Lies, Deceit, and Big Brother – Republican Style

The Sad Saga of the Careers Act

By Tom DeWeese

In 1992, Hillary Clinton came to the White House with a vision. That vision was clearly articulated by her colleague Marc Tucker, (president of the National Center on Education and the Economy), in a report entitled “A Human Resource Development Plan for the United States.”

Tucker introduced his plan by saying, “The great opportunity in front of the country now is to remold the entire American system for human resources development…” To achieve that “opportunity,” Tucker first outlined a “vision” that called for a “seamless web”…”of unending skill development…” “that literally extends government programs from cradle-to-grave”. The Tucker/Clinton vision was one of complete revolution of the American system. Government and business partnerships would now replace private initiative and private career choice. Our nation’s schools would now become “training centers.”

The Tucker report called for a four-point legislative plan, including a “rebuilt employment service and a new system of labor market boards.” It would put a “whole new postsecondary training system in place.” And it called for “reform” of elementary and secondary education.

Tucker’s plan was nothing less than a government-managed society, where government programs drove curriculum and school financing. Basic education would be tossed out in favor of a new managed system driven by “partnerships” between schools and business. Schools would be used merely as “apprenticeship” programs to train workers for industry. In short, the plan was pure socialism.

In 1994, the Republican Party took control of the Congress for the first time in over 50 years. There was reason to believe that Tucker’s and Hillary’s plans would be shelved, never to see the light of day. But by the time the smoke cleared and the 104th Congress adjourned, clearly two parts of Tucker’s legislative package were reality. Goals 2000 was the new “reform” of elementary and secondary education that Tucker had called for. School-to-Work was clearly the new apprenticeship program where career paths would be chosen for the students and curriculum designed “proper training.”

All that was left to pass was the “rebuilt employment services” system, where labor-market boards would join in partnership with private agencies to control the newly-molded labor force. That bill, in the 104th Congress, was called the CAREERS Act.

Parents from across the nation waged a Herculean battle to stop this final piece of the Tucker/Clinton socialization of our schools. We appealed to Republican Members of Congress (who we had helped elect) to defeat this travesty. We argued that it was “big brotherism” at its worst. We argued that it was legislation totally alien to the Republican agenda of limited government. But our pleas fell on deaf ears as Republicans actually sponsored and promoted Hillary’s vision.

Throughout my thirty years in politics I have supported and opposed legislation. Many debates have been vigorous – some even heated. Never have I experienced such surrealism as that which bedeviled the battle to stop the CAREERS Act.

Throughout the three-year battle to stop the CAREERS Act none of our actions seemed to count. No matter how many times we put the facts on the table, no matter how hard we fought, no matter how many times we jammed phone lines – nothing would deter the CAREERS Act from its destiny to be law of our land. Never, have I encountered such powerful forces behind legislation particularly when the bill was completely opposed to the ideals of the party in power – my party.

First there was Howard “Buck” McKeon, Republican congressman from California, and sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives. McKeon, under the leadership of Republican Education Committee Chairman Bill Goodling, was responsible for building support for the bill. He told his Congressional colleagues that the bill was nothing more than a “consolidation bill” that eliminated bureaucracy and cut wasteful spending and duplicate federal job training programs. This, said, McKeon, was just good Republican cost savings.

Time and again, education activists met with McKeon to warn him of the dangers of the bill. We pointed out that the bill would combine the data banks of the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, establishing a massive big brother intrusion on the lives of American school children. We told him that the bill would usurp the power of state legislatures, who would be cut out of the process as Governors were granted almost complete power to put the program in place in their states. We told him the bill was tied to School-to-Work and that curriculum would be dictated by federal bureaucrats.

Buck McKeon scoffed at all of our accusations, pinning us as uninformed radicals. Taken back by such an accusation from a “fellow Conservative,” we regrouped. Again we analyzed the bill and came to the same conclusions. We went back to McKeon. Again he denied our claims. We read sections of the bill to him to back up our claims. He turned to his aid and asked if we were correct. The aid admitted that we were. McKeon promised to look into it. Next meeting, the same scenario, same results.

Finally, the bill came to a vote on the House floor. When several Congressmen expressed doubts about the bill, McKeon reportedly assured them that Phyllis Schlafly and Eagle Forum were supporting it. So satisfied, the Congressmen voted in favor of McKeon’s bill, and it sailed to passage. The only problem was, Eagle Forum was adamantly opposed to the bill and Phyllis Schlafly had worked vigorously to defeat it. McKeon apparently “misspoke” the facts.

The bill also sailed to rapid approval in the Senate, under the sponsorship of Senator Nancy Kassenbaum of Kansas. On the floor of the Senate, as the bill was about to be voted on, Kassenbaum gave lavish praise to Senator Ted Kennedy and his staff for their help in writing the bill. Kennedy had worked closely the year before, in the 103rd Congress, with Marc Tucker. In fact, Kennedy introduced the original version of the CAREERS Act in the 103rd, and based it on Tucker’s plan.

So the CAREERS Act passed both houses of the 104th Congress and was sent to conference committee to work out differences in the two bills. It was there that the bill stumbled.

Education activists finally were able to build a head of steam against the bill. We barraged Congress with phone calls and letters. The bill became bogged down and stayed in Conference for more than ten months. Finally, just before the 104th Congress was ready for adjournment, the bill was reported out of Conference. But no floor vote was ever taken.

