**BUSH speech/Government as matchmaker/Just say yes - 2/25/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Mon Feb 25 21:08:12 EST 2002
subject: Government as matchmaker - 2/25/02
from: Smart Marriages
Watch the news tomorrow (2/26) - President Bush is scheduled to speak on
his welfare/marriage initiative. Which means we can expect many more
Boston Globe Editorial
Government as Matchmaker
By Cathy Young, 2/25/2002
SHOULD the government be in the business of building better marriages?
That's the question raised by the proposal, in the Bush administration
budget for next year, to spend up to $100 million to promote
marriage among the poor.
The idea seems to be popular with conservatives. Robert Rector, an analyst
with the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation,
calls this program ''the single most important thing that government can
do to increase the well-being of American children.''
But there are also strong objections, particularly from women's groups.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women,
scoffs that the same folks who say that they want to ''get government out
of people's lives'' now want the government ''pushing people
... to get married.'' One possible danger, say Gandy and other feminists,
is that women will be encouraged to marry or stay married to
Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the
Department of Health and Human Services, dismisses these concerns
as groundless. The goal of the initiative, he points out, is not to coerce
anyone into marriage; it is simply to ''support activities that help
couples who choose marriage for themselves develop the skills and
knowledge necessary to form and sustain a healthy marriage.''
As a model, Horn points to a two-year-old pilot program in Oklahoma which
includes pro-marriage lectures and ''relationship rallies'' on
college campuses, as well as workshops on communication and conflict
resolution now being offered at schools and community
Obviously, we're not talking about shotgun marriages arranged by Big
Brother (though the workshops in Oklahoma have been made
virtually mandatory for welfare recipients). Nevertheless, federally
funded marriage skills workshops do seem to fly in the face of the
core conservative message that the government should keep its nose out of
people's private lives.
Of course, the charge of hypocrisy can be reversed against critics of the
marriage-boosting initiative who have no problem with
government-sponsored social engineering when it furthers their agenda.
Would NOW and other feminist groups be up in arms if
federal money were being spent on programs to promote nontraditional
family roles or gender-neutral child-rearing? Indeed, right now,
federal grants go to campus programs that teach politically correct rules
of courtship - for instance, that sex must be preceded by explicit
verbal negotiations to establish consent - under the guise of preventing
date rape. Talk about the government being in our bedrooms.
What's more, the feminist criticism of the proposed program often cuts
dangerously close to male-bashing. Is it really impossible to
encourage marriage without encouraging women to marry abusive men? It is
true that a high percentage of women on welfare have
experienced domestic assault, though the studies on the subject make no
distinction between battering and low-level mutual violence;
but this doesn't mean that every potential mate these women may meet is a
It's safe to say that many of the activists who make these claims have a
jaundiced view of marriage and men, and attach little importance
to the role of fathers in children's lives.
However, just because the critics of the marriage initiative are misguided
about some things doesn't necessarily mean the initiative is
Horn is right that children generally fare much better, not only
economically but socially and emotionally, in two-parent households than
in single-parent ones. There is ample evidence to support this. The
emergence of single motherhood as a new norm in some
segments of society is indeed a worrisome trend.
But can pervasive cultural attitudes be reversed by lectures and rallies?
And can marriage skills workshops really help? Even
individualized marital counseling is far from a surefire way to keep a
marriage together. A large workshop that offers one-size-fits-all
solutions to people with individual personalities and distinct problems
wouldn't seem to hold out much promise.
Besides, both low marriage rates and high divorce rates in low-income
communities are related to plenty of factors that have nothing to
do with poor communication - things like financial stress, lack of job
skills, and in many cases substance abuse.
The problem of fatherlessness is real. A national initiative that throws
taxpayer money at untested programs (the pilot project in
Oklahoma has yet to yield tangible results) and turns Uncle Sam into a
marriage counselor is not a real solution. And it's not a very
conservative solution, either.
Clearly, some conservatives are just as selective in their opposition to
statist social engineering as are some liberals and feminists. Two
wrongs don't make a right.
Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine. Her column
appears regularly in the Globe.
This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 2/25/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
JUST SAY YES:
Monday, 25 February 2002
Arizona Daily Star
Just Say Yes?
America's welfare chief may be well-intentioned, but he is on the wrong
track with a proposal to spend $100 million a year on experimental efforts
to aggressively promote marriage among the poor.
Wade F. Horn, who oversees the federal welfare program for the Bush
administration, says he wants to experiment to find out what might work to
encourage the formation of more two-parent families among low-income groups.
The issue is about to come to the fore this year as Congress debates the
reauthorization of welfare reform laws passed in 1996.
"My central, overriding concern is not marriage, it is the well-being of
children," Horn told The New York Times recently.
"The empirical literature is quite clear that, on average, kids who grow up
in stable, healthy, married, two-parent households do better than kids who
grow up in some other kind of arrangement."
There is indeed a wealth of literature that suggests this, but the extent to
which it applies to those living near the poverty line is highly debatable.
A recent research study by John Hopkins University, paid for in part by some
federal government agencies, found that both marriages and live-in
relationships tend to be volatile in low income groups.
Researchers studied 2,100 families in poor neighborhoods of Boston, Chicago
and San Antonio. Of those, about two-thirds were cases where mothers were
living with men who were not the fathers of their children. Only one-fifth
of the families consisted of two biological parents and their offspring.
Over the 16 months of the study, 42 percent of the live-in partnerships and
18 percent of the marriages broke up. "We conclude, if our study is at all
representative, that poor children in central cities will probably not
benefit as much from the trend toward two-parent families as we might
think," said study author Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy at
the prestigious research university.
Cherlin told The Times that if the government is going to engage in marriage
promotion, it should only be on a limited basis, perhaps targeted toward
biological parents who have recently had a baby.
The Hopkins study makes it clear that this is not a simple case of
convincing the poor to "Just Say Yes" to marriage, much as the Reagan
administration once tried to stem drug use with its Just Say No campaign.
Common sense suggests that the financial stress poor people face is likely a
major factor in why their unions tend to be so fragile. As anyone who has
ever had money problems knows, financial worries are like an acid that eats
away at one's basic sense of well-being.
It seems logical, then, that the best thing the government could do to
promote stable families is to sink more money into job training, child care
subsidies and other anti-poverty efforts.
Another step in the right direction - though it likely would not be greeted
kindly by conservatives in the Republican administration - would be to
invest more money in affordable birth control programs.
As Isabel Sawhill, a welfare expert and former official in the Clinton
administration, recently told the Times, the real issue is not a scarcity of
marriages among the poor. "It's that people are having babies at an early
age, before they're ready to have babies or get married."
America would be much better off if the $100 million proposed for marriage
experiments was instead spent on helping those in poverty improve their
chances of escaping it.
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