It's clearly Monday - auuuuuugh/ PLEASE comment on this one at Tampa Trib site - 7/14/08
smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Mon Jul 14 14:46:38 EDT 2008
Before you read this Tampa Tribune article (below) let me remind you that
the "costly" marriage initiative is, if anything, a RIDICULOUSLY small
amount being spent to try to determine HOW to get Marriage Education
information to couples. Tax-funded research has determined the kind of
information couples need to improve their odds and tax-funded research has
determined that if we can get the information to couples, they do better,
and improve their odds of sustaining marriage.
What we don't yet know is how best to get the word to the public that there
is this new Marriage Education information that can help them have the
marriages of their dreams and create and sustain marriages that will CUT
taxpayer costs - the enormous taxpayer costs of family breakdown including
crime, delinquency, out-of-wedlock births, school failure, violence, abuse,
depression, suicide, substance abuse, etc etc. When a families fail,
taxpayers pay. Not to mention the non-financial effects: the pain and
anguish, child abuse, distress that comes with family breakdown.
We don't yet know how how get the message to the public that people can
learn how to have successful, satisfying marriages - they don't yet know the
new information and programs and classes exist and that they can become
masters of marriage. The public (and the Tampa Trib) are still operating on
the old myth and misinformation that marriage is a game of chance, a crap
shoot - that some get "lucky in love" and "marry the right person" and other
than the outmoded medically-focused, diagnosis/treatment, therapy/counseling
approach which has proved to be inefficient and ineffective, that there's
nothing to be done to help marriages succeed. This is NEW science, a new
marriage-research, marriage-skills, marriage-education Renaissance still in
the early stages of development.
That is what the Marriage Initiative was designed to explore - it funds
demonstration projects across the country to see what will work to get the
information and education to the public. The Tampa Tribune says taxpayer
money should NOT be spent on incentives: "gift cards, baby clothes, movie
tickets and cash" to attend the classes. Why not?!? These cost a pittance -
an upstream, preventive, pittance. Is it better to continue to spend $146+
Billion a year of tax dollars supporting single parents and their kids? Is
it better to spend it tracking down deadbeat dads and on prosecuting them
and imprisoning them for failure to pay child support? This is an example of
hopeless thinking that surrounds marriage. When it comes to trying to help
people get smarter about marriage the Tampa Trib throws up its hands and
says SURRENDER. It's like saying let's just keep pouring money into building
iron lungs - better iron lungs for everyone!! - rather than spending money
to try to develop a polio vaccine.
We believe that if couples realized that they could change their odds and
that this is NOT counseling - that it's EDUCATION in a classroom setting -
not spilling their guts/private issues in some group therapy setting, they
would come. Or, if not, we need to get the information into the school
systems and on the internet. The point is the government has an obligation
to get information to the public when it is information that has the
possibility to alleviate so much misery and suffering and when it can do so
much to improve the lives, health, wealth and wellbeing of its citizens.
Here's more of the Tribune's logic?!:
> It makes sense for Washington to support stable marriages for impoverished
> families with no access to counseling. Children raised by two married parents
> are less likely to live in poverty, less likely to enter the juvenile justice
> system and more likely to graduate from college.
> But it is entirely another thing to take federal tax dollars and use it to
> provide relationship advice for the masses.
Don't they realize that divorce is what plunges so many below the poverty
line - into impoverishment? Family breakdown is the number one cause of
bankruptcy in America. Then they go on to agree that children raised by two
married parents are less likely to live in poverty....etc ....but NO, we
don't want to try to prevent families from breaking down and helping those
two parent families stay together???
> For $1.5 billion Washington could buy every household a subscription to
> Cosmopolitan magazine and call it a day.
Oh, now that's really a good idea.
Auuuuugh. PLEASE go to the site and write comments. And see the second
article, also published today for stats, ideas, or visit the
research/reports page at smartmarriages.com. - diane
Bush's Costly Marriage Initiative Shouldn't Live Happily Ever After
The Tampa Tribune
July 14, 2008
Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook. Alex and Cynthia Rodriguez. Hulk Hogan and
It seems divorce is all the rage these days.
So much so that the Tampa Bay area's provider for the federal healthy
marriage initiative has a new Web site: www.IHateHimSoMuch.com.
What's next? She'sSuchaNag.com?
Billboards advertising the Web site are eye catching and the goal of
teaching relationship skills is admirable, but the signs also symbolize what
can happen when Washington tries to play marriage counselor.
Responsible for the sign is the nonprofit Family Resources Inc., a St.
Petersburg social services provider that has been awarded nearly $1.1
million a year since 2006 to push President Bush's pro-marriage initiative,
which the administration promoted as a $1.5 billion antipoverty program.
The group has diligently pursued the effort. But it turns out this
initiative's partnership with the local nonprofit has not been a match made
The reason why Family Resources has taken such a brassy marketing approach
is it is desperate to fill seats at its marriage and relationship workshops.
And it's trying to reach anyone, not just impoverished families.
After extensive market research, the agency settled on a marketing campaign
that would speak candidly to women, who usually make the first call to
salvage their marriages.
Chief Operating Officer Pat Gerard says other providers in the Bush marriage
initiative are in the same boat: their programs have not been nearly as
popular as Washington expected. Federal records show Family Resources was
funded to serve about 2,000 people a year, but Gerard says it served just
Family Resources, to its credit, didn't sit idle as the federal dollars
rolled in. Officials did their utmost to see that the money was put to the
intended use. They reached out to a wide range of clientele, from women in
jail to high school students thinking about their futures.
Gerard says her group can serve many more people; they just can't get men
and women to voluntarily come to their programs. So they're making
themselves known with the hard-to-ignore campaign.
