presidential hopeful George W. Bush made a campaign stop in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin last July, he visited a new inner city center for addicted fathers
called Faith Works. It’s one of many private agencies that use religion as a
motivator to help people overcome alcohol or drug problems. Bush used the
visit as a photo-op to propose that the federal government spend $185 million
over five years on similar agencies, describing Faith Works as “exactly the
kind of program that I envision.”
stop on the city’s African American North Side was meant to promote the image
of a New Republican reaching out to new constituencies, not everyone was
welcome. Local NAACP leaders, for example, were not among those invited. On
the other hand, one of the favored few admitted to the Faith Works offices was
Michael Joyce, president of the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley
Foundation. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bradley had
given $100,000 to the center. Bush took the opportunity to praise the
foundation as an institution “that has been on the leading edge of social
entrepreneurship for a long time.”
That’s true, of
course, if by “social entrepreneurship” you mean taking pressing social
problems and turning them into moneymaking ventures.
Based on the
family fortune of the Lynde and Harry Bradley brothers, Milwaukee inventors
and industrialists, the Bradley Foundation is the largest, richest, and most
influential of the dozen or so right-wing foundations underwriting the think
tanks, authors, professors, periodicals and media outlets that manipulate
public opinion to accept conservative solutions to social problems. It also
funds the “community groups” and legal offices that create, defend, and prop
up the pilot projects—like Faith Works—designed to demonstrate the greater
“efficiency” of privatization and deregulation in the area of social policy.
the goal is simple: the removal of all legal and social constraints on the
pursuit of private profits. Bradley envisions the return to a pre-1935 form of
laissez-faire capitalism, free from the concessions forced from the
property-owning class by the labor movement of the 1930s and the social
movements of the 1960s. The means to this goal are privatization of government
services, deregulation of business, and the entrenched social stratification
of society by class, race, and gender.
To further the
latter aim, Bradley has bankrolled organizations that have played key roles in
the overturn of affirmative action in Texas, California, and Washington,
groups like the National Association of Scholars, the Center for Individual
Rights, and Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute.
provided $1 million for the writing of the notoriously racist book The Bell
Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein, which argued that poverty
is the result of the existence of a permanent class of genetically inferior
people—who just happen to be disproportionately Black—rather than economic
conditions, personal dislocations or racial and sexual discrimination. The
book was co-funded by the Pioneer Society, a holdover from the white
supremacist eugenics movement of the 1930s.
With over $700
million in assets, Bradley is not only the largest conservative foundation in
the U.S., it is also the largest foundation of any kind in Wisconsin, with
more money than the next three largest state foundations combined. That
financial clout has enabled it to find allies across the state, including in
the communities of color. Bradley is also well connected politically. Its
board of directors includes the former chair of the state Republican Party. At
least one board member is always a member of the University of Wisconsin’s
Board of Regents. Bradley’s president, Michael Joyce, is the former head of
the John M. Olin Foundation of New York, a member of the Reagan
administration’s transition team, and a close friend and mentor to William J.
Bennett, the former drug czar and Secretary of Education under Reagan and now
head of the Republican advocacy group Empower America.
Bradley has a close relationship with the state’s former four-term Republican
governor, Tommy Thompson. It funds the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
(WPRI), the best financed conservative state or regional think tank in the
country, which provided the governor with policy papers on education, welfare
reform, prison issues, and more. Thompson, of course, is now the U.S.
Secretary of Health and Human Services.
All this has
allowed Bradley to use Wisconsin—and Milwaukee’s Black community in
particular—as a kind of social laboratory for its right-wing experiments,
which it is now promoting as national models. For example, Bradley underwrote
the state task force that developed Wisconsin’s draconian program of welfare
“reform” known as W-2, which has served as a model for the whole country. (Bell
Curve author Charles Murray was actually brought in by this task force as
a consultant for the development of W-2.) It was also Bradley money that
fueled the precedent-setting Milwaukee movement for school vouchers.
dollars in profits have been made by the agencies awarded contracts to
administer W-2 and by the businesses that get virtually free labor through the
program. Many millions more stand to be made by the corporations now
positioning themselves to profit from the privatization of public education.
Papers published by the WPRI led to a massive expansion in the state prison
system, with huge state contracts going out to construction companies and
drug and alcohol addiction programs? What’s that got to do with profits?
Potentially, a lot, if it means the further privatization of government
services. But there’s more at stake than just money.
religious groups to deliver government services was a major proposal of
something called the National Leadership Task Force on Grassroots Alternatives
for Public Policy (GAPP), a grouping put together in the early 1990s by the
Washington, DC-based National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE).
