What Should Government Do?

the Capital

A friend of mine tells the story of a Republican Congressman who came to Washington for the first time in 1995. This newly elected Freshman had never really visited our nation’s capital before, except to play football there. The Congressman regaled his constituents with his tale of his first cab ride in the District. “Wow,” he said, looking at all the big federal office buildings that lined the streets on his way from the airport. “How many people work in those buildings,” the Congressman asked his cab driver. “Oh, about half of them,” the cabbie responded.

That story, endlessly repeated on the campaign stump, is one of the things that prevents us from getting a better view of what government should be doing. The Congressman who told that tale could rely on getting a chuckle from his rural, Western constituents. Mostly conservative, these good folks had been fed tales of misdoings by the “feds” for generations.

Let me say for the record: I don’t agree with that characterization of the federal work force. From my time at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, working with Jack Kemp, and from several other federal appointments, my experience was different. I found the federal civil service workers to be–in the main–honest, hard-working, and intelligent.

I think it hurts our cause to be constantly running down good folks who give their all for our government. The congressmen and others who love to create a caricature of federal workers need some lessons in history of federal employment.

Thousands of freedmen came to Washington after the Civil War. Denied civil rights and equal opportunity in the states of the Old Confederacy, many of these striving black Americans sought employment with the federal government. The government was not in those days the employer of last resort, it was too often the only employer who would give black Americans a decent chance to build a new life.

Having said all of this, that does not mean I think that all the things the federal government does in Washington, or in the states, should be done. But the fault in that lies not with the civil servants who are honestly doing what Congress tells them to do. The fault should rest with Congress itself.

Let me take a first example: Education. American education was a great success story with a great exception–racial segregation. Relief finally came in 1954 with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board. States were ordered to move “with all deliberate speed” to end this historic wrong. That was an instance that clearly cried out for federal intervention.

Stopping racial segregation should have been sufficient to complete the federal responsibility on education. But liberal politicians and judges made it just the beginning. Ever since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the federal role in state and local education issues has been growing. Today, the U.S. Education Department’s budget for Fiscal Year 2011 will be $49.7 Billion. The government also includes $173 Billion in loans, grants, tax credits and work-study programs that help low-income students afford college.

Surely, it’s a worthy goal to help all students who strive for college to get there. But does this have to be a federal program? We have seen college tuition–at both state and private colleges–skyrocket over the same period that we have had federal loans and college assistance.

Pennsylvania’s Grove City College and Michigan’s Hillsdale College are two of the very few private colleges that take no federal assistance. They have never discriminated on the basis of race or color (Hillsdale was founded by Abolitionists), but they don’t want the red tape and bureaucracy that comes with federal money. As a result, these two outstanding colleges offer students a high quality education at a fraction of the tuition cost (about 2/3) that most federally-funded colleges charge.

We should ask ourselves whether the benefits to the citizens of federal involvement in education have really yielded the results we want. Advocates of greater federal involvement in education like to point out that the federal government only supplies about 7% of all education funding in the country. That may be true. But that still does not mean there are no strings. The mahouts of India are slight fellows, who often weigh just 7% of what their elephants weigh. But the mahout has a stick that he uses to prod his elephant behind the ear–and pretty soon the elephant goes where the mahout trains him to go.

While vastly increasing the federal outlay for education–an area the Constitution reserves to the states and to the people–this administration is cutting off D.C. Opportunity Scholarships. Thus, low income parents in the nation’s capital are losing the best hope for their children to get a high quality education in safe and effective schools.

Another example of unwarranted federal involvement is the 1970 Family Planning and Reproductive Health Act. We have literally sluiced billions into this program–called Title X.

It’s been a cash cow–no, a cash cattle herd–for Planned Parenthood. This outfit has a long history of targeting minority communities. Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, cooked up a “Negro Pastors’ Project” to try to seduce black clergy into going along with her

eugenic schemes. Even now, 78% of Planned Parenthood facilities are located in or near minority neighborhoods. This supposedly non-profit organization is realizing huge profits from the billions it gets from the federal government.

What they do with this money is to persuade unmarried teens to have sex without their parents knowledge or consent. They give them devices and pills and send them out the door with a message that everyone is doing it. No, everyone is not doing it. And the best message for unmarried young people is wait until marriage. When those devices and pills fail, as they often do, Planned Parenthood is standing by to provide the abortion—often in the same facility. It’s a revolving door of destruction.

What have we to show for all of this money? There have been 52 million abortions. The ratio of black unborn children to white ones aborted is a shocking 3-to-1. We have an unsustainable national out-of-wedlock birthrate of 40%. There are 65 million sexually treated diseases. If ever there was a failed federal program, Title X is it. If family planning is necessary, let families do it. And let them consult their pastors and their own consciences about how to do it.

President Eisenhower, in a press conference, was once asked if we should start a program like Title X. “I can’t think of a role more inappropriate for the federal government,” Ike said.

So what should the government do? Having mentioned Eisenhower, I can say he gave us a good indication of the proper use of federal authority. In 1957, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce court-ordered school integration.