A recent Mathematic Policy Research Inc. assessment of marriage initiative
programs in seven states - including programs in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale
- found organizers resorted to offering couples gift cards, baby clothes,
movie tickets and cash to attend the counseling sessions. That's not the way
tax dollars should be spent.
With both presidential candidates likely to continue Bush's faith-based
initiatives, this is one due re-examination.
It makes sense for Washington to support stable marriages for impoverished
families with no access to counseling. Children raised by two married
parents are less likely to live in poverty, less likely to enter the
juvenile justice system and more likely to graduate from college.
But it is entirely another thing to take federal tax dollars and use it to
provide relationship advice for the masses.
For $1.5 billion Washington could buy every household a subscription to
Cosmopolitan magazine and call it a day.
The honeymoon is over for Bush's marriage initiative. However promising it
once looked, it has taken on a form the public never pledged to support. The
next president should demand an annulment.
To comment at the Tampa Tribune:
Christie Brinkley's Not Only Victim of Divorce: Kevin Hassett
Commentary by Kevin Hassett
July 14, 2008
(This one is better but also alarming in that Hassett doesn't realize how
much we know about HOW to fix the problem but how UNDERFUNDED the public
education effort is and how premature the evaluations of the Marriage
Education efforts are. - diane)
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- The news that the messy divorce trial of Christie
Brinkley and Peter Cook ended with a settlement last week came a little too
late for the two parties. The ugliness of the case was best-captured by the
news alert posted by the Associated Press announcing the settlement :
``Christie Brinkley settles NY divorce with husband who had teen mistress,
online porn habit.''
Having a publicly contested divorce clearly took its toll on the unfortunate
couple, but the sad fact is that even quiet divorces can have terrible
consequences both for the individuals involved and for society as a whole.
Indeed, a growing body of economic literature has added up the cost of
divorce and the related problem of single parenthood and found them to be
The sheer enormity of these costs has policy makers scratching their heads
and looking for solutions.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 48 percent of
marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce if current marriage and divorce
rates continue in the future. Marriage itself is less-common as well, so the
traditional nuclear family -- father, mother and children -- now makes up
fewer than 28 percent of all households.
There are more households, fully 32 percent, that are made up of single
individuals or those cohabitating with non-family members.
The evidence suggests that divorce has a strongly negative effect on
females, in particular. Researchers at Ohio State University found that
while divorce reduces a person's wealth by an average of 77 percent, men
typically have 2.5 times the wealth of women after a divorce.
Toll on Children
Living in a family that is not of the traditionally nuclear variety also
takes a toll on children. A thought- provoking review of the literature by
economists Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, Sara McLanahan of the
Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University, and
Elisabeth Donohue of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International
Affairs at Princeton University, highlights the costs vividly.
Most compelling is their discussion of a 2005 study by Paul Amato: ``Amato
reports that if the same share of children lived with their biological
parents today as did in 1980, about 300,000 fewer children between the ages
of 12 and 18 would repeat a grade, 485,000 fewer would be suspended from
school, 250,000 fewer would need psychotherapy, 210,000 fewer would be
involved in violence, and 30,000 fewer would attempt suicide every year.''
Understating the Cost
Since kids who have trouble in school are more likely to have trouble
thereafter, these numbers understate the true cost to society of the decline
Is there anything Washington can do to help revive the traditional
environment that serves children so well? You can hardly say policy makers
haven't tried. Over the past decade or so, a number of steps have been
The 1996 welfare reform set a national goal of encouraging the ``formation
and maintenance of two-parent families'' and reducing the number of
out-of-wedlock births. This translated into TANF -- Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families -- block grants for states, designated for ``promoting
President George W. Bush expanded these efforts in 2002 with the Healthy
Marriage Initiative. The program provides $100 million per year in state
grants designed to ``help couples, who have chosen marriage for themselves
gain greater access to marriage-education services, where they can acquire
the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain a healthy marriage.''
The funding is put toward advertising campaigns on the value of marriage,
public school educational programs, and a research initiative on marriage,
among other things.
In addition, Bush's 2001 tax cuts also tried to eliminate any marriage
disincentives brought about through the tax code. The law relieved married
couples in lower tax brackets from the ``marriage penalty'' by increasing
their standard deduction to twice that of singles.
These efforts, though, have hardly made a dent in the problem. That's
evident both from the macroeconomic trends, which continue to worsen, and
from the scientific literature. Summarizing what we know, Haskins, McLanahan
and Donohue write that ``the evidence that pro-marriage programs will
produce benefits is thin.''
So what should we do? First, both political parties have to recognize that
discussion of the benefits of marriage can't dissolve into intolerance. The
benefits of higher marriage rates are great. An effective program would be a
godsend for children. Crafted well, it should be uncontroversial.
Second, we need to acknowledge that our efforts to address the problem so
far have been inadequate. This may be because the problem is insurmountable;
it also might be because programs in place, such as those that provide
counseling, have yet to stumble upon a magic formula.
Even a devout libertarian would have to admit that the stakes are too high
to ignore. Accordingly, Congress should follow the advice of Haskins,
McLanahan and Donohue and commit to using the scientific method to discover
innovative public programs that work. A good way to do this would be to
provide ample research grants for pilot programs designed to encourage
family formation, and to consider relying on faith-based initiatives in this
area as well.
Even the best programs will provide little help to couples with conflicts as
serious as those facing Brinkley and Cook, but even minor progress in this
area could provide ample social benefits.
(Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American
Enterprise Institute, is a Bloomberg News columnist. He is an adviser to
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona in his bid for the 2008
presidential nomination. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Kevin Hassett at khassett at aei.org
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