January 20, 2001
OFFERS HOPE TO MORALISTS
George W. Bush
had a 30 point margin among voters concerned about America's moral
drift, while Gore won 2-1 among those who never attend church.
and the secularists are about equal in numbers. The Senate is divided
50-50 and the House, nearly so. Will the Bush term be years of stalemate
or of progress in moving America to higher ethical standards?
dramatic progress on many fronts that were not in the spotlight during
the campaign. Consider the issues of rampant obscenity, soaring
out-of-wedlock births and single parenthood, persistent poverty of
children and sky high divorce rates. Many people believe these are
immutable trends that government cannot impact.
''What is most clear about the Clinton Administration is that they did
not enforce the laws against obscenity. The Adult Video Magazine
promoted votes for Gore,'' says Dr. Jerry Kirk, Chairman of the
Religious Alliance Against Pornography. ''Bush will enforce the laws on
the books on both obscenity and child pornography. His appointment of
John Ashcroft as Attorney General is evidence of that. In his third
debate, Bush mentioned he believed (pornography) filters should be put
in all the schools.''
In the mid-1960's, only 7 percent of babies were born out of wedlock.
The ''War on Poverty'' fueled this pathology by treating single
low-income mothers as victims of social injustice, who needed larger
welfare checks, food stamps, subsidized housing and medical care. Robert
Rector of the Heritage Foundation says a mother could ''earn'' this
welfare package, worth $15,000 per year in current dollars with only two
''She could not
work, and she could not marry an employed man. It is difficult to
imagine a more destructive system.'' It fueled the inexorable rise in
out-of-wedlock births, to the point now that 33 percent of children are
born to unwed mothers. Today about $200 billion a year is spent to
reward non-marriage and illegitimacy.
conservatives have fought to cut back funding of welfare programs, with
little success. However, welfare was reformed into workfare. A person
receiving what used to be called AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent
Children), had to find work. Since 1996, the Temporary Assistance To
Needy Families (TANF) welfare rolls plunged in half, indeed by 90
percent in Wisconsin. Thus, behavioral change can be mandated by law.
3. Poverty: Only
10 percent of children living with married parents are in poverty vs. 66
percent of children of single parents. Thus, the key to reducing poverty
is to increase the percentage of couples who are married.
Interestingly, the TANF welfare reform set goals to ''encourage the
formation and maintenance of two-parent families,'' to prevent and
reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births,'' and to reduce the poor's
dependence on government. Obviously, higher marriage rates and lower
divorce rates would accomplish all three goals.
However, all but
two of the states ignored those goals, even though there is a huge $6.9
billion surplus of unspent TANF funds as a result of the plunge in
welfare rolls. Both Arizona and Oklahoma will spend $1 million to create
a pro-marriage media campaign to encourage people to get married and
Oklahoma has set
also aside 10 percent of its TANF surplus, $10 million, to undertake an
ambitious ''Marriage Initiative.'' Premarital education will be offered
on two tracks. First, couples in the churches with strong marriages will
be trained as a network of ''Mentor Couples'' to prepare couples for a
lifelong marriage through the creation of Community Marriage Policies in
the 35 counties which have more divorces than marriages. Some churches
have been able to put a ''safety net'' of Mentor Couples under every
marriage reducing divorces to near zero.
government workers will be trained to teach skills of communication and
conflict resolution to couples not reached by the churches. Every county
has welfare workers, health care providers and agricultural extension
George Bush do? First, he should use his bully pulpit to issue an
authoritative message on the value of marriage as a way to reduce
poverty and illegitimacy, and as a way to improve the health, happiness,
wealth and extend the lives of Americans. He ought to ask Congress to
pass a joint resolution on the need for public policies to strengthen
marriage. He could also urge the nation's churches to make marriage a
priority - which it certainly is not today.
could propose a change in the TANF law, which must be reauthorized this
year. The Heritage Foundation is recommending that he set aside 5
percent of the TANF funds for pro-marriage activity like that pioneered
These will be
great years for the moralists.
Copyright 2001 Michael J.
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