Bobby Scott’s PROMISE

Debate has heated up over a piece of legislation Rep. Bobby Scott sponsored about a year ago. H.R 1064/S.435, the Youth PROMISE Act. PROMISE stands for “The Youth Promise through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education.

Bobby Scott says the way to reduce gang violence and membership is through prevention using “evidence-based” strategies”. (strategies which are not defined by the bill)

Randy Forbes (who originally co-sponsored the bill but now says it won’t work) claims we need stiffer jail sentencing to deter gangs.

Now everyone is asking the question, who is right, which strategy is correct. The Virginian-Pilot is putting up polls, the commentors are picking sides and arguing their position.

The problem is, it doesn’t matter which position is correct (if either) the bill does neither of these things. Once again, the people and the Virginian-Piliot are missing the point and asking the wrong questions.

The purpose of this bill is not gang prevention, both Scott and Forbes know this and I know it too.

There already several such bills on the books, they pop up every couple years to serve a specific purposes which are delineated below:

1) Distribute wealth. It will take very minute amounts of money from large groups of individuals and give  large amounts of money to small groups of individuals. The money taken from the large groups of people will be small enough where they won’t notice it from this one particular law and therefore will have no incentive to fight it. They simply won’t care or won’t see it worth their time since the gain will be small. For those who will be enriched by the bill, they have a lot to gain and will fight for it and pledge their support and money to Scott in future elections. You don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you.

2) Look like you are doing something. It doesn’t matter that there are plenty of these bills on the books. Come election time, Rep. Scott will say, “I passed this bill, I reduced gang violence, I helped the community.” It won’t matter whether gang activity went up, went down, or stayed the same or what the reasons behind those trends are, it won’t be quantified and he won’t be called out on it. Now you can’t be labeled as “soft on crime”. Civic leaders will eat it up, they will probably be getting rich off it, Bobby Scott will be re-elected by a land-slide.

3) These bills are “Earmark Havens”. They aren’t there yet, but you better believe they will after this bill leaves committee and goes to the floor. Why? because nobody will dare vote against it (except Ron Paul). Again, what the bill contains and what it does (which I will detail later) do not matter, only the title does. If you vote against it, your opponent come election time will label you as “soft on gangs“. It doesn’t matter how many earmarks get attached and how egregious they are, no one will want the label. Besides, most Congressman won’t care about the excessive earmarks others are attaching to the bill because they will be too busy trying to add their own. It is very safe to deliver their kick-backs.

So why is Randy Forbes having a change of heart on the bill? I can only make assumptions, but here they are:

1) The Republican voting base loves police officers and para-military organizations. He wants different people to get the money. Bobby Scott is looking to enrich civic leaders and people who set-up non-profits, where Randy Forbes wants it to police organizations who “keep a close eye” on citizens and their activities.

2) Those of us who are in the large groups that pay for these types of political payoffs are tired of getting nickel and dimed. It is starting to add up and so when another bill sporting 2 billion dollars over five years in additional spending comes along, Forbes will find it in his best interest to oppose it in the wake of the “health care bill, cap and trade, and ARRA. He can appeal to more voters that way and claim he is a wasteful spending hawk.

So, what does the bill actually do?

The simple answer is provide us with more government bureaucracy and a political pay-off delivery system.

Several new bureaucracies are added with appropriations for grant money and a few existing bureaucracies are given appropriations to dispense as they please. The bill does not really address anything else. The qualifications to receive grant money are NOT provided. The methods and strategies to prevent gang violence are NOT provided. The goals of the bill are NOT provided. Measures or success or effectiveness are NOT provided. How much money people can give away IS provided.

The main focus of the bill is amending the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (I guess they didn’t spend as much time thinking up cool acronyms in the 70’s) to form a PROMISE advisory panel. The panel will function as part of the DOJ and regulate and monitor PROMISE panels on the state and local level. This advisory is the key component is asset allocation and were you will want to send the lobbyists for your “non-profit” organization.

There are other places though to go seeking cash, so you won’t need to place all your eggs in one basket. The US Attorney General will get 10 mil a yr through 2014 to provide grants to public/private entities to prevent or alleviate the effects of youth violence. (This does not sound like the AG’s job to me).

But you don’t need to go directly to the AG if you don’t want to. Under the AG will be the Center of Youth-Oriented Policies and the Director of the National Institute of Justice.

The DOJ will also add the National Research Center for Proven Juvenile Justice Practices. This new bureaucracy will get 5 million a year in funding and responsible for collecting and disseminating information to the PROMISE councils. (I will offer to do this job. Give me 1 thousand dollars, I’ll set up an FTP site and a Facebook group page. It’s win-win. The job will get done all the same at lower cost and I will make a great profit.)