President Eisenhower was encouraged in that action by baseball great, Jackie Robinson. If Ike could send the 101st Airborne into France to liberate foreigners from tyranny, surely he could use those troops to protect the fundamental rights of Americans here at home. Ike agreed.

We should not want it to come to that, of course. But Eisenhower showed us the true role of the federal government–protecting our fundamental rights as Americans. The Declaration of Independence said it well: “…to secure these [inalienable rights] governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The inalienable rights the Declaration spoke of included the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Many people today are saying they are only fiscal conservatives. By that, they mean they are more liberal on social issues–matters like the right to life, the defense of marriage, or the use of drugs and the spread of pornography.

Some of these people call themselves libertarian and say they only want “to get the government out of the bedroom.” Well, I don’t want the government in my bedroom, either. But my libertarian friends should recognize that when human life is at stake, government has a duty to defend it. Abraham Lincoln said “nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon.” He was speaking, of course, of the moral wrong of slavery. But his eloquent words apply with equal force to Jim Crow laws, segregation, and, of course, abortion.

Government has a duty to keep even the least of us from being trod upon. Then, there’s the defense of marriage. I’m especially proud that Bishop Harry Jackson is leading the fight to preserve marriage in the District of Columbia. If the people of the nation’s capital could vote on this vital question, I have few doubts that the pro-marriage side would prevail. In 31 state contests, defenders of marriage have won. We have won victories for marriage in conservative states like Utah and Kansas, and in liberal states like Wisconsin and Oregon. We have won victories for marriage at the Supreme Court levels in Washington State, Maryland, and New York.

That’s because people recognize that children need a father and mother who are married. It’s the best way to raise a child. All social science literature confirms this fact. It’s especially significant that minority Americans rally to the side of marriage whenever the issue is put on the ballot. That’s because we know that the attack on marriage is an attack on our communities.

We reject the notion that allowing a man to marry a man is equivalent to Dr. King’s eating at an integrated lunch counter. The purpose of the great Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to affirm our God-given rights.

The purpose of these assaults on marriage is to deny the fundamental civil right of marriage. By counterfeiting marriage, homosexual groups are abolishing marriage itself. If everyone can get married, then no one can get married. There will be no such thing as marriage left.

There’s been a lot of confusion–some of it deliberately spread by radical groups–on the law on marriage. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down state laws that prohibited racial intermarriage. In Loving v. Virginia, the Chief Justice wrote that marriage is a “fundamental civil right of Americans.” He further stated that marriage is necessary for the survival of society. That Chief Justice was Earl Warren, the same man who delivered a unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board more than a decade earlier. Homosexual groups use the Loving case to claim that marriage is a civil right of all Americans. They’re right about that.

But they’re wrong in thinking that that means they can distort true marriage and twist the clear meaning of Chief Justice Warren’s opinion. “Necessary for the survival of society” clearly points to the role of marriage in protecting children. And, no, Heather does not have two Mommies. Poor Heather doesn’t have one Mommy. In that relationship, neither person is fulfilling the Mommy role.

The current administration is going out of its way to undermine and destroy true marriage.

It’s taking a wrecking ball to marriage. This is surely not the hope and change that so many of us voted for.

I’m not saying the federal government should be invading people’s homes and trying to see how they are living. We all value our privacy. But surely if we want an end to culture wars, the federal government can help by not funding one side.

What I’ve laid out here is a vision not of a weaker federal government. The government under Eisenhower was prepared to use military force to secure basic civil rights. I don’t agree that a less intrusive or scaled-back federal government is a weaker government. We all know that we are healthier and stronger when we’re lean and fit. An out-of-shape federal government risks hardening of the arteries and heart attack.

I often tell student groups about the Auntie-Net that I grew up with, long before the Internet. What I mean, of course, is that in my community, we had many close relatives and many a caring adult—Aunt Jane, let’s say—who helped to guide us along the proper paths. In so many cases, these caring adults were people of faith. They were confident that the Good Book was a light unto our feet.

Our federal government has been, in the main, a blessing. It has defended our nation from enemies abroad and enemies at home. It needs to do more for homeland security. It needs to do less in trying to substitute for parents and local teachers, or in trying to take the place of pastors and priests.

Ronald Reagan is often quoted from his First Inaugural Address. “Government is not the solution,” he said, “government is the problem.” Reagan was no anarchist. And he was no segregationist. He was referring to an out-of-control federal government that was trying to interfere too much with our economy and with our health, education, and welfare.

Reagan knew that only a strong, lean federal government could protect us from an Evil Empire. You don’t build a 600-ship Navy with a small government. But he also knew that parents knew better which school was best for their children than do unelected federal bureaucrats. That’s why Ronald Reagan offered the first voucher proposal for lower income families. He was successful with the 600-ship Navy. When Congress went along with him, walls and iron curtains came down. But when, as with his voucher proposal, Congress refused to help him, walls remain.

The wall that remains today between too many lower income families and a quality education for their children is one that we could remove. It’s one we should remove. It’s one more area where spending too much and giving too much power to the federal government actually hurts the people.

I have great hope that leaders will come forward who will champion parental choice in education and who will roll back harmful federal programs like Title X. When that happens, it will indeed be a great advance for freedom.

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