A Marriage of Family and Policy - 4/15/01

Smartmarriages © cmfce at his.com
Mon Apr 16 17:48:02 EDT 2001

subject: A Marriage of Family and Policy - 4/15/01

from: Smart Marriages

Ta dah!  We gotta like this line in a  major article above the fold on
the front page of yesterday's (April 15) Washington Post -
it uses the term *marriage education*. When I did
Sam Donaldson last week and he said "marriage education,
like parenting education or drivers education." His researchers
prepared his script - so nice not to have to say it, but to have
the media and the govt picking up on all this! We are definitely making
> Specifically, Bush has pledged $200 million in grants over five years to
> community and religious groups promoting fatherhood, marriage education
> and conflict resolution. Bush's budget proposal has $3 million for
> "skill-building" for fathers.

Let's be sure we're all set with marriage education programs ready to go
in ALL our communities.  That's what the Smart Marriages conference will
do - equip you with the programs to teach couples at all stages - and
to fathers.  Fathers need relationship and marriage skills and they need
to learn them WITH their partners in programs like PREP, Couple
Communication, Relationship Enhancement, Compassion Workshops, Stepping
Together, the Becoming Parents program - etc.  The two dozen programs
in which you can train and qualify - take the materials home and be ready
to teach and put these federal dollars to good use!

Also plan to attend the workshops that will showcase model community
programs and implementation  - like the Oklahoma workshop, the Mentor and
Marriage Savers workshops, the keynotes on "Take Back Your Marriage: A
Challenge to Couples, Congregations & Communities" and "In The Community:
Clincs, Courts & Classrooms", the FREE institutes on Fatherhood (featuring
Wade Horn - see below) and the overview of all the school/youth
curricula (we have to start with the kids) -  the workshops on funding -
TANF, federal programs, and faith-based initiatives - and, of course, the
teach-in on Sunday afternoon "Transforming Communities Grassroots Style."
WE ARE GOING TO MEET THIS CHALLENGE.  We ARE going to turn things around.  -

A Marriage Of Family And Policy; Bush Gives Government A Leading Social
Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Washington Post
April 15, 2001 

First in a series of occasional articles

 To those watching President Bush press his tax cut and reverse
environmental and workplace regulations, it seems that he is a foe of big
government. But when it comes to social policy, the Republican president
shares with liberal predecessors a belief that government can and should
play a large role in molding the private behavior of the citizenry.

 The Bush administration is divising proposals to strengthen
American families, using grants to promote "responsible fatherhood,"
marriage counseling to prevent divorce, character education for children
and tax credits to promote two-parent homes and adoption.

 "In essence, what we're seeing is the triumph of big government
conservatism," said the Hudson Institute's Marshall Wittman, a former
Christian Coalition official. "Everyone assumed devolution" -- sending
power to the states -- "meant the absence of a government role. In fact,
it means a continued presence."

 Bush's approach to social problems helps to explain the competing and
sometimes contradictory messages emerging from his administration: His
aims, like his appointments, are philosophically
conservative, but he also believes in a muscular government that can
rebuild families.

 The aggressive approach to family policy is part of a broader belief
among influential Bush advisers that the government can be used to restore
the family, community and civil society, and it is one of a series of
ideas The Washington Post will explore in an effort to explain the
philosophical moorings of the new administration.

 Bush officials say the family initiatives are largely a conservative
response to Great Society programs, such as welfare, which they
believe had the effect of encouraging out-of-wedlock births and increasing
social ills. They cite a range of troubling statistics: 25 million
children don't live with their fathers; 1.5 million have a parent in
prison; half a million are in foster care; 1 million babies a year are
born to unwed mothers; one of six families with children earns $17,000 a
year or less.

 "We've tried to address so many complex problems that go to social
behavior, drug abuse, crime," said John Bridgeland, director of the
president's Domestic Policy Council. "What we're discovering is if we can
support the family in different ways, that's what ought to
be done. The data is overwhelming that when the family breaks down, drug
abuse, poverty, dependency, crime, the litany of all social problems
government gets called on to address, are magnified a hundredfold."

 The notion of fatherlessness as a cause of child poverty and other
ills is not new -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan talked about it decades ago --
and the relationship is well documented. As a result, the Bush initiatives
are not "the old family values debate reemerging," said Wade Horn, who
heads the National Fatherhood Initiative and has been tapped to be the
assistant secretary of health and human services for family support. "It's
a different kind of debate -- what empirical literature tells us, not just
what our personal faith tells us," Horn said.

 The new debate is a way of reframing -- and perhaps defusing -- the
culture wars between right and left since the 1960s. There is now more
agreement about the importance of the family. "There seems to be some
discontent about the broader culture," Horn said. "We've had for
essentially 18 or 19 years an extraordinary economy, people have more
money than ever, income is up, child poverty is down, and yet there is an
unease as to where we are."

