I. Introduction and Description of Problem(APX 2 PAGES)
1) Statement of the Problem: (5 pts)
Eighteen-year olds throughout the United States are considered legal adults in almost every way, with one notable exception: the privilege of having an alcoholic beverage.
In every state, eighteen-year olds are legally permitted to drive, live as they choose, and work where they choose. Eighteen-year olds pay taxes as other adults do, are subject to all criminal and civil laws, and are punished, jailed and even executed for crimes they might commit against such laws. They are also permitted to hold most local, state and federal government public offices, and can sponsor and pass new laws if elected. Again, the only exception to complete adult rights is a prohibition against an eighteen-year old buying or enjoying a beer or other type of alcoholic beverage anywhere in the United States.
Many countries elsewhere throughout the world have lower drinking ages or no age limitation or prohibition at all on consumption of alcoholic beverages. Interestingly, these countries likewise have lower incidences of abuse, lower death rates in automobile accidents, and lower arrest rates for alcohol-related offenses than in the US. Both Canada and Mexico, as examples, have legal 18-year old drinking age laws, and have abuse indices well below those in the US.Likewise, the Italians, Chinese, German, Austrian, and French have for years allowed for younger adults to purchase and consume alcohol. Again, social and criminal problems among 18-21 year olds in these countries are much smaller in number and severity as opposed to those in the US.Sociological and psychological researchers studying this problem attribute the difference to the various countries accepted methods for mentoring acceptable behavior. Their premise is that we in the US tend to rely on the force of law as a deterrent to bad behavior, rather than our families teaching acceptable behavior (including drinking) in adult settings.
Even between states in the US, patterns of alcohol-related injuries point to proof of an age/alcohol bias among our legislators. It has been proven that when two similar jurisdictions (e.g., Wisconsin vs. Illinois in the 1980s; Vermont vs. Other New England states in the early 1980s; and New York vs. Quebec in the mid-1980s), the one with the lower drinking age had a lower rate of alcohol-related fatalities.
The problem, therefore, is not the drinking age itself. Instead, the breakdown in teaching of acceptable behavior, standards, and morals, combined with the stubbornness to examine these facts legislatively, are the real difficulties. These problems are solved in establishing secure family life, not in legislating of an unfair drinking age limitation of 21.Denying an 18-year old the privilege of having a beer while applauding that same 18-year olds participation in potentially mortal combat in an Afghanistan cave as an active duty soldier is an irony worth study.This unfair issue deserves national attention. Because Congress cannot effectively pass a law that establishes a secure family life for all Americans, it can at least right a wrong by repealing the 21-year old restriction.Passage of a national 18-year old drinking age law brings about essential fairness, finally permitting full adult rights to those now considered adults in every other way possible.
2) Legislative History of this Issue
There have been numerous related bills in Congress covering the issue of underage drinking in the United States. The first of these were a series of prohibition bills in the 1850s, followed by the national prohibition bills in the 1920s, then several bills in the recent decades, a few of which are covered below. The main issue in each of these bills involved limiting of alcohol altogether, though each also included issues dealing with establishment of a legal age at which alcohol could be or was consumed.
History in this overall subject seems overly concerned with the image or ideal in the US that by having a mandated lower age, 18-year olds are afforded better protection against harm. In each case, though, the legislative history indicates testimony that refutes these facts, followed by a diversion into other related issues that then bog down the legislative process. In the 1920s, the issue that clouded matters involved the rise of organized crimes influence on the nation. This event, just like other related issues below on more recent legislation, resulted in the shifting of public focus away from the real issue to something that could be supported politically. The end result of all of the early bills was that the fair hearing of an age issue regarding alcohol never received truly focused study.
Recent debates on bills involving the drinking age continue the earlier history of real issue avoidance. Three examples include:
-- Surface Transportation Act of 1982 (HR 4614): This Bill demanded that States raise their legal drinking age to 21 within 2 years or lose a portion of the federal highway funds that were made available for road and highway improvements and drunk driving safety programs. Instead of the debate involving a factual analysis of the 18-21 year old drinking problem, legislative debate focused on states rights vs. federalism, allocations of funds to rural vs. urban-influenced states, Constitutional questions involving federal expansion vs. individual State sovereignty, or dangers of drunk driving (which no one at any age could hardly justify). The bill managed to be passed without controversial provisions, and with the drinking age limitations being tabled for discussion in committee on other related bills.
