WASHINGTON April 15, 2015 — On Feb. 26, 2015, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., introduced H.R.1111 for consideration, entitled “Department of Peace Building Act of 2015.”
On April 13, 2015, the bill received a fresh wave of co-sponsors.
This bill is the same piece of legislation she introduced during the previous congressional session, and it seems that this newest iteration will suffer the same fate as its predecessor. And while this bill has, according to Govtrack.US, no chance of passing, its continued submission and indeed its very existence represent several glaring problems facing the government and the people of the United States.
The text of the bill is not particularly long. However, it represents a fundamental disconnect with reality, public opinion and supporting data and studies.
The reality part is relatively simple: We do not have the money to do this. In a nation where 47 percent of the population relies on some sort of assistance from the government, when labor participation is at its lowest since the 1970s, and when student loan debt has risen to over a trillion dollars, the thought of creating an entirely new section of the federal government is absurd.
The Department of Homeland Security, one of the largest expansions of government power and authority in the last 50 years, has an annual budget of over $60 billion, over 10 percent of the national deficit.
We cannot afford another cabinet-level agency that already does what 10 other cabinet departments do, arguably the exact situation Homeland Security was in when it was created.
It is clear that nearly every function outlined in Lee’s bill that would be assigned to the Department of Peacebuilding already takes place under other government agencies. The bill’s mission statement includes several key statements that are evidence of government redundancy.
- “Reduce and prevent violence in the United States and internationally through peacebuilding and effective nonviolent conflict resolution …” That describes some functions of the Department of Justice.
- “Strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking …” That is the responsibility of the Department of State.
Under the “Responsibilities and Powers” section:
- “Monitor and analyze causative principles of conflict and make policy recommendations for developing and maintaining peaceful conduct …” That job belongs to the National Security adviser.
- “Creating new policies and programs and expanding existing policies and programs that effectively reduce drug and alcohol abuse …” That would be the Department of Health and Human Services.
- “Making policy recommendations to the Attorney General regarding civil rights and labor law …” That again is the job of the DoJ.
- “Assisting in the establishment and funding of community-based violence prevention programs, including violence prevention counseling and peer mediation in schools and unarmed civilian peacekeeping at a local level …”Those are called “After school karate lessons.”
The entire bill is out of touch with reality. There is no facet of life or the American political process that this bill would not touch. It includes provisions for involvement in law enforcement, in the Department of State, the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense.
The new department would even intrude into school curricula, stressing the need to teach about “peace agreements and circumstances in which peaceful intervention has worked to stop conflict.” The Department of Peacebuilding would have the authority to push standards of national education.
The bill is also out of touch with American political climate. Poll after poll shows that Americans do not want bigger government. Not only do they not want bigger government, a March poll conducted by Gallup showed that Americans believe the most important problem facing them today is government. A bill calling for an expansion of the government does not serve the will of the people or their interests.
The bill includes numerous areas of interest and control, granting this new department expansive responsibilities. One of those would be to address the “tools of violence,” also known as firearms.
The new department’s responsibilities and powers would include “analyzing existing policies, employing successful, field-tested programs, and developing new approaches for dealing with the tools of violence, including handguns, especially among youth.”
The DPB would thus be responsible for gun control in the United States. Obtaining a handgun under the age of 18 is already illegal. Murder is already illegal. Being in a gang is already illegal. These prohibitions are addressed by the FBI, as well as by countless and unappreciated volunteer organizations, teachers, police officers and others who work to bring kids off the streets and out of harm’s way.
As far as peace, crime and war go, we are in one of the safest, most peaceful times in human history. With the exception of 2004 and 2005, violent crime rates in the U.S. have fallen every single year for the last 20 years. As Slate.com points out, data show that the world suffers fewer war casualties and lower violent crime rates than people believe we do.
Author Steven Pinker argues that we are currently living in one of the most peaceful eras in human history.
We cannot pay our own bills, violent crime is down and global war is down. Aside from that, everything that this bill seeks to do is already accomplished by another cabinet agency. It is redundant, it is costly and it expands the power of the federal government.
It sounds perfect for Washington.
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