May 23, 1996

May 23, 1996 | Commentary on Political Thought

ED052396a: The March for Big Government

On June 1, 1996, national attention will focus on the "Stand for Children" march on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The theme of this march, ostensibly, is something that all Americans can support: "a day ... to celebrate children and those who struggle every day to raise them."

Organizers of the "Stand for Children" claim between 200,000 and 1 million people will gather at the Lincoln Memorial "in a non-partisan call to action." Unfortunately, the principal "action" likely to be called for is an increase in federal spending. The reason: More than 100 of the sponsoring organizations are direct federal grant recipients receiving more than $392 million annually. The actual figure is assuredly higher, since that total excludes grants to many affiliate organization as well as all funds received from state or local governments.

A slick public relations campaign has generated dozens of news stories hailing the Stand's call "to affirm our responsibility as families, individuals, communities, and as a national community for improving the quality of life of children." But an examination of organizations endorsing the event makes it clear that the Stand for Children is not an independent, pro-children march. It is a stand for government dependency and ought to be dubbed "The March For Big Government." Consider:

  • The event is being convened by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) -- an organization once chaired by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The president of the CDF, Marian Wright Edelman, is a chief opponent of the 104th Congress' efforts to reform welfare. In 1973, Edelman admitted that because she no longer could stir up interest in government programs by speaking of "poor people," she would emphasize children. "Children," after all, "might be a very effective way to broaden the base of change."
  • Lobbyists appear to be a major constituency of the Stand for Children. Lobbying groups that push for greater spending on federal programs already costing more than $7 billion annually have endorsed the march. Among these are the National and Community Service Coalition (chief lobbyist for President Clinton's $400 million national service boondoggle, AmeriCorps), the National Head Start Center (lobbyist for the $2.2 billion Head Start program), and the National Association of WIC Directors (The Special Supplement Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children, a $3.6 billion federal program in fiscal year 1995). Families USA, a key lobbying organization for Bill Clinton's failed big-government health-care plan, is also a march endorser.
  • At least 20 national organizations representing government employees, such as the U.S. Conference of City Human Services Officials and the National Association of School Psychologists, also will be participating in the march.
  • The AFL-CIO, which is spending $35 million in mandatory union dues to defeat conservative members of Congress this year, is actively promoting the march. Thirty-three of its affiliated unions are serving as national endorsing organizations for the Stand for Children. At this past February's meeting of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee, when union leaders decided to launch their efforts to "take back the Congress" (take it back for whom?), two guests were invited to speak: one was Marian Wright Edelman, who spoke about the Stand for Children rally. Obviously, she got what she was after.
  • At least 50 liberal organizations with no special focus on children, including the Americans for Democratic Action, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Greenpeace, the National Rainbow Coalition, and Zero Population Growth, are co-sponsors of the march.
  • As if to remove all doubt about the government-oriented nature of this event, one federal agency has even gotten into the act directly. The Agriculture Department's $932 million Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service has signed on as a national endorser of the Stand For Children under the guise of its outreach program, Families 4H and Nutrition. Also, the Freddie Mac Foundation, an arm of the federally chartered Freddie Mac Corp., has signed on to the march.

In short, the Stand For Children is yet another a venue for groups that live off the taxpayer to lobby for more money. It is common practice for such organizations to use sympathetic symbols -- yes, even children -- as a "cloaking device" for efforts to expand big government and the welfare state. The fact that few Americans can believe anyone would be so cynical only makes the "cloaking" that much easier. In this case, they want to present their rally as a spontaneous, independent, grassroots expression of altruism towards America's youth.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Note: Kenneth Weinstein is former director of the Government Reform Project at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research institute.

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