The list simply continues. It will establish the Interagency Gang Prevention Task Force, which takes members of other gang task forces and puts them together. It add the Office of Community Oriented Policy Service, again just to hand out unspecified monetary grants. ect,ect, ect.

So, what questions need to be asked? Prevention? Tougher Sentencing? Or do we ask ourselves if we need to continue centralizing money and power in DC? Will we continue to allow our elected representatives to take our money and hand it over to their supporters under the guise of doing good?

How do I think we need to curb gang violence? – I don’t know, that isn’t the purpose of this bill and we shouldn’t pretend that it is. I do know these additional bureaucracies will fix nothing. The solutions will have to come from individuals, from parents, religious leaders, from government removing itself as a barrier to individual success. Each individual situation will be different and must be treated as such, government legislation can not do that.

Did I miss anything?


7 Responses to Bobby Scott’s PROMISE

  1. Yes actually you did miss something:

    1. “Plenty other bills like this…?” Name ONE other bill out there like the Youth PROMISE Act that is “on the books” right now. Just name ONE.

    2. Do you really think your government just “hand(s) out unspecified monetary grants…” Really? Groups place themselves under far more scrutiny when they except these grants. Trust me they’d prefer private funding.

    3. Name ONE rich civic leader in Hampton Roads, Va.

    4. Do your homework: Rep. Scott has been a lock for re-election since he was elected in 1992. Just as Forbes’ dist is gerrymandered for Republicans, Scott’s district is gerrymandered for Democrats. Scott and Forbes will be re-elected in 2010 whether this bill passes or not.

  2. Rich Roberts says:

    It’s never a good idea to accuse me of not doing my homework. I’m a total bookwork.

    1. I mentioned 2 others in the post, but I will list out a few other examples. Peruse Title 42 of US code, pay attention to chapter 136, violent crime and law enforcement:

    sec 12656: Urban Youth Corps: establishes mentoring, education, and work opportunities for “high risk” youth. Sounds famaliar?
    sec 13921: Gang resistance education and training projects
    sec 5616: Coordinating council on juvenille justice
    sec 5783 grants for deliquency prevention programs
    sec 11801: establishment of drug abuse and education and prevention
    sec 14062: gang investigation coordination and information.

    There is some light reading for you. But if you take a look and read HR 1064/S.435 you will see all of them establish various commissions and panels and apporiate money to be distributed as they see fit.

    2. YES! I don’t know how else to say it other than YES!!! ABSOLUTELY!!!!! Read some bills, hell watch the frickin’ news, I didn’t know anyone one though this doesn’t happen, just some people think it is okay and others do not.
    But specific to the bill, some accountability is required for certain agencies with their grants, for others it is not. One of the funding mechanisms didn’t have limits like the others, they were given a blank check.

    3. I will not name private citizens, but if you deal with enough “not-for-profits” that just means the organization doesn’t make money or pay taxes, funds they don’t use for their purpose go into the director/boards pockets.

    4. This was never questioned in my post. Scott is a lock, Forbes is less secure than Scott, but I sure wouldn’t bet against him. I sat at a breakfast and listened to a former Virginia Delegate brag on how well he “packed” the 3rd district so the Republicans would always win the 1st, 2nd, and 4th.

    All in all I know this is an insignificant bill. I think it is a good illistration of how things work, what a bill actually contains after you drive past the fancy sounding title.

    What else you got Lauren? I like it when people make work.

  3. I have a detour for your light reading: $2Billion over five years. Tell me which one of those programs listed will be funded to the tune of 2B over five years? Which of course, as your books have surely informed you, sets H.R. 1064 apart from all preventative crime legislation offered over the last 25 years.

    I’ll tell you what else I got: I got $60 Billion dollars a year being spent on corrections in the United States of America. I got 2.3 million behind bars. I’ve got a country with a higher percentage of people behind bars than China. You want to continue with that? You want to be Dirty Harry at election time and throw people in the slammer and pay on average $23,000 per convict?

    Or do we want to try something new at a level of funding we’ve never tried it at before? Prevention may not be macho. It may not get you votes. But guess what? It works.

    I do a tad better than reading and watching the news. I actually attend the hearings and the markups and I speak to the lawmakers face to face. I particularly spend time with the ones I may find myself in disagreement with. That includes Rep. Randy Forbes, my mother’s Congressman. He has honest reasons for being against gang prevention programs. They are mostly related to the fiscal/fraud issues. I happen to believe he’s wrong on the facts. But no problem. Fiscal concerns are legitimate.

