(Archived document, may contain errors) Cut Their Pay and Send Them Home By Lamar Alexander it seems almost rud e-suggesting to a Capitol HUI audience: cut your pay and send your- selves home. I am talking, of course, about the U.S. Congress. To Jeff Greenfield, this proposal seemed both inspiring and outrageous. 'T'lliat do you do," he asked, "when a blatantly pol i tical bit of demagoguery also happens to be a good idea?" TO Roll CaU's editors, it seemed-not so threatening. "Mother of All Reforms," the headline read, but the story said that opposition in Congress is virtually unammous. To Norman Ornstein, safe in a D .C. think tank, it seemed "ridiculous: the fact that leaders such as Alexander tout the idea just proves that otherwise sensible people just lose it sometimes. It is hard to imagine a dumber idesL" I would like to offer today a Merent perspective. For the last several weeks I have been driv- ing across America, staying in homes with people, most of whom I have never met before, eating supper with them, staymg up late talking. Some of you who have known me for a while know I didasimil thing 16 years ago whe n I walked 1,000 miles across Tennessee over six months to become as governor. If I could figure out a sensible way to walk across the United States, I would probably be doing diaL But driving is the next best thing, and it is something a great many Americ ans of all ages do in the summertime. A Wonderful-But Grumpy-Country Out there on the interstates and back rands of America, even the roads themselves remind you what a really magnificent country this is. When our family lived in Australia a few years ago, one Aussie said to me, "Do you realize that no odier country has an interstate system like you Americans haveT'I had never thought of that. But, driving across it, ff you take the temperature of this wonderful country, you find it also troubled and grump y . A bumper sticker on Interstate 10 in Louisiana said, "Make Welfare As Hard To Get As A Building Permit." Another one in South Carolina said, "I Love My Country, But I Fear My Government." Here we me. at pe in the world; the economy is growing; dim is on e supeqxwer and we're it; 20 percent of all the world's money is in our pockets. We win most of the Nobel Prizes. our universities am the ones everyone wants to attend People am this very minute swimming, floating, and running to reach our borders and live in this country-yet we we grumpy and off tracL We sense that something is wrong. We art-too many of us-losing our sense of opti- mism about our future. Almost everyone I've visited with on this drive believes that our condition is primarily a trouble of t h e spirit, and that at hem we already know what to do about it. Where I've been, there is very little interest in re-inventing America fromWashington. D.C., and a great deal of in- M=t in reminding ourselves who made this such a great country in the first place. Nearly
T,gm Akxander has been Governor of Tennessee. president of *e University of Tennesseet, and U.S. Secretary of Education. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson inantuie and Chairman of 7be Republican Neighborhood Meetmg. He spoke at 7be Heritag e Foundation on July 27,1994, qxmsored by 7be Heritage Foundation's Governors' Forum. ISSN M72-1155 0 1994 by Mw Heritage Foundation.everyone I've visited believes that th e answers are in our homes, our shops, meeting halls, din- ers, community centers, synagogues, churches, and in the classrooms of America. Hardly anybody believes the ah-swers are in Washington, D.C. Let me be more specific about what I've been hearing at the supper table and in my late eve- ning conversations. What I've Been Hearing Let me start with what I have not been hearing. It struck me this, morning as I read the Wash- ington newspapers, consumed by Whitewatergate and health cam, that during the pa st three weeks on my drive I've probably board seven minutes total about thosetwo subjects. And all seven minutes have beezi on health care. What I have heard about is crime. People am afraid to take walks in their neighborhoods, and not just in big citie s . Henning, Tennessee, population I a00-my old friend Alex Haley's home town-had its first drive-by shooting this year. Everyone has a welfare story. In Cassville, hfissouri, I visited with a couple, both of whom are in their 20's and work on a production l ine, makin $7.79 and $8.89 antour. They know exactly what the federal benefits am in the Cassville area. They wonder why-when all the companies in the area we hiring-some of their friends make more not working than they do working. In Dalla , at the homel e ss shelter, or in Pensacola, where the military,is cutting back, there is a good deal of talk about jobs and the future. In truth, even though the economy is growing, most people are worried about theirjobs and their future. Every year 10 percent of worki n g Amen- cans lose their jobs. Those who lose jobs almost always find now one& but it is hard to count on anything when the economy is so turbulent Talk of jobs usually leads to talk about schools. Parents worry about losing control of dw schools toWashing t on, D.C. bureaucrats, social scientists, and Hollywood values. They worry about &eir child's safety. They worry about whether their children, an learning enough to sur- vive in the new job market. Them am two subjects, however, that by far I bw the most a b otit. The first is a feeling rang- ing fim to outrage at the size, growth, and moddlesomeness of the government in Washington, D.C The second is a sonsem-getting back to that grumpiness I mentioned a mo- ment ago.