporate Philanthropy

          The ninth annual edition of Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy by the Capital Research Center confirms yet again that U.S.-based corporations often fund nonprofit organizations that work against their interests. For every dollar American companies donate to free-market advocacy groups, they contribute approximately four dollars to proponents of big government and market restrictions.

          Anheuser-Busch, Freddie Mac, Borden, Fannie Mae, Hewlett-Packard, Dayton-Hudson, WMX, J.P. Morgan, Bell Atlantic, AT&T, and BankAmerica are fingered as America's 10 worst corporate givers (those that give the most money to left-wing advocacy organizations). In 1993, Exxon donated $5,000 to the Environmental Law Institute -- the same organization that laid the legal groundwork for holding Exxon criminally responsible for the Valdez oil spill.

          Capital Research Center -- Tel: 202-393-2600, fax: 202-393-2626, Web site: http://www.capitalresearch.org.

Urban Outrage I

          To opponents of tort reform who argue that cautious judges and skeptical juries are stemming the tide of frivolous tort litigation, Richard Miniter says guess again. New York City, which has no serious tort reform, paid out 187 percent more in tort awards in 1994 than it did in 1984. Despite the city's efforts to improve safety, all kinds of injury claims are up. The increase has been fueled not so much by a rise in the number of cases brought against the city as the size of the awards paid out. What's more, personal-injury claims account for 90 percent of the claims brought against the city. Miniter challenges Governor George Pataki to tackle the trial-lawyer lobby and bring tort reform in New York.

          "Under Siege: New York's Liability Ordeal," by Richard Miniter, Civil Justice Memo No. 23, January 1996. Manhattan Institute -- Tel.: 212-599-7000, fax: 212-599-3494.

Urban Outrage II

          In New York, argues Sol Stern, educational vouchers are the "school reform that dares not speak its name." This is not because vouchers are unpopular: New Yorkers favor vouchers for public, private, and parochial schools by a margin of 54 to 42 percent. Rather, politically powerful teachers unions have blocked voucher reform. The result, Stern contends, is that public education in New York remains a "$25-billion monopoly industry" whose "first priority is the job security and well-being of the more than 250,000 people who make their livelihoods from it." Stern believes that the only way to reform New York's educational system is through vouchers. Other reform proposals are "system preserving." Only vouchers can transform the system by destroying the teacher-controlled educational monopoly.

          "The School Reform That Dares Not Speak Its Name," by Sol Stern, City Journal, Winter 1996.

Urban Outrage III

          When the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation agreed to fabricate and install a set of 15-foot metal letters on the roof of a factory building in New York City, its president, Tama Starr, had to sign a 101-page contract, including 20 separate documents spelling out affirmative-action requirements. One document required iron workers on the job to be 58.53 percent minority and 7.63 percent female. But another document required that the contractor "will not discriminate . . . on the basis of . . . race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, handicap, marital status, sexual orientation or affectional preference." "That is all very nice," Starr observes in an article for Reason, "but on the previous page, the contractor was required to discriminate."

          Although she had no idea how to comply with these mutually contradictory requirements, Starr signed the contract. She notes, however, that many good companies deliberately refrain from bidding on government or government-subsidized work. "So the government will get what it wants," she writes, "contractors whose race/gender composition meets government goals, while taxpayers, as usual, foot the bill: in increased costs, in substandard work, and in the payroll of the genetically-approved bureaucrats who scrutinize the reports."

          "The 7.63% Solution," by Tama Starr, Reason, February 1996.


The Conservative Dilemma

          In his Francis Boyer Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute last winter, George F. Will argues that conservatism suffers from a potentially crippling contradiction. On the one hand, it advocates "blanket disdain for government." On the other, "conservatism's vision of civic virtue . . . depends on respect, even reverence for our political regime -- for our constitutional order understood as a formative enterprise." Conservatism's challenge is to resolve this contradiction.

          The Founders, Will argues, recognized and intended that our constitutional, popular government would bear responsibility for shaping the nation's citizenry: "Statecraft, as the Founders understood it, is soulcraft." Specifically, the Founders designed our Constitution to promote citizens that could govern themselves, principally by denying themselves dependence on government. That's why the Founders carved out a role for a strong central government. A strong central government, they believed, would relieve citizens of their dependence on local and state governments. Says Will, "The Founders hoped that one effect of exalting central government over other governments would be a diminution of the total amount of government -- local, state and national."

