Saturday, January 17, 2004

THE WEDDING SINGER. You know, I really think they draw straws for gigs like this one: explaining the $1.5 billion for remedial marriage lessons our President has proposed. Rick Lowry got the short one this time, but he's a gamer and puts on a good show.

Welfare, as Lowry explains it, was "the greatest anti-child-poverty program in all of recorded history," but "During the past three decades, the consensus behind this wondrously effective social program has collapsed," leading to frogs, boils, locusts etc.

Previously, Lowry had spoken feelingly for the welfare reform enacted by Congress, calling it "the most spectacular public-policy success of the 1990s," and lobbying for its preservation because "a falling black-child poverty rate is worth preserving." But now he thinks that "without a renaissance in marriage there will be no true welfare reform."

One wonders why Republicans didn't call for marriage lessons back in 1996 instead of seemingly superfluous reform. Perhaps it was felt that single mothers had to be pushed off welfare rolls and into workplaces, and left for some years in that situation, before they would focus their minds on the advantages of marriage.

But they're still not going for it in numbers to suit Lowry. Can't see why not -- after all, says Lowry, "...fathers of children born out of wedlock make, on average, $17,000 a year," but "According to [the Heritage Foundation's Robert] Rector, if they were to marry the mothers of their children, 75 percent of the mothers would be lifted out of poverty. In roughly two-thirds of the cases, the mothers would be lifted out of poverty without even having to work themselves."

Despite this tremendous financial incentive, single mothers for some reason "consider [marriage] a near-utopian state," says Lowry, "to be achieved in some far-off future when they have made it into the middle class." And so they must be educated.

The President's plan appears to target couples, but as portrayed here it is really the ladies who need convincing. Perhaps a special class will be convened for single mothers. I would dearly love to see the reaction of women who daily juggle all the titanic responsibilities of working motherhood on subsistence wages to this sort of instruction. What would the instructor say when some of his subjects talk back, and tell him that they cannot afford sitters to mind their children while they use their few free hours to hunt down Mr. Right?

Lowry also works in a couple of slaps at " American social policy since the 1960s" and gay marriage. Maybe this is to show his colleagues that no matter how preposterous his assignment, he can still acquit himself with panache.

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