-that the country is seriously off track, i t has wandered away from the principles and institutions that made it so remarkable in the first place. This second subject is expressed in many difkrent ways in almost every visit. For example. I asked two Cherokee women in Eastern Oklahoma. "Whaesthe bi g gestiproblem facing youT' And one, who works with federal pants, began munediatedy to say. "Well, we don't have the re- sourm to do this program and the resources to do dud program...." The other one listened for a while and said, "No, thaes not it. We do n 't take the tirm to remember what is most important to us and pass it down. We don't take the time to remember what we need to hold fast and true.- Now, that is a pretty remarkable answer, actually, for a casual afternoon conversation. But I've found that most Americans, if given the chance, do not want to have a trivial conversation about this country. They are too worried about 1L They want to talk about what kind of country we have, the concerns they have about its drift, about moving away from ideas th at are important and about broken-down institutions that we've depended on in the pasL
2But my remarks today are about the first subject I've been hearing the most about-about the government in Washington, D.C. This is where we must start in order to help put the country back on track.
It's Washington, D.C., Stupid! What has startled me in nearly three weeks so far of driving across America staying with peo- ple has been the depth and breadth of the sense of outrage and exasperation about the overnment in Washington-its, spending, its growth, its meddling, its perceived arrogance. In Henning, Tennessee, that little town of 1,200, they were talking about a woman whom everybody seemed to know. Every time she tried to get off welfare, she was pulled back b y the loss of benefits as she moved ahead. Everybody wanted to help her, but they kept saying, "We can't fit the progmnis we get to help her." And the Mayor finally said, "Washington, D.C. does not know what Henning needs." In Savannah, Georgia I spent th e night with Henry Delaney, a minister who in 1989 moved to 32nd Street in the inner city and has literally taken it over. He grew his congregation from 300 members to 3,000. The church bought eight crack houses, moved drug dealers out and moved as- sistan t ministers in. Rev. Delaney has started a school for boys. His wife has started a sort of charm school for girls. They're taking that street back. I spent the night with them and heard not one gunshot. He asked me, 'Now, I know a lot of women who want to g o to work@" and he added up the $250 they got for food stamps, the amount they get for AFDC@ and all the other benefits and then the benefits they lose when they cam to work. "Now,this isn't so hard to fig- ure out. Why don't they just let some of us here figure out how to help those who need it, as well as who doesn't deserve our help'" At the homeless shelter in nalle where I stayed, Father Jerry Hill, who has been working on the streets for 22 yews in Chicago and Dalls , will not take a federal gram He s aid, "I would rather raise the money. I got died of spending Fridays filling out forms jus*ing bow I spent Monday through Thursday." And he said. "Federal grants am makin anationofliarsoutofus." These are his words. "Bacmise the money is offered for progr a ms we don't need, and then we in- vent and manufacture applications to get the money to do the things that need to be done." Father Hill is outraged that the government mWashington is now giving Somal Security dis- ability benefits to drug addicts. "I jus t throw up my hancb4 I can't help them@ he said, "when they have $446 a month of support for their dependency@" I couldn't repeat hem what the self-employed contractor in Jackson, Mississippi, told me when I talked with hum. He had spent all day fillizig o u t some government forms. Here in Washington, D.C., everyone is talking about die crime bill Congress is trying to pass. I haven't run into anybody in dnw weeks who thinir it will make the street where they live safer. And I have run into only one law enfo r cement oftial who is for it. Now, there must be people who we for it, otherwise I-ni sure the Resident and the Congress wouldn't be thinking about spending $30 billion on such a thing. That's $600 million or so in it forTennessee. That's a lot of money. I n Baton Rouge, however, the Sheriff doesn't really want it, and probably won't hire any of the 100,000 police officers. bwmise he said, "in two years do money will be gone and I'll have the employees and I won,t have any way to pay them." And then he said, "I've just gotten through with the Brady Bill. I've had to him two new employees and buy a bunch of fax ma- chines, when my jail is overcrowded and we needed the money for that." During lunch, the District Attorney in Baton Rouge put it this way: "If they were cooking our dinner up them in3