          National government, of course, was to be strictly limited by enumerated powers. But this government was not realized. The Founders had hoped that the acquisitive spirit characteristic of liberal society would be confined to the pursuit of wealth through commerce. Rather, our acquisitive animus was directed towards the central government, from which we have sought well-being. Liberal government has been our accomplice, promoting for some 60 years now the idea that it is the government's responsibility to provide for our material well-being.

          To reverse this trend, Will asserts, conservatives must change public opinion. Americans must consent to "government that censors their desires." And just as the Founders intended government to forge the character of its citizens and liberals have used it to fashion a citizenry dependent on government, conservative government must teach us that it is consistent with our constitutional principles to be less dependent on it.

          To do this, however, government must be respected. And here lies conservatism's paradox: "Conservatism depends on eliciting from citizens a public-spirited self-denial," Will says. "But that is not easily elicited in a commercial republic of the sort conservatism celebrates, where individualism enjoys maximum scope for private pursuits."

          Sure, conservatives fail to promote respect for the government through their "blanket disdain" for it. But more importantly, conservatism seems to promote the same acquisitiveness that liberals have promoted for so long. Conservative anti-government rhetoric renders the government just as servile as it has been under liberal regimes. "And respect is never accorded to the servile," he says. Will's advice: Abandon the populist banner and try instead to articulate how our Constitution and our government requires of our citizens greater independence and greater virtue.

          The Francis Boyer Lecture, by George F. Will, American Enterprise Institute, December 6, 1995. AEI -- Tel: 202-862-5800, fax: 202-862-7178. Reprinted in the Public Interest, Spring 1996.

Achievement Against the Odds

          On March 13, 1996, the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE) hosted its fourth Achievement Against the Odds Awards, honoring low-income people who have overcome adversity to improve their lives and their communities. NCNE is a nonprofit organization that provides training and assistance to grass-roots organizations serving low-income communities. It also promotes partnerships between businesses and community groups in low-income areas. The Allstate Foundation sponsored this year's awards. The winners for 1996 are:

          Steven Holter (Hartford, Conn.) has convinced members of his street gang to visit the elderly, collect food for needy families, and establish drug- and alcohol-free discos for teens. He now mentors Hartford teenagers and offers employment opportunities to youth through his construction company.

          Marcus Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.), 16, is a member of the Marion County Commission on Youth and works for the Bicycle Action Project, a nonprofit group that fixes bicycles and instructs children in bicycle safety.

          Robert Nowlin (Baltimore, Md.), the president of his local neighborhood association, has led anti-crime marches and candlelight vigils to protest drug activity in his community, and lobbied for tough anti-drug legislation. He has organized a summer camp for children -- all of this despite being blind.

          Joel Perez (Elgin, Ill.), a former gang member, founded God's Gym, which provides recreation, and educational opportunities to 300 "at-risk" youth a day.

          Linda Rogers (Capitol Heights, Md.) has been addicted to drugs, subjected to abuse, homeless, and incarcerated, but now she trains low-income people in building maintenance and clerical administration for Crawford/Edgewood Managers Inc. She will soon become the assistant housing director of a newly renovated single-room occupancy facility (SRO) in Washington, D.C.

          Tonya Smothers (Birmingham, Ala.), a former foster child, financed her own college education and is now financing college for her younger sister. Only 25, she has already founded a block-watch program, organized graffiti clean-up days, and spearheaded outings for local youth.

          Eugene Hughes (Washington, D.C.) in 1975 founded Mid-Town Academy, which offers young people a place to congregate, receive tutoring, and learn vocational skills.

         For more information, contact NCNE: Tel: 202-331-1103, fax: 202-296-1541.

Steve Forbes on Civil Society

          You know when you play a game of football, you don't call up Washington every time you want to know what's the next play. . . . Too many people in America believed in the past that in order to do something you had to dial the equivalent of 1-800-BIG GOVERNMENT to find out what you should do, but the real strength of our country has always been individuals make those decisions, families make those decisions, communities make those decisions, to tackle the problems we face.

          So when you play a game of football, you are not always looking over your shoulder at Washington to figure out what the next play should be. There's no way it could be done. . . . For almost 200 years in America, we had the belief that we could do it on a community level, working together, often voluntarily, whether it is churches, synagogues, charities, schools, hospitals, professional associations, cultural activities, sports activities. We always did things on a local level.

          Well, now, this new age we're entering into, we can rediscover those basic strengths so you don't have to dial 1-800 BIG GOVERNMENT to figure out what the next play should be, to figure whether you should throw the Hail Mary, charge, fourth down and you got one yard to go, whether you should punt or run.

          -- Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes, quoted in the New York Times

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