New administration must address youth unemployment, illegal immigration, and marijuana regulation

The Washington Times >

By George W. Liebmann – – Thursday, November 5, 2020

Perhaps one of the forgotten 4 million voters who supported Govs. Gary Johnson and William Weld despite the systematic disparagement of them by the mass media in 2016, and who was also a Republican for Biden may be permitted to suggest three domestic priorities to the new administration.

The first of these is youth unemployment. I believe the president will at least partially disarm many of his critics if he follows Franklin Roosevelt’s example and makes proposals to deal with this almost his first order of business. The first Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was opened barely three months after Roosevelt’s inauguration. The extent to which the Obama administration acquiesced in a lost generation in our large cities and declining rural areas was really quite scandalous. The only sentence in the dispiriting 2012 Republican convention which resonated was Paul Ryan’s reference to the unemployed youth reclining idly in his parents’ basement looking at a fading Obama poster.

A notion of reciprocity of obligation, rather than a dole, underlaid the youth employment programs of the New Deal, most notably the Civilian Conservation Corps, organized by Gen. George Marshall, where he made his reputation, in which millions of young men received work-readiness training in exchange for unskilled or semi-skilled labor on projects of a type that are still needed: soil conservation, flood control, reforestation, land reclamation, and the creation of new national parks and trails.

Workers under the age of 25 might be excused from payroll taxation as in Germany and more recently in Poland and Croatia, a uniform and self-executing measure that would be far less expensive than the 2% across-the-board payroll tax holiday temporarily enacted by the Obama administration as an economic stimulus measure, and younger workers might also be given access to the U.S. Employment Service, now an almost moribund agency serving recipients of unemployment insurance.

The second subject is illegal immigration. The administration will have its hands full deporting immigrants who have committed criminal offenses, and rendering the laws relating to new immigrants less perverse by emphasizing skills more than importation of relatives.

Illegal immigration may also yield to solutions based on the traditional American preference for the association of benefits and obligations, federalism and local control. One can conceive of a regime in which millions of law-abiding illegal immigrants who have successfully established themselves in the United States are granted resident alien status on condition that they, their friends, family or employers pay a substantial application fee or civil penalty, perhaps of $5,000 per person. This can scarcely be described as “amnesty.”

The billions of dollars thus raised might be earmarked for programs designed to address illegal immigration at its source, by improving public health services and the availability of nurse practitioners in the Central American countries with abnormally high birth rates and by expanding the Merida program for police training there.

In addition, the nation’s dormant local Selective Service boards, consisting of 11,000 respected local civic volunteers, might be employed to assist in the vetting of applicants for permits and the organization of settlement houses and language classes; such bodies inspire more confidence than the Washington-based Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Finally, the much-vexed problem of suffrage and the attendant demands for “paths to citizenship” could be left to the states, as Article I, Sections 2 and 4 of the U.S. Constitution contemplate. Prior to the early 1920s, nearly two dozen states enfranchised resident aliens, their actions in doing so being effective for both state and federal elections. After 1872, women’s suffrage spread gradually through the states for 50 years (and may have been decisive in the 1916 presidential election) prior to the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

The third subject is marijuana regulation. The federal prohibition has never been effective. Sumptuary laws cannot be enforced when resisted by 20% of an age cohort. This was recognized 20 years ago, to their ever-lasting credit, by Gov. Johnson and by Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore. The numerous state referenda render continuance of the federal prohibition untenable. It can be dispensed with, without an act of Congress, by reclassifying the drug.

The classification scheme admits of several policy options. One of them would require recreational users to have an initial interview with a physician before obtaining what would amount to a perpetual (or perhaps renewable) prescription, providing an opportunity for education as to effects on health. Federal legalization would also allow for the imposition of labelling standards and quality controls, now absent, similar to those under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act.

The administration should get out in front of this issue and should not commit itself to a hopeless rear-guard action which, even if successful, would require a vast increase in federal police personnel. There should be a serious campaign, similar to that respecting tobacco, to caution against the perils of marijuana use.

The chief such peril is de-motivation during the undergraduate years; secondary perils include “bad trips” and the possibility of addiction. The principal advantages of legalization are the defunding of the underworld; the elimination of hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests each year, with lifetime consequences for a large portion of the youth of our inner cities; a reduction in the homicides resulting from disputes among drug dealers; and the elimination of a multitude of points of friction between inner-city populations and the police.

As with alcohol, private tragedies will not disappear, but the traffic will no longer be a source of crime, corruption and civil disturbances in large cities.

• George Liebmann is the author of a number of books on public policy, including “America’s Political Inventors” (Bloomsbury 2019).

Posted in: Criminal Justice, Culture Wars, Drugs, Job Training, Judiciary and Legal Issues, Urban Affairs, Welfare and Other Social

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