Washington, even if they were good cooks, by the dine it got here it would be cold andwe'd be gone. There are many more examples and stories. The government in Washington devours our pay- check, promises too much, delivers too little, pretends to do things we know very well it can't do, tells people to do things they don't want to do, and then tells us to pay for it ourselves. You can understand why Washington has come to be regarded as a company town that has grow n too big for its britches. It is the whole town: the Congress, the bureaucrats, the President, the media, the talk shows, and if you will excuse me, some think-tank talk, too. The sense of outrage among mainstream Americans @right now should not be. imsit ed. It is the stuff of which uprisings we made.Why 11!s Different This Time When I report these feelmgs to my fiiends; in Washington they nod solemnly as if they have heard it all before. In the spirit of Bill Bennett, I &ink of Aesop's fable about the b oy who cried wolf once too often and was finally eaten when nobody listened. Others suspect that I have cooked up this new discovery for political remons. But this a not a new subject for me. I grew up in a mountain part of Tennessee where the stock and t r ade of Re- pubhcan meetings is rantmg and mving against the'federal governmea When I was Governor, I used to say that I spent more time in Japan thari I did in Washnigton, because I thought it would help my state more. And it did. More than ten years ago, I suggested to President Reagan that the government swap the states' share of Medicaid for federal elementary and secondary education ftids. In other words, the fed- cral government would take over all of Mahcaid and the Mates and localities would take ba c k full control of their elementary and secondary schools. When I became Cbmirmaii of the nation's governors in 1995, 1 thought the Governors were spending most of their. time pretending to be U.S. Senators. I tried hard to put the focus back on our execut i ve at home. Our country has become too focused on Washington. So has our Republican Party. At South- ern Republican leadership meetings, it seemed all we would do was bring in well-respected people fromWashington to talk about Washington issues. I became s o exasperated that, in 1986, I helped form something called the Republican Exchange, so we could talk about how to how to create safe, clean commi where children could grow up healthy, go to a good school, and get a good job, which is what we were suppose d to be working on. In 1995, a group of Republican -91 led by Non Gingrich and several of us activist Republican Governors spent a weekend in theTannessee mountain to see whether we were re- ally in the same party and on the same song sheeL Of course, we q u ickly agreed that we were- that good Republican philosophy is to put a harness on the -government inWashington, and do what needs to be done in ninities and in the private,se=. So this is not a new subject for me. What is now is the number of Americans wh o want Wash- ington out of their everyday lives and the strength of their fading about it. WhyThis Isthe Issue Why has this happened? 1 think it's important to go back almost to the beginning of the can- buy to a book that has kept popping up ever since it was written. It's called 77te Promise of American Ljye, by Herbert Croly. The tide is magnificent, the first chapter is also magnificent, but for our Cane, the rest of the book is wrong. Nevertheless, it's worth paying attention to, be- cause in 1909 Cro ly wrote that what's unique about this country is the unlimited belief in
4Amarica's future. That's what is different about America, together with the idea that any of us- from wherever we came-has the opportunity to have a piece of that future. Croly argued that all of us just doing our own things in our communities didn't add u p to enough, that we needed more of 'a national purpose and national identity. He liked what Lincoln had done and what Teddy Roosevelt was doing. So he argued for a stronger, m6re activist cen- tral government. He believed the federal government's role sh o uld be more than just national defense, monetaxy and commercial -regulation. and the enforcement of our constitutional rights. He believed the government in Washington should get into the business lof raising children, eradi- cating poverty, and creating o pportunities and prosperity for all Americans. . This belief, which he articulated in a very compelling way, has been at the core of the