NOWLAN: Biden should focus his money on improving results | Notice
President Joe Biden is proposing to spend more money than I thought, on infrastructure and kids, families, free college and more. I am not against spending all this money, as long as it is aimed at improving the poor educational and social outcomes of our country, and as long as we pay the price, rather than imposing the costs on our people. children.
I’m afraid Mr. Biden is simply giving the money, not asking for anything in return, rarely good policy. Indeed, some well-intentioned social programs of the past have aggravated rather than strengthened our social fabric. For example, the old assistance program for families with dependent children automatically refused assistance to a household if there was a man in the house.
Another example: today, when a struggling young mother on welfare programs gets a job, welfare is almost immediately withdrawn from her body, making it almost impossible to stabilize household finances. We need to cut welfare down so that the parent can get out of a financial hole.
Our nation has big, fundamental problems. For example, we have persistent and large gaps in academic achievement between minority and white students, and indeed between whites and Asians and Asian Americans.
In addition, many single-parent households in my rural area are falling behind, often abandoning drugs and negative lifestyles; Ditto for parents in certain urban neighborhoods, abandoned over the decades by the white and then black middle classes. There are few role models left, except for gangs.
Economically, our country has outsourced key functions such as chipmaking and rare earth metal mining to Asia. We must, after decades of procrastination, develop an industrial policy that determines which public-private partnerships are vital keystones for our defense and our future.
Indeed, much of America has become fat and sloppy, less resilient, more dependent on government. Among too many, aspiration has turned into resignation, loss of ambition to enhance society.
These and other daunting challenges facing our nation warrant more than focusing on improving results. But how do you do this? Human behavior is based on fairly simple principles. We respond to inducements and seek to avoid sanctions. We move towards opportunity, however we define it, and away from threats.
I think social policy since WWII has focused on the wrong person, which is the child rather than the parent. If the home is a positive environment, filled with love, aspiration, support, guidance (dare I say discipline), then the child is more likely to thrive.
Yet most social policies focus on replacing the services that parents used to provide or strengthen, for example, childcare, early childhood education, free meals, even delivered, now free university, even family dispute resolution. A good friend and circuit judge served rural counties in central Illinois for years; after having presided over more cases of family mutilation than he wishes to count, the judge observes bluntly: the government has replaced dad.
Based on discussions with teachers and social workers, I offer mandatory parenting coaching for struggling single mothers (and a few single fathers). Supervision would ideally be provided by parents who have themselves overcome similar difficult circumstances. “Mom, if you want government support, take the coaching. Otherwise, no government program supports it. “
And provide bonuses to encourage family success for the struggling parent who rises to the occasion, quits drugs and alcohol (where it’s a problem), follows a vocational training and generally brings it together.
If mom refuses coaching, she should be aware that the local child welfare agency will monitor such things as if her child is in curfew (Illinois does indeed have a curfew law. ) I am struck by the extent of the chaos among the police and the teenagers that takes place at 3 a.m., and I am convinced that young people who excel in school do not end up on the streets all the time.
As for the free college, so much the better, as long as the student progresses steadily to a certificate or diploma.
As someone who has always considered themselves liberal when it comes to social policy, I am amazed at what a foggy old man looks like. Yet if our nation is to improve results, we must push those who struggle, with incentives and sanctions, rather than with wishful thinking that money without strings will solve problems.
Jim Nowlan was a senior researcher and professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He worked for three uncharged governors and published a weekly in central Illinois.