More on the Calvo Home Invasion

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher had a nice piece about the Calvo incident.  Mr. Fisher was in attendance at our policy forum last week .  Also, the popular blog site Boing Boing  picked up our event and our podcast interview with Mayor Calvo.  Today, we have a podcast interview with Radley Balko, author of the Cato study, Overkill.

Five More Years of E-Verify: $572,000,000

More than half-a-billion dollars is the cost that the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will take to run “E-Verify,” the federal government’s immigration background-check system, for five more years. That’s about five dollars per U.S. family, according to WashingtonWatch.com’s net present value calculation. (Disclosure: I run that site.)

Think that’s not much? Take five dollars out of your wallet and tear it up. Then imagine every family in the country tearing up five dollars at the dinner table - before eating a meal made more expensive by the dearth of good workers in the United States to grow, harvest, process, ship, and vend their food.

E-Verify is about spending money to worsen our country’s economic situation. And if E-Verify were to go national, it would be used to give the federal government even more regulatory control over law-abiding Americans.

My paper on the topic is “Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification: Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration.”

“Four Hours Later, They Left Us With an Unsecure Door, a House Turned Upside Down, and Two Dead Dogs”

Yesterday, Berwyn Heights, Md., mayor Cheye Calvo spoke at the Cato Institute about his experience on the receiving end of a misdirected drug raid. He sat down later to record today’s Cato Daily Podcast [MP3].

Calvo recognizes that he is one of the lucky ones because nobody in his family was hurt and because he is in a position to object to this kind of treatment.

If you haven’t felt outrage at the drug raid epidemic across the country, and the danger it creates for citizens and law enforcement, maybe it will help you to know that they shot the dogs.

Audio and (soon) video are on the Cato website. Radley Balko’s study “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America” can be purchased here.

They shot the dogs.

The Fraudulence of Bureaucratic ‘Accountability’

Most education policy analysts, most politicians in both parties, and both presidential candidates have expressed their support for bureaucratic “accountability” in education — the belief that government-imposed testing regimes can signficantly improve the quality of American education. They persist in this belief despite the fact that U.S. academic achievement has stagnated or declined both before and after the passage of No Child Left Behind, the signature legislation of accountability gurus.

Perhaps what is needed is a visceral example of WHY government-mandated testing has proven to be of such dubious worth. For example, this Charleston, SC school’s meteoric test score gains over the past five years have all but vanished in a single year after the administration and grading of students’ tests were taken out of the hands of school officials.

True accountability is not achieved when the quality of a child’s education is measured by a single set of government tests. It is achieved when parents are free to choose from among a variety of competing, mininally regulated schools.

“Law and Order” — YouTube Version

My colleague David Boaz posted here a few months ago with a memorable reminder of what “law and order” means. Discussing a pair of Virginia Supreme Court cases that overturned drug convictions premised on searches conducted without sufficient suspicion, he said:

Advocates of liberty and limited government should not concede the concept of “law and order” to those who engage in “excessive use of police powers.” Those who actually believe in law and order would hold police and prosecutors, as well as criminal suspects, to the rule of law; and that seems to be what the Virginia Supreme Court did.

I was reminded of this when I came across this video of a law-and-order type encountering Customs and Border Patrol agents as he attempted to drive on State Route 86 in Arizona. It’s as exciting to watch as any TV show.

Teachers Union Leader Joins School Choice Group

Ron Matus of the St. Petersburg Times writes that Florida’s school choice movement has a couple of new recruits: former teachers union leader Doug Tuthill and former St. Petersburg Times editorial writer Jon East — both erstwhile critics of the state’s education tax credit program. The two have just signed on as the new president and new communications director, respectively, of the Florida School Choice Fund. The Fund accepts taxpayers’ donations and then offers tuition assistance to low income families who want to send their children to private schools. The taxpayers making the donations can then claim dollar-for-dollar credits against state taxes.