near ceaseless expansion of the federal government, starting with the progressive on, through the New Deal and the Gre a t Society, to today's supposedly "new" Democrats. Just think of it: for over 80 yam the federal government has been growmg and growing, spending and spending, meddling and meddling. Particularly in the last .30 years, those numbers have grown into almost a bstract figures. The number of federal employees has grown from just under I miHion in 1939 to almost 3 million today. Federal spending hav gone from $715 million in 1913 to nearly $1.5 WMon today. We am now paying more in interest on the national debt th a n we am on national defense. The number of pages in the Federal Register has gone hom, 2,619 in 1936 to 61,000 in 1993. (The number of pages went down by over one-third during the Reagan Adme nistration, but it is expected to be back up to 76,000 this yea r .) We don't really need theat numbers to be convinced. You don't even need to drive across America. We can read the newspapers and look wound in our fives to see the continuing growth, spending, and meddling of the government. We can even watch an two cha n nels what is going on in Congress: taxes; in the name of creating jobs; welfare one more time from Washington., D.C.; a new national school board; turning the health care system over to the gov- ernment to run. One of the best examples of government murfe r ence n the GOALS 2000 federal education legislation that par-sad this yew, which some were touting as the greatest bill em. They're wrong: it takes us in exactly the wrong direction. It creates a national school board; pushes Gov- ernors out, and puts Was h ington experts m; puts the emphasis an "inputi" instead of results; bans tests with uences; and fails to expand choices of schools for low-, and middle-income fami- lies. Worst of all, it talm a national movement the the Governors had worked on for nearly ten years and turns, it into a federal pwgram. Nothing could be worse for our schools than talang a national education reform movement and turning it into a fixkral program. Now we have a Senator from California, I understand, wanting to pass a fixieral l a w about what the weapons policy ought to be in all of Americas 15,000 scliool districts! Well, why don't we go ahead and pass a law about what time school ought to start and who ought to empty the wastebasket and how to discipline a child who is disrespec t ful -to a teacher. I mean, do we not need parents or teachers or principals or school boards or Governors or legislators anymore? Why on earth would we want members of Congress at a distance of 3.000 miles to be setting any sort of rule like that fbr loca l schools? All of this adds up to a very serious problem Washington. D.C., is on. a collision course with the people of this country, because the government here keep doing things the most Americans know very well it should not be doing. The government in Washington just keep growing and growing and meddling and meddling.
This continuous expansion is one reason for the surge of this exasperation with the govern- ment, but there is another fundamental one we ought to recognize. We have gone dirough a great divide and are entering;i very different age. Back when Croly was advocating a large centralized government, it was the industrial age, when more centralization was the way to accomplish great things. It was a time, too, when we started to fall in love w i th the idea of single solutions to our problems. Expertise and resources from Washington, it was imagined, could solve almost any- thing. Now we have entered the age of information, and as the big, centralized industries have discov- ered, centralized bur e aucracy and decision- 9 don't work very well anymore. This is a time for being fast on your feet, having instant access to information, ideas, and expertise from around the country and the worK dealing with the unexpected, and tailoring activities to fit p ar- ticular circumstances. A large, central bureaucracy can't do that. That's true in almost every part of American life, and it is certainly true about government. As a result, such a bulky, meddle- some government in Washington has become a relic-it is o bsolete. Precisely because life is larger and so much more complicated, we need much less-not much more-government in Washington. The information age has given Americans in all walks of life the tools and the flexibility to -start making more of their own decisions, to sham ideas, to develop their own ways of solving problems. The era of the search for a single best way, whether to educate children, to help the down and out, or to preserve naurral resources, has given way to our natural inclinations as Ame r icans toward p1malism, creativity, and innovation. The lingering attitude here of "Washing- ton knows best" and the eftbrts of ffie government in Washington to MU people in states and what to do run in exactly the wrong direction. This, too, adds to the e xasperation with the federal government.
