Politics of Encouraging Marriage - 4/18/01

Smartmarriages © cmfce at his.com
Fri Apr 20 15:55:07 EDT 2001

subject: Politics of Encouraging Marriage - 4/18/01

from: Smart Marriages


Kathleen Parker, Tribune Media Services. Kathleen Parker is a syn-dicated
columnist based in South Carolina.

April 18, 2001 

President Bush's new family initiatives, which promote such antiquated
notions as marriage and fatherhood, have the Rad Fems in high dudgeon,
charging that the seedpods now occupying the White House are fundamentally

As part of a multipronged program aimed at encouraging marriage, Bush
proposes doubling the child tax credit and reducing the marriage penalty in
the tax code. Some even are talking about adding marriage bonuses to the tax
code, financial incentives to get married and stay married.

"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 National
Organization for Women vice president. As for a marriage bonus, Kane said:
"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

It is of course true that marriage and fatherhood, as normally defined, do
imply involvement of a male. But marriage, though oftentimes tedious,
difficult and exhausting, isn't inherently sexist unless both parties agree.

Strictly speaking, trying to help restore solid families and involve fathers
in the lives of the offspring they've sired seems like a dandy idea that
might actually benefit many of the women NOW purports to represent.

Given the quantity of research showing that family breakdown is the single
greatest cause of poverty for women and children, one might infer that
finding ways to sustain marriage is at least worth considering. Getting
married before having children is also a pretty good idea, though you
wouldn't know it to judge from recent trends.

By 1997, 26 percent of white infants were born to unmarried mothers,
compared to just 2 percent in 1960, according to a new book on American
trends, "The First Measured Century," by Theodore Caplow, Louis Hicks and
Ben J. Wattenberg. 

Among black Americans, the comparable figure was 69 percent in 1997 compared
to less than 25 percent in 1960.

Yet we also know from research and common sense that children who grow up
without fathers suffer a number of social pathologies that might be remedied
with a little more help from dear old dad. Girls without fathers sometimes
grow up with self-esteem problems that often lead to promiscuity, which
leads to unwanted pregnancy, which leads to another fatherless child and
government dependence and another cycle of same.

Ditto boys, who, absent fathers, sometimes tend to behave badly, perform
poorly in school and learn little about civil behavior toward women.
Shouldn't a responsible government seek ways to enhance father-child
relationships rather than only impose Draconian policies to punish those who
behave irresponsibly? Doesn't it make sense that a responsible government
might seek ways to stop the cycle (insert Father here) rather than
institutionalize it?

Critics of Bush's proposals say he's inappropriately trying to mold private
behavior through public policies that contradict promises of less
government. Of course, government programs mold behavior (see welfare
state), so why not an agenda that promotes positive behavior?
Bush's programs are only contradictory, meanwhile, in the knee-jerk, short
term. Ultimately, they're predicated on planned obsolescence. Any government
wishing to sustain itself would ignore the root causes (broken families) and
seek Band-Aid solutions (government programs). One nurtures dependence on
government; the other seeks to eliminate government's paternal role.

Bush may not be able to get some of his programs through Congress for
constitutional or other reasons, but he shouldn't be stymied by charges of
sexism. If by their absence or neglect men have contributed to the breakdown
of America's families, by all means, let them fix it.

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