A Costly Love Connection Sometimes when the federal government tries to fix a problem, they actually wind up making it worse. Evidence of this is in President Bush's proposal to spend $300 million on promoting marriage to welfare moms. This program will take resources away from proven anti-poverty programs to encourage poor unwed mothers to make a federally mandated love connection.
Marriage Penalties Not Likely To Be Overcome So Easily
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
After finally realizing that our nation's welfare policies were actually providing incentives for unwed mothers to stay single, Congress decided in 1996 to shift welfare policy in the other direction and make marriage promotion a goal of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The problem is that no one knows whether efforts to promote marriage will work.
Proponents think that since we've made progress in getting a large number of welfare recipients to work, the solution to the remaining welfare problems arising from poor education, lack of child care, and joblessness is to get program participants to the altar. Without any real evidence that marrying off single mothers is a panacea to poverty, President Bush wants to spend $300 million to develop incentives for women on welfare to get hitched.
It seems certain that children who grow up in financially stable, two-parent families generally have fewer problems and greater chances of economic success. However, it's not a given that women on welfare who get married will have the means to provide their families a financially stable environment. In fact, their selection of marriage "candidates" is populated mainly by men who face the same financial instability as they do. The promotion of marriage may sound good in a press release, but this shift in policy is more likely to make no difference at all, or even worsen the situation.
When a couple working at the minimum wage marries, their union brings them a loss of thousands of dollars in welfare benefits. Unless the Bush plan funds a "who wants to marry a millionaire" program, its chances of actually moving families out of poverty are pretty slim.
The $300 million that will help lead welfare mothers to the altar will be taken from the same pot of money funding programs that actually reduce poverty like childcare or job training. About 40% of the children in poverty are currently living in two-parent households. Marriage incentives will not help reduce the overall number of children living in poverty; it will only increase the number of poor children who live with two parents.
Evidence of welfare policy that has had a positive impact on marriages comes from the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). However, unlike the Administration's proposal, the MFIP focused on increasing economic stability in all families with absolutely no bias towards the number of parents heading the household. The lesson to be learned from MFIP is that solutions should target the problem - not a tangential factor that may or may not be the cause.
Spending $300 million to encourage marriage will do little to reduce poverty or to shrink the welfare rolls. The Bush Administration should know better -- and lawmakers would be ill advised to support this misdirected plan. This proposal should be sacrificed at the altar of common sense.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110
or by email at email@example.com
TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
For more on tax policy and the "marriage penalty", see:
Ed McCaffery's Special Report
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