Robert L. Woodson, Sr., a Black conservative promoted by Bradley, heads the
NCNE, heavily funded by the Bradley Foundation.
the NCNE, “Robert L. Woodson, Sr. was asked by House Speaker Newt Gingrich to
form a task force to make specific policy recommendations to the 104th
Congress.” Those recommendations were supposedly designed to help streamline
the delivery of government services to the poor—a Gingrich concern that up to
that time had apparently escaped public notice. In reality, the task force was
meant to be a “community” cover for a plan to shift the responsibility of
providing social services from the government to private organizations, while
bolstering the influence of conservative religious groups in communities of
color as a means of social control.
The task force
met in Milwaukee in 1995 to reveal its GAPP Report at a national conference
held at the offices of Community Enterprises of Greater Milwaukee (CEGM), a
faith-based business incubator in the heart of the city’s Black community.
Like the NCNE, the Bradley Foundation heavily funds the CEGM. Bradley also
co-funded the conference, along with another Milwaukee-based group, the Helen
recommendation of the GAPP Report was that federal money intended to help poor
people should by-pass both state and local (elected) government and go
directly to hand-picked community-based organizations. These groups need not
be staffed by professionals with any particular training. They shouldn’t have
to be bothered with burdensome regulations, certifications, or inspections.
They could be religious groups, ignoring the constitutional separation between
church and state.
the Report asserted that “Public policy must support their [community-based
organizations'] efforts by removing barriers of certification, licensing and
regulation; by removing restrictions on faith-based organizations; and by
allowing them to receive tax-empowered donations and compete for block grants
and voucher funds.” This is exactly the program of George W. Bush’s “new”
result of the implementation of the GAPP proposals in Tommy Thompson’s
Wisconsin has been the proliferation of W-2-related “day care centers” in the
inner city. Under W-2, new mothers have to apply for or return to work when
their infants reach 12 weeks of age. The children have to be left with
relatives or else go to childcare centers. Many of these “centers” are just
somebody’s living room. If they serve three or fewer children up to seven
years of age, there is no legal requirement for any testing of lead paint on
walls, lead water pipes, any requirements to ensure adequate nutrition,
educational programs, or any licensing or certification of day care providers
beyond a criminal background check. The providers themselves are often loving,
caring people, but they simply lack the material resources to properly care
for the young children placed in their charge.
Dr. Patricia McManus, who serves on the state-sponsored African-American
Infant Mortality Task Force, the rate of infant mortality in Milwaukee’s Black
community shot up 37 percent in the first year of W-2.
For many years, churches
and church organizations have received government contracts to provide
services like food, foster care, and drug programs. Most of these contracts
were channeled through separate non-profit agencies, like Catholic Charities
and Lutheran Social Services, which were supposed to refrain from trying to
proselytize their “clients.”
The door to the
direct funding of religious groups was opened wide with the passage of the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (the
welfare reform act), signed by President Bill Clinton. That bill contained a
provision called Charitable Choice, which authorized private sector,
faith-based organizations to act as administrators of the Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families (TANF) program. According to the New York Times,
January 30, 2001, “Charitable Choice…granted religious groups that contract
with the government the right to maintain their religious identities, symbols
and philosophies and to choose only staff who agree with their religious
senator John Ashcroft, the anti-woman, anti-civil rights, pro-Confederacy,
right wing religious zealot who is now the top law enforcement officer in the
country, drafted the provision.
Here’s what one
conservative had to say about Charitable Choice: “By enacting this change,
Republicans in Congress stood sixties-style social policy thinking on its
head. Where once the federal government had turned to Harvard PhDs for policy
advice, now they would turn to inner-city ministers. Where once the feds had
slopped porcine, left-leaning non-profits in the name of social engineering,
now they would support lean and hungry socially conservative organizations
with skinny budgets wary of bureaucrats bearing cash.” (From “Social Policy
Gets Religion”, by David Dodenhoff, Deputy Director of Arizona Gov. Jane Dee
Hull’s Office for Excellence in Government, published in the winter, 2000
issue of Wisconsin Interest, magazine of the Bradley- funded Wisconsin
Policy Research Institute.)