-- HR 4892, Uniform Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984:This Bill picked up where HR 4614 left off, essentially raising the same issues and resulting in the same diversion of attention away from the real issue. Instead, the Bill focused on debates allowing a six-year, ease-in period for establishment of a cutback on transportation funds if a state does not pass mandated 21-year old drinking age exclusion. Hence, it became known as the 21-year old minimum drinking law, even though the real issues debated involved states rights vs. federalism and drunk driving problems again, instead of a study of 18-21 year old drinking issues and problems.
-- National Media Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking Act of 2001 (S.866): This Bill, unlike the other two, simply outlined the need for and funding avenues for a public education and media campaign against underage drinking. The Bill focused on strategies for putting media messages on drunk driving and underage drinking in movies, on billboards, and in a whole series of campaigns vs. any analysis of the drinking problem itself. Again, most 18-year olds would not argue the need for drunk driving restrictions, which should be equally applied at all ages. This Bill, like others, simply avoided the 18-21 year old issue entirely by referring simply to underage drinking and making an unsupported direct tie in ad focus to the 18-21 population.
3) Proposed Legislative Solution
There has been to date no fair hearing of the real issues involved in establishment of an 18-year old national drinking age. Therefore, to resolve this obvious injustice to a population of otherwise legally-recognized, tax-paying, morally-justified, and patriotically-conscious citizens, and to resolve this sole exclusion of adulthood for an 18-year old, I propose the following legislation:
A Bill to study the impact of an 18-year old minimum drinking age and to establish an 18-year old minimum drinking age in all States and Territories of the United States if the study produces results to justify the change. This bill, herein named Nathans National Eighteen-Year Old Complete Adult Sanction Law, is outlined and detailed on the following pages.
II. Examination of the Nathans National Eighteen-Year Old Complete Adult Sanction Law (Apx 1 page)
1) Intent of the Bill (Specific info on what the bill will do) 15 pts
The Bill will allow for the complete factual study of issues involved in authorizing the lowering of the minimum drinking age to 18, and based on the results of the study, will allow for the legislative drafting of a bill to make the change to a national 18-year old minimum drinking age. It will name the U.S. Justice Department as the enabling agency to conduct and sponsor research.The author of the Bill (Nathan) recognizes that politically the passage of a Bill simply changing the law to an 18-year old minimum age is highly unlikely. Therefore, Nathans Bill would first commission a first-ever, Executive Brach, objective study of the real issues involved before enabling legislation is prepared. Specifically, issues to be studied will include:
Actual national and international statistics on mortality rates and accident rates involving 18-21 year olds as a group vs. all other age groups when alcohol is considered a factor in an incident, since these have been cited as important factors in previous legislative initiatives;
Actual variances historically in accident and mortality rates when US states differed in minimum age requirements for drinking;
Actual legal definition of adulthood in the US to include all areas of responsibility including: legal citizenship; land and possessions ownership; business ownership; voting rights; military draft and age restriction rights; marriage and parental rights; and health and personal life decision rights for 18-year olds.
The Bill will specifically state that, unless the 18-year olds have substantial variances from other groups of citizens on all of the above issues, the US Justice Department will initiate legislation for immediate joint House of Representatives and Senate review in the next Congress. This legislation will repeal the current 21-year old minimum drinking age and institute a national 18-year old drinking age for the United States.
Finally, the Bill will mandate that funding for the conduct of the study, preparation of the enabling legislation that may result from the study, and establishment of a drunk driving victims assistance fund will come from manufacturers and producers of alcoholic beverages sold in the United States or shipped to the United States.