What We Need To Do What can we do about this sense of exasperation? Well, I think it is clear we need to take Herbert Croly's idea and roll it back in the other direc- tion. We need to create a new promise of Americ an fife by getting the government in Washington out of the way. And we need to be very shrewd and hard-nosed about this. The time is right. The country is ready for big changes in Washington. This is going to be a decade of enormous reform -very nearly an uprising-to bring about change in the institutions of our central government. Because the Democratic Party is so committed to the central government, so insistent on rein- venting America from here, this mutes an opening a mile wide for the Republican Par t y. But we have been Umid about plowing through that opening. I believe that after, 1996 the nation is likely to have a Republican government, that is, a Republican President and a Republican Congress- if for no other mason than because that is the only op t ion that the votershave not yet tried. Re- publicans could advance that prospect by persuading the American people that. if they choose us. we will respond boldly by sending a good part of the Weral. government home. But between now and 1996 we must think strategically about this. We must decide upon, agree upon and ad- vance big ideas that will actually work if we are given the opportunity to govern. What I propose as a first stop seem far-fetched. I'm sure. to many hem. But I believe it is very mild comp ared to what may be coming down the pike during the rem of the 1990s.6
Cut Their Pay and Send Them Home We should cut the pay of Members of Congress and send them home. Here's how it would work. Congress could: Convene on January 3rd, just as it now doe s, pass the authorization bills to help the government run, and go home early in the baseball season. V Come back Labor Day, pass the appropriations bins and any other urgent legislation, and be home by Thanksgiving. Cut the pay of Members in half and mWa l the rules that keep them from holding real jobs and leading normal lives in their home towns. Pay Members adequate per diem for travel and expenses when they are mWashmgton. If Members of Congress would eat nwm of their meals in diners in Jennings, Louis i ana, or in Nashville, or in Billings or in Hartford or anywhere in America, if they lived back in those places and had their roots them, then when these hare-brained ideas come up-turning. health cam over to the government to run, or reinventing welhm for the seventh time in Washington, or even drafting a rule about whether you can wear a cross or Star of David to work-these ideas would never see the light of day. I am talking about an old idea, this idea of the citizen, legislator, do idea that our politi c al lead- ership is supposed to be us. Tim notion is that a part time Congress of community leaders makes a be= government than a ftdl-bm Congress of cum politicians. The cmintry began with such a citizen legislature and operated that way for most of its e x istence. Former U.S. Senate load Howard Baker, not particularly known as a revolutionary, was the prime spokesman for die citizen legislature in the early 1980s. No one paid much attention even though Senator Baker at that time was selected by Republican a nd Democratic Senators as their most respected, colleague. He thought this idea of cutting their pay and sending diem home would dignify the Congress by forcing it to concentrate on the most urgent issues. Senator Baker said do other day on our Republic= e i Meeting broadcast. -1 love the Congress, but I don't think ies essential to stay in Washington and be captured by the Federal District. I'd like to see diem in six months a year, and reffieved of the total dependence of the fed- eral paycheck. I'd like t o we them once umme become cid= legislators@" It is worth noting that Thomas Jefferson belmved seven years was enough for any of Amer- ica's diplomats to serve in another country. After that, he warned, "They'll ceW to become citizens of the United StateO The same thing applies to Members of Coagress. If you move hem, if you am f1orced by law to give up your normal job and income, if you put your kids in school here, it is very hard not to become a citizeii of die District of Columbia and cease to be a cit i zen of the district you represent. ibis idea-maybe mom than any other-would begin to change the culture of the company town, and help to shift the focus away from Washington and back to communities. Critics, of course, are apt to object by arguing that th e business of the federal government has become too complicated and intricate to be handled by part-time legislators. I believe that one mason for this is because the work of Congress has expanded to fill the available time. Another mason is that Washingto n -with all its special interests and experts-also has a tendency to Overcomplicate alnmt everything. Nobody I've seem on my drive has been jumping for joy over Cbngress's famous deficit reduction package and tax increases, or the 1,400 page health ca re- f orm bill. Regular Americans sitting around a kitchen table over a short period of time could7
come up with more fair, straight-forward, and effective answers. It is possible and usually better to deal with large matters in an uncomplicated way. A time limit would encourage just that. On my drive I stopped by Houston. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was there. After my re- mark , Kay said, "It's a great idea. We should cut our pay and send ourselves home. It is the kind of Congress the framers imagined." I t may cause snorts here in Washington, but in Dallas and Fort Smith and Savannah and Hartford and all the places that I've been, it first brings smiles and then applause and then people rising from d= chairs. Cut their pay and send them home. I believe it would dignify Congress, shrink the federal gov- ernment, and be themost important first step we could take toward the now promise of American life. I also believe, by the way, that this would be the surest way for Newt Gingrich to become the Speaker of th e House. Newt and his colleagues are going to stand on the Capitol steps on September 27th and my what a Republican agenda will be in hopes that the people of the coun- try will put them in charge by January. I think a one-item agenda woulddo it. If they w ould stand up and say, "Elect us. We'll cut our pay in half and send ourselves; home for half a year, take a real job and work alongside you:' they would be members of a Republican Congress in January.
