Marriage Presidential Style
W's Plan to Marry Welfare Moms
Women on welfare across the nation stood up last week
and cheered when the president of the United States, George Walker Bush,
announced that he planned to spend over $100 million to get them
married. These women ran in hordes to quit their jobs and educational
programs, realizing that this was not the way out of poverty and into
self-sufficiency – they needed a man. Non-profits hoping to get on
Bush’s money train shut down their job training and literacy programs in
order to begin more critical classes on manners and etiquette. Lesbians
ran in throngs to heterosexual conversion clinics, finally having an
excuse to switch to the other team. Teenagers who had lost hope that
they would ever go to a prom, went shopping for dresses – just in case
the president’s next budget addition was for finding them dates.
What did the president plan to spend the money on? Love
spells, magic potions, or wart removal kits for unsightly frogs waiting
to become princes. Subsidies to remove ugly blemishes or tattoos
claiming the wearer “loves Jim” or “Sam” or even “Mom”? Or perhaps a
dowry for each woman on welfare, a tactic that obviously worked well in
years passed. Better yet – a government-run dating service complete with
video tapes, where hopeful welfare recipients could discuss their love
of long walks on the beach, sunsets, and drinking hot chocolate after a
long day of skiing.
Bush’s actual plan for the money is still unclear beyond
the fact that $100 million dollars is budgeted toward experimental
programs aimed at encouraging women on welfare to get married.
The president’s heart is in the right place. He does
want to help women get off welfare and out of poverty, and indeed
getting married may be the easiest way to do this.
But let’s say, just for one minute, that there are other
ways to help women off welfare. What else might the $100 million go
toward? It could pay two-thirds of the $150 million needed to create a
new “Employment Advancement Fund” for state experiments on improving
wages for low-income workers. It could replace the $100 million in
annual bonuses that will be eliminated in the new budget, which were
destined for states that do the best job in reducing births to unmarried
parents. The money could also go toward 9,090,909 California community
college units at $11 a unit; 3,333,333 weeks of child care at $30 a
week; 23,188 Section 8 housing vouchers; or 3,333 fulltime jobs at
$30,000 a year.
To the president’s credit, a number of studies show that
not only can marriage be a quick fix to poverty, but it also benefits
both adults and children substantially.
According to Robert Moffitt, an economist at Johns
Hopkins University, many women on welfare hold the traditional view that
the man should be the breadwinner and support his wife and children, but
such an option is simply not realistic for them. Welfare allows these
women to choose between marrying the fathers of their children and
relying on their limited earning abilities, and the economic stability
of a welfare check. Even if Bush’s proposal brings couples together, if
men in low-income neighborhoods do not receive additional job training,
education, or career services, they will not pave the road out of
Regardless of the economics, should the government be
involved in the marriage game? With the high U.S. divorce rate, should
women be coerced, or at least encouraged, into marriage simply to save
the government money? What happened to the dream of spending one’s life
with a person who is not merely compatible, but truly love? Or is this
an ideal allowed to only the more affluent.
Women are just as intelligent and capable as males. They
manage just fine alongside their male counterparts in higher education,
employment, and all other avenues of life. Women can make their own
choices and take care of themselves but – like men – they sometimes need
a helping hand. Is marriage the right hand?