2) Required Funding and Sources of this Funding(How much funding you will need (with realistic #s) (10 pts)
Funding for Nathans National Eighteen-Year Old Complete Adult Sanction Law will be stipulated in the Bill to come from a federally mandated 5 cents per bottle liquor and spirits federal tax on all products sold in the confines of the United States and its territories.Funds used will be monitored by a special office at the US Justice Department (to be determined by the US Attorney General). Two-thirds of all tax funds collected will be used for study purposes as defined above, while one-third of all tax funds collected will be earmarked for victims and victim families affected by drunk driving accidents. (Any funds not used for the actual studies and preparation of legislation will be maintained in an account to be used for victims of drunk driving, such funds also overseen and administered by the same office at the US Justice Department.
Given that most similar federally administered studies cost upwards of $75 million, and given that this study also recommends establishment of a drunk diving victims assistance fund (which politically would aid its passage), this Bill would require an appropriation of approximately $200 million.
4) Congressional Support (name 2 current members who would support your bill and provide proof why they would support your bill)- 20 poiuts
Two current members are likely to support the TTTTTTT. These are Representative Nick Rahall, Democrat from West Virginia, and Senator James Jeffords, Independent from Vermont, both of whom have recently supported four of the seven recent bills involving Congressional Action to support medical marijuana. Like the minimum drinking age issue, the controversy surrounding the use of marijuana is a highly charged emotional issue that would require one to apply rational, unbiased thinking for support of a worthwhile long-term cause. For this reason, Messrs. Jeffords and Rahall would likely support the study of a national drinking age. In addition, Mr. Jeffords comes from Vermont, one of the few states that recognized early on some of the difficulties associated with the mandating of a 21-year old minimum law.
III. Rationale and Conclusion
At 18 years old, one:
Becomes an adult legally in the United States and is held responsible for his or her actions;
Becomes a vote-eligible US citizen and can participate in local, state, and federal elections as a voter, an elector, or a candidate for office;
Can run for and win any elective office in any state within the United States or within federal jurisdictions, propose and vote on legislative matters if elected, and pronounce and enforce codes at all government levels if selected for (or appointed to) such positions;
Must register for the military draft, and becomes eligible to serve in the US military upon notification;
Can be called to active military duty (or be drafted involuntarily if activated by federal mandate), serve in combat situations, and die for his country;
Can open, own, manage, and pay taxes for any almost any type of business in the United States;
Can apply for, receive, and use a US Passport to transact international business, or cross international borders freely without restriction;
Can invest in and trade stocks, bonds, real estate, or other financial instruments freely without restriction;
Can operate a motor vehicle of any type without restriction;
Can be arrested, jailed, tried in court, and sentenced as an adult for any type of crime;
Can be sued for any civil offense;
Can marry, divorce, separate from a spouse, bear children, and live as he chooses without restriction; and
Can operate a firearm as a hunter in most US states.
The simple fact is that 18-year olds are full-fledged responsible adults, except for the privilege of having a drink legally. Given these facts, and considering the question of a minimum drinking age, some very odd circumstances could arise on any given day in the United States. As examples:
An 18-year old elected legislator might promote and have passed a law that allows for a lowered drinking age in his or her state, but be prohibited from sharing a beer to celebrate the win while in any state but his or her home territory.
An 18-year old investor might have the wealth to buy a shopping center, lease a space to a liquor store, gain income from his investment, but be unable to buy something from the store that produces income for him.
An 18-year old Army private, sworn to protect the United States from danger and harm and serving in the caves of Afghanistan, might find himself at risk of death to protect a Congressman who would not or could not offer him a thank you drink if he had the chance to do so.
Our nation would be better with passage of this bill by recognizing finally that ills of drinking to excess are not limited to those less than 21 years of age. This Bill would make 18-year olds more responsible and less likely to harbor behavior that leads to a host of other social ills and problems. Finally, the Bill would also establish a fund for aiding victims of drunk driving a cause very much deserving of national attention rather than hyped-up charges of teenage abuse
The United States has long recognized that adulthood is sanctioned at 18 years of age for every other reason except our national drinking age. It is time for us to recognize this inequality with a sanctioned study of the consequences and a long-awaited and carefully drafted Bill for lowering the drinking age to 18.
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