 Horn, though not yet speaking for Bush, views the administration's effort
as four-pronged: strengthening fatherhood, strengthening marriage,
strengthening community organizations that help families, and seeking a
role for religious organizations in building communities. He sees a
precedent in the women's movement. The women's
movement brought concrete changes such as domestic violence shelters, he
said. "But the women's movement at its core was about changing the idea of
what a woman's role is in society." Likewise, "the core of the fatherhood
movement is to change the idea we have as a culture."

 Bush's plans to promote marriage and fatherhood as antidotes to
social ills have drawn criticism from liberal women's groups.
"They're suggesting that the way for women to get out of poverty is to get
a husband, and we oppose that notion," said Loretta Kane, a vice president
of the National Organization for Women.

 But the administration's plans are likely to generate support from
Democrats; during the presidential campaign, Al Gore also supported a
fatherhood initiative. University of Maryland Professor William A.
Galston, formerly a policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, views the
Bush strategy as a continuation of Clinton's.

 "Clinton made huge advances in welfare dependency, crime, teen
pregnancy," he said. "On the broader problem of family stability, it's
fair to say we did not make all that much progress."

 While the child tax credit increase and marriage penalty reduction are
already under consideration in Congress, hearings on other components of
the fatherhood and marriage initiatives should begin in May, according to
Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), who chairs the Ways and Means subcommittee
reviewing the legislation. "There appears to be a tremendous amount of
support for this," he said. "We should
do everything we can to ensure that children have two parents in the home."

 Specifically, Bush has pledged $200 million in grants over five years to
community and religious groups promoting fatherhood, marriage education
and conflict resolution. Bush's budget proposal has $3 million for
"skill-building" for fathers. The administration also wants to expand
existing social-service programs such as Head Start and Healthy Mothers,
Healthy Babies, to target fathers as much as mothers. The president also
seeks to help states create paternity registries, continuing Clinton's
efforts to enforce child-support laws.

 To sustain marriages, Bush would encourage states to use surplus welfare
funds for premarital services and counseling. Bush's proposal aims to
double the child tax credit and reduce the marriage penalty in the tax
code, and some wonder if a marriage bonus could be created. "We're not
neutral about homeownership; same thing for charitable giving," Horn said.
"Why then is it so crazy to think it might be a good idea to have mild
incentives for marriage?"

 NOW, which opposes Horn's nomination, argues against a marriage bonus.
"When you've got a guy saying we should give preferential treatment to
marriage, that tells me there's a vein of sexism running
through his politics," Kane said.

 To anchor families, Bush wants to give $1 billion over five years to
states to help keep children with their parents or return them from foster
care. He would also require criminal background checks for foster and
adoptive parents. Both are part of an effort to shift child welfare
programs toward prevention. Bush also seeks $1 billion over five years to
increase the adoption tax credit to $7,500 from $5,000, while encouraging
the building of "second-chance" maternity group homes for unwed mothers.

 For children, the president wants to triple character education that
promotes morals and values in schools, while encouraging community and
religious after-school programs. His education package requires states to
measure improvements in school safety, and he seeks a
Teacher Protection Act to allow teachers to enforce discipline with less
worry about frivolous lawsuits. He proposes a "parent drug corps" to train
parents to fight drug use and proposes community and religious programs to
help in prisoner rehabilitation and to aid the children of prisoners.

 Family members would act as sponsors for addicts under another Bush
program, providing an alternative to criminal punishment. For
children who become too old for foster care, the administration proposes
$300 million over five years for college or vocational training.

 Most of these programs disappoint conservatives who favor limited
government. "They are mostly unconstitutional, and mostly will be
ineffective," said David Boaz of the libertarian Cato Institute.
"There's no room in the Constitution for a federal fatherhood initiative
or a federal marriage initiative."

 Boaz said he's encouraged that the programs, like many of Clinton's, are
modest in scope. But he disapproved of any attempt to "deal with problems
created by previous government policies."

 "The second worst thing government does is try to fix the problems it
created," he said.

 Bush shares that sentiment when it comes to some policies, such as his
proposed tax cut. "I don't think the U.S. Congress ought to be able to
pick and choose the winners in society," he often says. But in the area of
family policy and other social policies, the Bush administration is making
clear there is a significant role for government in shaping behavior.

  Wittman said the fatherhood and marriage initiatives, combined with new
federal funds for education not long after Republicans aimed to abolish
the Education Department, amount to "the death of libertarianism." Even
the controversy over Bush's tax cut, he argued, is really a debate between
"19 and 20 percent of GDP going to government." The activist policies,
Wittman said, are "a major turning point from what Ronald Reagan and Barry
Goldwater talked about."

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