    “Packing the 3rdD?” You think these people sit around all day conniving and smoking fat cigars in a dimly lit room?

    Republican or Democrat: They really want to get something done. Come visit Washington I’ll give you a tour.

    • Rich Roberts says:

      The funding is what this is all about and bills like this, not necessarily dealing with gang prevention, but any other additional bill that will fly under the public’s radar and have a cool sounding name because they do (both parties) want to appear to be doing something. They both want to get money in the hands of their supporters.

      The thing is, a lot of time they shouldn’t be doing anything. Gangs are local problems and should be dealt as such. If Portsmouth wants to set up a program, administer is and tax Portsmouth residents for it, I don’t have an issue. The issue can be settled by the citizens of the city face to face with their city council and if they don’t like it they can move to Chesapeake or wherever. (one point of neglect on my part, I haven’t researched any Virginia or local programs)
      I detail my reasoning on decentralization of power here: (it’s one of my favorites)

      I don’t doubt any of your crime statistics; I have heard much of that before. No, I don’t want to continue with that. I don’t see how this bill will alter any of those numbers. Analogies in history give me reason to be skeptical. The poverty level in the United States decreased every single year since the country was founded, until LBG started his “War on Poverty”. Since all that funding for those programs and grants, the poverty level in the United States has remained constant. One example.

      If we want to reduce the number of people incarcerated, we should consider some more straight forward approaches. What if we released all convicts currently doing time for non-violent marijuana possession?

      I’d be willing to up the ante and end the prohibition on drugs. You think we would learn our lesson after ending the prohibition of alcohol; it only puts control of the illicit substances in the hands of organized crime. It makes them rich, dangerous, and sparks deadly battles over territory. Legalization would do more to reduce gang violence than the Youth PROMISE act could ever dream of. If an individual decides to ruin their life through the use of drugs, well that is their choice and they will have to live with the consequences that are the responsibility of the individual and their family, not their neighbors and certainly not the states.

      You are right. I’m not a Washington insider. I don’t care to be. I don’t want other people paying for my problems; I don’t want to pay for theirs. Nothing you have said to me has changed my belief that the people in Washington are the problem and not the solution. (But that is a large task; I am stubborn).
      I will accept any and consider evidence that would change my mind.

      I know the rallying cry is “We are just trying to do some good; we are trying to help people”. That is certainly noble. That is something for individuals, not the government. The government should not be an agent for good; it should be an agent of justice. Good is too subjective, if the government becomes an agent for good, we are allowing the government into our lives at unacceptable level. Government represents force, if we allow these things under the guise of doing good, we are putting our freedom and liberty at risk. Our freedom and liberty what the government should be protecting, not jepordizing. Keep your hands off MY money; stop giving it to those who will keep you in power!

  4. Britt Howard says:

    Well done Rich! I love your proactive attention to detail and self-checking.

    I hope Lauren isn’t too out of sorts over this. It isn’t like there aren’t other bills sponsored by other legislators that do the exact same thing for different interests. You just came up with illlustrations on both Randy Forbes(R) and Bobby Scott(D) related to legislation involving “gangs”. I do admire how you were “bi-partisan” in the manner in which you called people out. Even if this legislation is nearly meaningless in the grand scheme of things you did do a fine job of illustrating your point of wealth redistribution.

  5. Britt Howard says:

    Lauren, many Libertarians agree with you on the population behind bars issue. I can’t speak for Rich I’m not familiar with his personal position on it. You’re almost taking us on to other subjects with that one.

    Do elected representatives honestly want to do something? Yes. Most of them, more the newly elected than the jaded veterans. There is that battle between ideal and the limited possible. Many things are hampered by all the exchanges between our representatives.

    Prevention efforts by the feds just isn’t effecient…..except at redistributing tax dollars to other places. If it worked…..efficiently, we would be first in line.

    The best prevention of course is good parenting and a positive environment. Yes, I am well aware that not all children are born into that. It is only natural to want to pursue some sort of fix.

    Rich’s point of this post doesn’t even center on gangs and prevention. It centers on how our government presently operates.

    Dig beneath the surface and you’ll find skeletons in the closets of our politicians. Some both engage in positive acts with sincere thoughts and exchange favors in the most unethical manner. I know people go into public service with good intentions. Many congresspeople quickly learn the reality of things as veterans put them in their place.

    Smoke filled room deals? Gerrymandering is a well known reality. Ask Bobby Scott about it. Yes, whomever is in power when it is time to re-district the population can gerrymander to their advantage. Any politician will own up to that. It is what it is.

  6. jamesquigley4congress says:

    Those that are interested in the progress of the bill should look here:

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