Archive for Saturday, July 24, 1993

S GOING WRONG WITH AMERICA?

July 24, 1993

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There are a tremendous number of "good" stories which could be noted relative to positive situations -- such as the wonderful outpouring of voluntary help and generosity for those who have suffered as a result of the massive flooding in the middle part of this country -- but there also are far too many negative, "bad" situations.

Americans are spending more money on health, education, welfare and other similar programs than at any time in the country's history. More people are probably more involved and more interested in trying to improve social conditions than at any previous time.

There is increased public awareness about problems in our society, the need for everyone to get along with each other and to appreciate the diversity in our society.

There are more federal, state and local programs aimed at trying to help people cope with current problems than at any time in our country's history.

Similar activities and programs are springing up day after day throughout the country.

And yet, look what's happening:

According to a recent study on the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators released by the Heritage Foundation, many important aspects of our society are in a nose dive.

The study covers the last 30 years and it claims that while the U.S. population has increased 41 percent since 1960, violent crime has increased 560 percent. The author, William Bennett, notes illegitimate births have increased more than 500 percent; divorce rates have quadrupled; the percentage of children living in single-parent homes has tripled; and, the teen-age suicide rate has increased more than 200 percent.

In a Wall Street Journal article earlier this week, a columnist for Arkansas Business reveals some interesting and disturbing facts, particularly in light of the current hearings on the nomination of Dr. Joycelyn Elders to be this country's surgeon general.

Dr. Elders has been director of the Arkansas Health Department since 1987 and one of her top priorities has been teen-age pregnancy. She vowed to cut this "deadly disease" (teen-age pregnancy) in half with pubic school-based clinics that provide "counseling" and dispense contraceptives. By the way, Dr. Elders has suggested sex education should start at the kindergarten level.

However, even with the establishment of 24 school-based clinics in Arkansas in 11 of the state's counties, the teen-age pregnancy rate has risen, not declined, since Dr. Elders initiated her highly controversial program. In fact, the teen pregnancy rate has risen in 10 of the 11 Arkansas counties which have the Elders school-based clinics. The overall state rate of teen-age pregnancy in Arkansas rose from 6.8 percent in 1987 to 7.8 percent in 1990. And in the 10 counties with the special program, the rate has risen to 12 percent.

The same disappointing situation is mirrored in Arkansas' efforts in public education. Hillary Clinton, in 1983, declared Arkansas must "quit making excuses" for the state's sorry record in public education. However, after 10 years of "alleged" reforms and a doubling of state and local spending on public education, test scores are stagnant and the remediation rate for entering freshmen at Arkansas colleges is 57 percent.

This is not meant to single out Arkansas or Dr. Elders or Hillary Clinton, but these statistics, as well as the prior figures from the Heritage Foundation report, indicate something isn't working.

More money, more public awareness, more programs and more of most everything apparently isn't the answer.

Democrats are quick to blame most of the country's ills on "the past 12 years" -- the Reagan and Bush years -- and yet Democrats controlled both the House and Senate during these years and have approved every federal dime this country has spent on health care, education, drug efforts, or any other federal program.

Republicans probably would counter by saying the massive federal spending offers a perfect example of how "big government" and merely "throwing dollars" at a program is not the way to solve major problems. They also probably would suggest that through the combination of a growing permissiveness in our society, an acceptance and approval of mediocrity rather than stressing excellence, the lack of hard discipline and a lowering of basic moral standards -- there has been a gradual and alarming deterioration of many social conditions in the United States.

It isn't just in Arkansas but the neighboring state does provide some easy-to-see trends which are not complimentary to Arkansas or to those promoting many of the state's efforts in teen-age pregnancy and in public education. It would be interesting to know how the Razorback State has performed in some of the categories noted in the Heritage Foundation report: violent crime, illegitimate births, divorce rates, single-parent homes and teen-age suicide. How would Kansas stack up over the past 30 years?

Is there justification to believe the next 30 years will be better or will government keep on getting bigger and bigger, collecting more and more taxes accompanied by greater abuses and wasteful spending? Will Congress and the courts assume more control of our lives? Will private individuals and private businesses have less freedom and control of their own destinies?

And, will crime, illegitimate births, divorce rates and single-parent homes also continue to increase?

What's the answer?

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