Send the Bureaucmcy Home, Too Sending the Congress hom deals with only one mun that needs to be turned around and sent off in the opposite direction. So that we don't create imbalances in our system of government, we should send home chunks of the federal bureaucracy as well. Senator Nancy Kassebaimf s welfa r e proposal would be a good place tD starL While everyone else seem to think the problems of weffm all across America can be solved fromWashington, she proposes sending Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Food Stamps, and the Women, Infants and Childr e n program back to the states along with the money to pay for them That is $41 billion that states could decide what to do with. In exchange, the federal government would take over the states' share of Medicaid, whw1i is plagued with problem that come from having two masters instead ofjust one. This is dw one wdhm reform proposal that would work. What would happen with welfare? You would have all sorts of ideas and approaches ging up. I am certain Reverend Henry Delaney would know just what to do with that w elfare money on 32nd Street in Savannah. And so would the Mayor of Henning. So would Father Hill and the Cherokee Chief I vmted. So would mcwt communities across this country. Another obvious candidate for being sent home is job awning. There on about 90 f ederal job traming program, spending about $25 billion. Rep. Bill Zeliff of Now Hampshire believes most of thew should be transferred to state and community and private sector,control. He is right. Washington seem to have forgotten that the best training f or work is work. Our national leader- ship spews out this, nivadve dud "entry lever jobs are demeaning. When I came along. entry level jobs w= something you got patted on the back for doing. If you went to work sweeping or washing or waiting tables, you d i dn't have some Cabinet Secretary in Washington saying the country's going down the dram because everybody is doing entry level jobs. We were encour- aged to do that, to sweep the store and drearn of owning the store one day. That is how we learned to work . We should also send home 150 tederg elementary and secondary education program that spend about $15 billion each year. Governor VOinOvich Of Ohio says his ts spend half their time filling out forms to get federal money that comprises 5 or 6 percent of th eir local school budgets. Parents and - mmitnities, not Washington, can do a better job deciding what's best for our children's future.8
In choosing the strategies that are most likely to succeed in helping to send Washington home, high on the list al so should go: V Tenn limits; V A balanced budget amendment; V Linewitern veto for the President; V A systematic review of the rule-making authority of federal boards and agencies,- of The election of a President who will veto legislation that imposes cost s on state and local governments without paying for it. V Considering whether, in this telecommunications age, some of the federal departments and agencies might best be relocated outside the Beltway.
Focus the Presidency We should not ignore the Presidenc y as we consider how to roll back the influence of &a gov- ernment in Washington, D.C. This is a topic that deserves an entire discussion of its own, but let me briefly offer a few thoughts. The Presidency is the most unique and valuable institution our c o untry has in a time of great change. More than any other institution, it can help us see who we we and where we am going and what we need to do to get there. It can set an agenda, maim things happen. We ought to em- ploy the Presidency in a nx= focused wa y . When I became governor, a friend of mine gave me a book by Lyndon Johnson's former press secretary, George Ready, called 7he 7kOgk of the Presdency. In it I found a definition of the Presidency that I thought also applied to the and so I used, it for ei g ht years. Reedy wrote that aside ham serving as commander in chief, what a President ought to do is three thinp: first, see the few most urgent needs facing the country; second, develop a strategy for dealing with each need;- and third, persuade at IeM ha l f the people he is fighL That's good ad- vice. And we should got the Presidency back into the position when that's what the President is trying to do. ft means first tending to -, Diisibilities as commander in chief. In Baton Rouge, someone asked me what a dvice I would give President Clinton if he were suddenly to walk in the door. We had been tallang about welfare, crime, scloolk and jobs. I said this: i"I would respecdblly suggest to the President that be assemble wound him a town of men and 1women who I m ow the worK understand national security and foreign policy issues, understand when to project our force and when not to. Then listen to their advice, maim a daemon, support the decision, and see it through to the an&- It is not so unusual to have a Presi d ent who doesn't Imaw everything about the world going in. It is unusual to have one who doem't seem to know anybody else who does. Focusing the Presidency mom dispalling this notion that there can be a domestic President. There is no such thing. Everythin g about this world is too much intertwined. The President is the one American who can do the most to untangle it for all of us. George Shultz says that Ronald Reagan's most important act in foreign policy in his early years was the firing of the air traffi c controllers. president Reagan said, -H you violate your oath, you will be fired." They did, and he did-and it sent a c1m message to Qadhafi and people all around the world. Secretary of State Shultz said, "It made my job much eader."p
