No. 1267



If you will tune me in for a few minutes, I would like to share what I consider to be the most disgusting thing I have ever presented in this column. This is a case of unintended consequences.
In his Union Address on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson proposed legislation that would create a “War on Poverty” in response to a national poverty rate of around 19 percent. His speech led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity to administer the application of federal funds targeted against poverty.
Now to be sure, his intent was noble, but it has not turned out that way. He just wanted to take care of poor people. Now, five decades later, we are reaping what he has sown. Prior to the 1960s, nearly all children were born to married couples. When the War on Poverty began in 1964, only 7 percent of children were born to unmarried women. Now, that figure is closer to 60 percent. Historically, marriage has played a critical role in the raising of children. In most cases, the economic benefits of marriage are substantial. Marriage among families with children is an extremely powerful factor in promoting economic self-sufficiency.
The reason for this is simple. In most cases, two parents working together can support a child more efficiently than one. However, the benefits are far beyond self-sufficiency. When compared with children in a two-parent family, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school. Many of these negative outcomes are associated with higher poverty rates of single mothers.
Compared with girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice likely to have a child without being married. It is no accident that the collapse of marriage in America largely began with the War on Poverty and the proliferation of means-tested welfare programs that it fostered. When the War on Poverty began, only a single welfare program – Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) -- assisted single parents. Today there are dozens of programs, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the WIC food program, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, child nutrition programs, public housing and Section 8 housing, and Medicaid.
The bottom line is simply this, and the main reason our country is in such a mess today. The family has always been the backbone of our society, and our welfare system actually discourages marriage by benefitting an unmarried woman who has one or more children than if she were married. They count the husband’s income against her in receiving help from the government. On a related note, experts have said that most of those committing mass shootings in our nation today were by men who grew up without a father.
Now I am not saying that it is a simple matter because the system has gotten so complex, but we have people smart enough to figure out how to encourage marriage for poor people, rather than to discourage it. Let’s turn it around and get our country on the right track again. To verify what I am saying, go to the Internet and visit www.Heritage.Org and type in War on Poverty.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)