As noted twice before on this blog in just the past several months, the times they are a changin’. Support for private school choice was once a thoroughly partisan affair, and seen in some quarters as a threat to the ideals of public education. That is becoming less and less the case. Sooner or later, educational freedom will reign in this country.

For now, there are still politicians who send their own children to private schools while opposing programs that would bring that same choice within reach of lower-income families. Perhaps, in the long run, they may be forgiven by posterity. In the medium term, though, they are likely to pay a price at the ballot box.

You’ll Get Served

Tonight Barack Obama and John McCain will appear together in New York to “discuss in depth their views on service and civic engagement in the post-9/11 era” in a primetime forum hosted by ServiceNation, “a dynamic new coalition of 110 organizations that has a collective reach of some 100 million Americans and is dedicated to strengthening our democracy and solving problems through civic engagement and service.” 

According to their website, bethechangeinc.org, ServiceNation does not support mandatory national service. Their model is a dramatically expanded version of the subsidized volunteerism so popular on both sides of the political aisle. (For Cato work on federal national service programs and proposals, go here.)

Starting Inauguration Day 2009 — and culminating on next year’s 9/11 anniversary — they’ll be pushing their “advocacy campaign for national service legislation.” Among the proposals they favor: “Expanding service on college campuses. Placing 1 million Americans per year in full- and part-time stipended national service by 2020.” As the website states: “This policy agenda proposes meaningful opportunities for service at every key life stage, and for every socioeconomic group, from kindergarten through the post-retirement years.”

One wonders what sort of useful “service” five-year-olds can perform in between playtime and naptime. But the point, apparently, is that “these proposals will help instill a culture of service at an early age and provide opportunities for Americans to continue serving throughout their lifetimes.”

As tonight’s event demonstrates, both parties link the call for national service to the tragedy of September 11th. At last month’s Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, Pastor Rick Warren asked both candidates “what do you think is the greatest moral failure of America?”  McCain’s answer was especially interesting.  Was it slavery?  Indian removal?  Japanese internment?  Nope: 

I think America’s greatest moral failure has been… throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest, although we’ve been at the best at it of everybody in the world.

McCain continued with a backhanded dig at President Bush’s post-9/11 advice to Americans to “Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida.” McCain told Warren:

I think after 9/11, my friends, instead of telling people to go shopping or take a trip, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, the military, expand our volunteers, expand what you’re doing — (APPLAUSE) — expand what you’re doing, expand the current missions that you are doing, that you are carrying out here in America and throughout the world, in Rwanda. And I hope we have a chance to talk about that later on.

In an October 2001 Washington Monthly article, McCain displayed what Matt Welch has called his “essentially militaristic conception of citizenship.” He praised City Year, an AmeriCorps initiative operating in 13 cities: “City Year members wear uniforms, work in teams, learn public speaking skills, and gather together for daily calisthenics, often in highly public places such as in front of city hall.” He also endorsed the National Civilian Community Corps, “a service program consciously structured along military lines,” in which enrollees “not only wear uniforms and work in teams… but actually live together in barracks on former military bases.” McCain calls for expanding these two initiatives and “spread[ing] their group-cohesion techniques to other AmeriCorps programs.” But perhaps we can take heart in McCain’s grudging admission that “it is not currently politically practicable to revive the draft.”

In any event, it’s good that ServiceNation is encouraging people to help their neighbors out. But why does that effort have to culminate in federal legislation? All too many people, Left and Right, seem to buy into David Brooks’s notion that “ultimately, national purpose can only find its voice in Washington.” According to that mindset, if a barn-raising takes place without a federal subsidy, it’s like it hasn’t really happened at all.

Few of us will want to argue with noble sentiments like Obama’s (or was it God’s?) injunction to act as our “brother’s keeper” or McCain’s call to serve “a cause greater than our self interest.” But it’s hard to see how any of this is their — or the government’s — business.

Americans help each other out in myriad ways everyday without expecting a government paycheck or the seal of approval from a newly minted bureaucracy. But when Americans perform charitable works outside the state, it’s awfully hard for politicians to take credit for their service.