Choice supporters clearly saw a political thrust to this provision: removing
funding from “left-leaning” non-profit agencies and shifting it to “socially
conservative” religious organizations. It’s also a continuation of the recent
process of transforming progressive service agencies into profit making
1999, Bradley funded a conference in Milwaukee designed to popularize the
concept of faith-based funding. The event, entitled “What Works and Why ‘99,”
was held at the downtown Wyndham Hotel. A brochure described it as “a showcase
conference of outstanding community initiatives from the faith community.” The
conference, co-presented by Woodson’s National Center for Neighborhood
Enterprise and Community Enterprises of Greater Milwaukee, was directed
primarily at African American religious groups. The keynote speaker was John
and Community Initiatives
Just nine days after
being sworn in as president, George W. Bush announced the establishment of a
new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The stated
goal of the office, which opened for business on February 20, 2001, is to help
religious groups receive government funds and contracts to deliver social
services, especially to the very poor.
happens street by street, heart by heart, one soul, one conscience at a time,”
Bush explained the following day, speaking outside a religious-based community
center in Washington, DC. He described a legislative package that includes a
variety of tax credits and deductions for those contributing to religious
charities. The legislation would also create a fund that would match private
dollars with federal money to provide technical assistance to faith-based and
community charities. Another aspect would limit the liability of corporations
donating vehicles, aircraft, equipment or facilities to charitable groups.
Through direct contracts, tax-exempt donations and matching funds, billions of
dollars in potential funding would be made available.
Joining Bush at
the photo-op was Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the recent vice presidential candidate
of the Democratic Party, who said he and Bush were of “like minds” concerning
the goals of the new initiative. Lieberman’s erstwhile running mate Al Gore
has also called for a more active role for religious groups in delivering
federally funded social services. And Representative Dick Gephardt (D-MO), the
House minority leader, has also indicated interest in Bush’s proposals.
To head up his
new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Bush chose University of
Pennsylvania political science professor John J. DiIulio, Jr., described in
the New York Times as “a widely published expert on juvenile crime.”
DiIulio is a fellow at both the conservative Manhattan Institute (funded by
Bradley and other conservative foundations) and the more mainstream Brookings
Institution. A contributing editor at the conservative Weekly Standard,
he has also written for the moderate New Democrat.
the independent investigative web site www.Media- Transparency.org, between
January 1988 and August 1996, DiIulio received seven grants totaling $277,000
from the Olin and Bradley foundations, plus a share in a $400,000 grant from
Olin in 1999.
describes himself as a “new Democrat,” was a strong advocate of increased
prison construction in the early 1990s. His efforts are credited with
influencing the 1994 crime bill, which provided millions of dollars for prison
construction. In 1996 he came out with the book Body Count about the
fight against crime, co-written with John P. Walters and William J. Bennett.
predicted that a new and horribly brutal crime wave was about to be carried
out by children and teenagers. His dire warning of a new class of
“superpredators,” a “generational wolf pack,” never materialized, but both
Democrats and Republicans seized on DiIulio’s predictions to justify their own
wave of brutal legislation, including the trying of children as adults, harsh
new sentences for juvenile offenders, and the massive expansion of juvenile
prisons. All of this contributed to the doubling of the prison population
under Bill Clinton.
has also created a national advisory board for his faith-based initiative, to
be headed by former prosecutor and Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who
will act as an official adviser to Bush on the issue. Goldsmith has been
closely associated with the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute, the
conservative think tank (funded by the Eli Lilly family fortune as well as the
Bradley Foundation) that played a leading role in the development of
Wisconsin’s welfare reform program. Goldsmith functioned as chief domestic
policy adviser during Bush’s presidential campaign.
promotes the privatization of government services. During his tenure as mayor,
Goldsmith “privatized everything from golf course construction to sewage
treatment and showed an interest in revitalizing long-neglected inner-city
neighborhoods” (New York Times, 1/29/01). That revitalization (read
“gentrification”) resulted in the widespread dispersal of the city’s Black
community and its subsequent loss of any real political power.
Goldsmith “suggested that a homeless shelter receiving federal funds should
not be prevented from asking recipients to pray once a day” (New York Times,
1/30/01). As a board member of the Corporation for National Service, Goldsmith
will oversee the involvement of tens of thousands of Americorps program
volunteers, who Bush wants re-directed to work on issues like literacy and
after-school care—as part of the faith-based funding initiative.