Republican leaders said the reason for the loss of support of the bill was because of opposition by Ted Kennedy. Kennedy was said to oppose changes made in Conference committee. But a review of the final version proved that little had been changed. There was little to “dissatisfy” the most liberal senator in America.

The truth can only be that Republicans, desperate to pass the bill, did not want to admit that there was massive opposition to the bill from their own grassroots supporters. The CAREERS Act died when Congress adjourned without taking a final vote.

At the opening of the 105th Congress, education activists again met with Buck McKeon and pleaded with him not to reintroduce the bill. Again, McKeon denied that the bill contained any of the objectionable sections. Again those parts were read to him. Again the aides admitted they were there. But the comedy became ridiculous when McKeon flatly denied that Ted Kennedy had any influence over the content of the bill. McKeon told the group that he had personally written the bill. When asked if it was just coincidence that his bill had verbatim lines from the Kennedy version, McKeon said that it was. The room exploded with laughter.

Buck McKeon has accused me of making my fight against the CAREERS Act a personal attack on him. In fact, I was personally banned from a meeting in his office – I went anyway. But we tried to reason with him. We proved time and again that our accusations were true. Nothing deterred him, and nothing slowed the bill down. Again, McKeon, under the strong, guiding hand of Chairman Goodling, introduced and passed the bill on the floor of the House. Again, The American Policy Center received reports that McKeon had assured nervous Congressmen that the only opposition to the bill was from a few “fringe radicals.”

In the Senate, the Bill was sponsored by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine. Quite frankly, Buck McKeon was an amateur in his tactics, compared to the flimflam Senator DeWine was about to perpetrate.

DeWine went to the Senate floor and made a speech that was purported to answer all of our objections. Once done, he reprinted the speech and sent it to every Member of the Senate, assuring them that his bill now fully satisfied the education activists. In truth, his answers had been highly criticized by grassroots leaders. Undeterred, he then set out to divide and conquer our troops by making phone calls to leaders and assuring them that his intentions were “pure.”

DeWine said that he opposed School-to-Work and Goals 2000. Like McKeon, he said his bill was new, with no ties to the Kennedy/Kassembaum version or to Marc Tucker. Above all, DeWine’s staff personally assured me that his bill affected only “adults” in job training programs. None of these statements were true, but, again, the bill sailed through the Senate with little opposition.

However, one snag slightly tripped up the bill during the vote. Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri managed to add an amendment stating that this bill would have no ties to School-to-Work. The amendment put into words what DeWine had been assuring Senators all along. But that one amendment caused the White House to threaten to veto the bill if the amendment was in the final version. The showdown for the conference committee was set. And DeWine’s ability to speak out of both sides of his mouth was about to be tested.

Many Senators had supported the bill only because of Ashcroft’s amendment that blocked any connection with School-to-Work. DeWine had assured everyone that the bill had nothing to do with School-To-Work. The White House’s opposition to the Amendment proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the CAREERS Act most certainly was part of the who Tucker Restructuring system – just as APC and education activists had charged. DeWine’s deceit was clearly exposed.

But you can accomplish anything, when truth and principle aren’t a factor. DeWine had proven he was willing to got to any length to pass this bill. Now was not the time to turn back. So DeWine made assurances to the White House and other critics of the Ashcroft Amendment that, in the conference committee he “will make that provision benign during the…deliberations.”

True to his word, DeWine managed to change the wording of the Amendment just enough to render it useless. Ashcroft’s amendment said point blank that funding for the CAREERS Act could not be used for School-To Work – period. DeWine added an “exception” in the Amendment that would, in reality, reinstate the entire School-to-Work program.

This slight-of-hand served DeWine in three ways. 1) He was able to assure that the President would sign the bill. 2) He destroyed the real meaning of Ashcroft’s Amendment. 3) He believes he can now look education activists in the eye and say the Amendment is still there.

There’s nothing new about any of this of course. It’s the same treatment our movement always gets from politicians who will need us on election day. Politicians like DeWine love to talk tough on the stump. They love to hold up bogus legislation and say “see what I did for you – I kept my promise.” Next election day remember how Mike DeWine kept his word.

So after a three-year battle, the CAREERS Act was ready to come out of conference committee and face its final test. But there wasn’t to be a full vote in either House. Incredibly, the bill had been send to the conference committee under a “unanimous consent” provision. That meant that the conference committee could do whatever it wanted to the bill – and as long as the committee agreed on the final version -the bill would be sent to the President without a final floor vote.

That’s how it came to pass that there was no final recorded vote on a bill that had been the center of such controversy and contention. Not a single Member of the United States Congress actually knows what is in the final version of the CAREERS Act. But the President has signed it into law.

So the battle is over. All of the pieces and parts of Hillary Clinton’s and Marc Tucker’s vision for a restructured American society are in place. A socialist education system can now pump out little worker bees for a federally managed economic system. Gone are curriculums with basic academics as the root. Gone are personal choices for a child’s future.

Hillary and Marc got their dream handed to them by Republican Congressman Bill Goodling, Republican Congressman Buck McKeon and Republican Senator Mike DeWine. They earned and fully deserve all of the credit. Perhaps in a fit of gratitude you would like to call and thank them for being such good Republicans.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.