$500 Million Spent Stupidly
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by Brian Mos

On February 19, 1997, the U.S. President who "never inhaled" announced that he wanted $500 million to fight youth crime. If Bill Clinton is successful, the federal government will waste another $500 million and will likely add that expenditure to a national debt that currently hurts all of us. The very youths for whom he claims concern will just become weighted down with more debt. I would gladly give up all of these ineffective federal anti-crime programs in order to reduce the $19,900+ that every American, even you, owes as part of the debt.

You might be thinking, "If we can reduce youth crime, isn't it worth the money?" Maybe. First, we must convince ourselves that this is the best way to reduce crime, or at least that it will help at all. There are plenty of nice-sounding programs to be funded with this money, but I doubt any of these is necessary.

At least $50 million will be spent on juvenile court and probation systems. Let me get this straight: We will be expanding the court system just so we can release the offenders on probation? I cannot find much sense in this. Maybe you can. Suppose they have committed real crimes, crimes that hurt someone, such as theft, assault or murder. In that case, the system should not release them into the community until they have served 100% of their sentences plus additional time for any bad behavior. If they have committed a victimless violation of the law, such as loitering, a non-violent drug offense, or prostitution, then they do not even belong in the court system.

After-school programs to keep youths "off the street" would waste another $60 million. Squandering money on midnight basketball will accomplish nothing. Gang members are not the types to stick around school any longer than forced, even if they can attend a study group run by their science teacher. What is the alternative? The federal government should end minimum wage and minimum age laws, an action that would create nearly a million new jobs. Unfortunately, Bill Clinton destroyed hundreds of thousands of jobs by hiking the minimum wage: The federal government estimates that it destroys 100,000 jobs for every 10% rise in the minimum wage. Youths who get a job after school will not only be "off the streets," but will also be getting the valuable experience of working for a paycheck.

The plan will spend $75 million to fight truancy and youth violence, another issue worthy of examination on two points:

First, how can the federal government fight truancy and school violence? If Slick Willy tells you not to skip school, will that affect your decision at all? I really do not believe that truancy is a problem in schools. If someone does not want to attend class, that person probably will not be paying much attention if forced to attend. When people skip, class sizes get lower for the rest of us who do want to attend.

Second, why do we need $75 million to fight school violence? There is a simple solution to violent students: Get rid of them. Since schools should allow students one mistake, schools should only suspend first-time offenders for six days, and expel repeat offenders. This policy should only cost a few dollars for the paperwork, and will help to reduce class sizes.

Unfortunately, my ideas are not politically correct. Letting people take responsibility for their actions is an idea that helped to found the United States of America 200 years ago. Today, it is unthinkable.


This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:50 PM