Bush have both been boosters of another conservative ideologue, the hard-line
Marvin Olasky. Olasky was the original proponent of the idea of Compassionate
Conservatism. His 1993 book The Tragedy of American Compassion was
picked up and used by Republicans such as William J. Bennett and Newt Gingrich
as a smokescreen for cutting social programs. A New York Times magazine
story in 1999 noted how Bush had said that “[Olasky] has really been one of
the people who has been most helpful” to him in developing domestic welfare
policies. When the reporter asked a Bush aide what a compassionate
conservative administration might look like, he replied, “Talk to Marvin.”
criticism of Bush’s initiative has focused on threats to the constitutional
separation of church and state, the problems with this program go far beyond
that. They also include the increasing privatization of government services,
deregulation of the delivery of social services, weakening of public sector
unions, and the development of a layer of hand-picked “leaders” in poor
communities answerable not to the people they serve, but to the government and
conservative foundations that provide their funding.
issues like health care, education, and poverty can’t be properly addressed on
a small-scale, piecemeal basis. By promoting the idea that social service is
best carried out by private groups, faith-based funding undermines the
principle that the government has any obligation to “promote the general
welfare.” It replaces the concept of entitlement—of the right to government
services—with the old, pre-1935 notion of religious charity. This leaves the
government free to concentrate on its “proper” functions of protecting
corporate interests at home and abroad—in other words, the repressive
functions of the police and the military. Conveniently forgotten is the fact
that government social programs sprang up precisely because private charity
had failed miserably at providing a rudimentary social safety net.
the delivery of government services from the government to private agencies
means weaker public sector unions as well as fewer living wage jobs for people
of color. Government agencies are usually unionized, which means higher than
average wages and benefits for the workers, many of whom are Black and Latino.
Private religious agencies are rarely unionized. In the voucher schools, this
has already meant lower wages, fewer benefits, and longer hours for teachers
and other education workers. Public sector unions like AFSCME, AFGE, and the
SEIU are also among the most socially progressive in the labor movement. It’s
no coincidence they are being targeted at exactly the same time that African
American women are joining unions in the greatest numbers of any section of
A wide range of
religious groups also claim the right to refuse to hire lesbians, gays,
bisexual, and transgendered people, as well as anyone who may disagree with
their views. Besides further oppressing an already oppressed community, this
contributes to a reactionary atmosphere that legitimizes all forms of
Charitable Choice, religious groups claim exemption from government licensing
and performance standards. Faith-based day-care centers have also claimed
exemption from health and safety laws. All this results in the lowering of
standards in the delivery of social services to poor communities.
will be the Republican Bush administration deciding which faith-based groups
receive contracts, thus building up a layer of “leaders” beholden to it for
their livelihood, while promoting the spread of the most socially conservative
values in poor communities.
Frank Lott, a
community college student in Richmond, VA, recently pointed out that this
means poor churches will have to compete with each other for this funding,
thus encouraging rivalries within the community as well as the increasing
dependence of historically independent churches on government money. Further,
with corporations receiving tax credits for their donations to the program, it
means that “the wealthy will have more power over the church,” a sobering
thought in light of the historically progressive role many of these churches
have played in the Black freedom movement.
In many U.S.
prisons, the only groups running rehabilitative programs are religious ones.
Two of the largest are Prison Fellowship, run by Watergate figure Charles
Colson, and programs operated by the Nation of Islam (NOI). Before the
presidential primary in New Hampshire, Bush had indicated a willingness to
work with the NOI. Later—a week before the important New York primary—Bush
sharply reversed himself, condemning the NOI as a “hate” organization. Besides
the fact that being all-Black doesn’t make an organization a hate group any
more than being all-women makes a feminist group sexist, the fact is that in
recent years the NOI has shown an increasing openness to work with all races,
including whites, to address issues of poverty and racism. It has also taken
many positions at odds with the U.S. government on issues of foreign policy,
especially concerning Cuba, Iraq, the Middle East in general, and Africa.
Colson’s group—on the right end of the political spectrum—is being regularly
and favorably quoted in the media in coverage of faith-based funding.
A few years
ago, the Bradley Foundation funded another conference in Milwaukee to promote
the concept of faith-based funding. One of the key speakers was Robert L.
Woodson, Sr. Woodson had recently traveled to Hartford, Connecticut—at the
request of that city’s chief of police—to denounce a group of community
leaders protesting the police shooting of a Black teenager under suspicious
circumstances. “You don’t want to get involved in those kinds of protests,”
Woodson sternly warned the mostly Black ministers in the audience. “That’s not
what you want to be doing.” Not if you’re going to be applying for government
It’s clear the
Democrats cannot be relied on to stop this dangerous new initiative. They
couldn’t or wouldn’t even stop the outright theft of the presidential
election. But the objective basis is being laid for progressive religious
groups, labor unions, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, and the
progressive movement in general to unite around opposition to the illegitimate
Bush administration and to rebuild the people’s movement for fundamental
social change. Z
Phil Wilayton is with the RightWatch Project in Richmond, Virginia.