Focusing the Presidency also means promising to do less for people through federal programs, while providing leadership to help people do for themselves more of what needs to be done. Mar- garct Thatcher used to talk about the "nanny state," and I believe the President should not act or be expected to act like the nation'. s nanny. Focused presidential leadership would be useful right now in helping us as a country set some clear limits, both about our role in the world and our role at home. What, we don't do can be as much an affirmation of policy as what we do do. And we haven't really come to terms with that. What we don't try to do from Washington, D.C., about crime in Savannah is policy. Every time we make a federal decision about what happens in a cla s sroom, it takes away from the teacher, the parent, and the community the freedom to make that decision for themselves. If we do not in- vade Haiti, that is just as important a part of our policy-and part of a set of clear objectives-as was invading KuwaiL
The Challenge Earlier this yea, we began at the Hudson Institute a project, called the New Promise of Amen- can Life, to examine how we might roll back the expansion of the federal government that Croly helped spark 80 years ago. I would hope the Heritage and others might work with us to find chunks of the government in Washington that can be sent home, as long as Congress is going to be home more, and as long as do President is going to concentrate more of the Presidency on the most, urgent needs facing t he country. That would be step one toward renewing the promise of American life. The second step, dm is probably niore difficult. It involves iflustrathig what happens with welfare, about schools, about safe strects if the federal government titkes, Iess o f a role and com- munities, have more in their hands. Such an approach represents a very unsatisfying set of answers for any disciple of Herbert Croly, because unless we have a federal program or a Wash ington, D.C., response, we're considered to be doing nothing. I wish some of the people who iwl diat way had a chance to be with me these past few weeks and to see Henry Delaney on 32nd Street in Savannah. I wish they could1have been with me on my visit with Reuben Greenberg, the police chief of Charleston, South Carolina, who has cut se- nous crime by very simple actions, like putting four police officers on die street to take to school any child under age 17 who is walking the street during school hours, or to take home any child under age 17 who is anywhe r e outside the home after midnight- Every school board ought to visit Becci Boakner, the tes in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who has helped to open the public schools 12 hours a day all yew with academic programs at no extra, cost to the taxpayer. Most of the a nswers to the problem that trouble. must spring up from the families and commu- mues of America. The now promise of American life comes from communities. America had 1 lunities before it had a central government. The greatness of our country has always co me from communities, and not from reinventing America in Washington, D.C.
Conclusion Driving through Southwest Missouri, I visited the homeplace of Albert E. Brumley. If you grew up anywhere in the South or Southwest, you grew up listening to Albert E. Bru mley's gos- pel songs. He was chapping cotton in a hot Missouri sun in the late 1920s, thinking them has to be some- thing better than this, when he thought of his first gospel song, -'I'll Fly Away." 'I'll Fly Away" Is played on every gospel station in t he country and on most country stations almost every day. I
10spent several hours visiting with Brumley's sons, playing the piano, singing his Songs. He Wrote 1,000 Of them. Albert's son Bill said, "'I'll Fly Away' was publis.hod in 1932. 1 think the:r eason it went so big was because those were hard times." An&ftn he said, "Ibese are hard times, too, but in a differ- 99 ent way. These me hard times. It is harder to be a parent, a teacher, a student, a policeman, a nurse. It seems harder to start a busi n ess, to fiW and keep a job. It is not easy to be a good political leader in such a troubled, cynical time. Despite all the impressive national statistics that can be mus- tered up, we are grumpy, troubled, and off UwL One huge reason is that the governmen t in Washington is suffocating so much of what we need to do. It has become a dead weight on our fawre. U we can push the government out of do way, then we will at least be fi= to do something ourselves about the drift of our country away from principles t hat made it great to begin with and to repair institutions we have always derided upon-do family, the- neighborhood, the church, the school-that have become broken. These we the greatest challenges we face in these hard times.
Cut their pay and send them home may be catchy phrase, but it is a catchy phrase for a serious idea. A's more than a bumper stic1mr. Ws a plan to cut back onWashington's meddling-and to encourage cominunity answers to community problems. h should become -the centerpiece for a set of proposals that will send a good part of die government in Washington, D.C., home. It is probably the tip of the iceberg in die 1990s. A could help to give America a Republican national overnment by 1996. Most important@ it is the smut first step toward th e now promise of Amen- con life.}}