Bush plan "Let's get married"/Ways and Means Hearings - 4/4/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Thu Apr 4 09:22:16 EST 2002
subject: Bush plan "Let's get married"/Ways and Means Hearings - 4/4/02
from: Smart Marriages
March 07, 2002
Leonard Pitts, Jr
Bush plan rightfully jilts those against marriage
``Let's get married today.''
Al Green sang that in 1973. These days, it's George W. Bush on lead vocals.
Last week, the president unveiled proposed changes in Bill Clinton's 1996
welfare reform act. And although Bush's plan to tighten work rules on
welfare recipients has drawn fire, it's what he wants to do about the
institution of marriage that really has some folks up in arms.
You see, he wants to . . . encourage it. That is, the president proposes to
earmark $200 million in federal money to fund state programs that promote
and maintain healthy marriages. Meaning, for instance, classes for those who
plan to take the leap and counseling for those who already have.
A number of social workers, women's leaders, Op-Ed writers and welfare
recipients have responded to this with alarm. Some accuse the White House of
trying to force people into marriage. Others say the government has no
business meddling in people's private lives. And one observer predicts
Bush's plan could be a ''nightmare'' for women and children.
Two words in response: Oh, please.
Maybe I'm just dense -- wouldn't be the first time -- but I don't understand
what all the fuss is about. OK, there's something surreal about the idea of
a conservative Republican president pushing what amounts to social
engineering. Don't conservatives consider social engineering an evil
tantamount to witchcraft and practiced only by godless liberals?
Still, once you get past that little intellectual inconsistency, there's
little not to like about what the president proposes to do. Despite the
overheated rhetoric of some critics, the plan doesn't amount to a Bush push
for shotgun weddings. Nor have I seen any evidence the president would seek
to force a woman -- or man -- to remain in a violent or abusive
relationship. No, Bush's proposal says, in essence, only one thing: Marriage
You have to wonder what has become of us when that statement is deemed
But then, married-with-children families account for less than a quarter of
all American households these days, down from 40 percent in the early 1970s.
Also known as the heyday of the sexual revolution. I was only a kid then,
but I recall the earnest debates among people older than I who wondered why
they should place so much importance upon a simple piece of paper. Love was
love, they said, and it did not require the approval of the government or
It seemed, at the time, a perfectly sensible argument. A generation later,
it is difficult to remember why.
Because a generation later, husbands and wives have been supplanted by ''my
baby's daddy'' and ''my kid's mother.'' A generation later, the American
family is earthquake stable and stock market steady. A generation later
children, who thrive on stability, predictability and routine, find
themselves largely bereft of all those things because of the hedonism,
selfishness and immaturity of some fathers and mothers. A generation later,
commitment is a four-letter word.
Small wonder that, a generation later, some of us barely recognize American
children. And what we do know of them breaks our hearts. Many of them -- not
all, maybe not most, but way too many -- seem selfish, materialistic,
isolated from the larger good, enamored of ephemeral things. Their -- to use
a word beloved by conservative Republicans -- values seem unlike not just
ours, but any we have ever known.
Marriage, I will grant, is not a panacea for those ills. I'll also grant
that cohabitation may make sense in certain situations, primarily childless
ones. And while I'm granting, allow me to grant one last thing: It is, and
must always be, beyond the province of government to impose marriage on
But for all that, yes...marriage is a good thing.
It's a truth cast aside by soldiers of the sexual revolution. The same
people who brought women out of the kitchen and gay people out of the
closet, who liberated bodies and minds and swept ignorance away, also sold
us an unwitting untruth. That is, they taught us that we could do away with
responsibility and commitment and that our nation, our families, our
children, would pay no price as a result. This is what we sincerely
And we were wrong.
Leonard Pitts Jr.'s column runs Thursday and Saturday.
I have just learned that Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA), Chairman of the
Subcommittee on Human Resources of the powerful Ways and Means Committee,
will be holding a hearing on welfare reform reauthorization proposals. It
will take place on Thursday, April 11, 2002 in the main Committee hearing
room, 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 3 p.m.
Among those testifying will be governors, state legislators, and state
welfare directors. Also, I understand that critics of the Administration's
proposals will testify. I have asked to testify to answer those critics.
It seems to me that a number of these criticisms are far off-base. Some of
them can be seen in Theodora Ooms' article in "The American Prospect"
magazine's April 8 issue. Though she acknowledges "an overwhelming
consensus of social-science research findings that children tend to be
better off, financially and emotionally, when their parents are married to
each other," she asserts:
1. This new emphasis on marriage is troubling to many liberals. For
one thing, it risks being dismissive of children who happen to find
themselves in single parent families. It can also be seen as disparaging
single mothers and ignoring the fact that many women have left abusive
marriages for good reasons."
My answer is that far from being dismissive of children in single parent
families, we are interested in helping more children to be nurtured by their
own married parents. Marriage Savers hope to be working with a Head Start
program to help the often cohabiting parents of those children, improve
their skills of communication and conflict resolution so that they might
A Gallup Poll of 1,213 adults found that only 5% of people who divorced
say the problem was physical abuse. In only 17% of cases was infidelity the
issue, and drug or alcohol abuse was involved in 16%. The big issue is
"incompatibility" mentioned by 47% of respondents, and another 10% said it
was arguments over money, family or children. Thus in nearly three-fifths
(57%)of the cases, the problem was poor communication -- which caused TEN
TIMES as many breakups as physical abuse.
What has been demonstrated by PAIRS, PREP, and Marriage Savers, is that
these skills can be taught by lay people, ideally by Mentor Couples. In our
church, of 302 couples that Mentor Couples prepared for marriage between
1992-2000, 21 couples dropped out (mostly to break up) and 34 more completed
the course, but did not marry the person. Of those who did marry, we have
had only 7 divorces or separations in a decade.
2. Mrs. Ooms says, "Its not just the case that single mothers find
themselves poor because they are unmarried; they find themselves unmarried
because they are poor."
No, that is looking at the issue upside down. Women who have a baby out
of wedlock are "five times as likely to be poor as those in two parent
families," as Mrs. Ooms says elsewhere. Few men want to marry a woman who
has a child from a previous relationship. So the child does not get the
benefit of two incomes to support it.
3. Mrs. Ooms says, "Any programs that hint at coercing people to
marry...or limiting the right to end bad marriages are viewed as counter to
American values of individual autonomy and privacy."
No programs are hinting at coercing people to marry.
4. Other critics are suggesting that the $300 million proposed by Bush
to promote marriage could be better spent on day care. But the states have
$3.2 billion of TANF fund they are not using that could be spent on day
Requests to be heard at the hearing, which will be open to the public,
must be made by telephone to Traci Altman or Bill Covey at 202 225-1721 by 5
p.m. TOMORROW, April 4.
Michael J. McManus
Co-Founder & President
email: MichaelJMcManus at CS.com
Next National Training to Create a Marriage Savers Congregation:
July 10-11 in Washington DC at the Smart Marriages Conference
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