Wednesday, August 15, 2007

End Welfare Before We All End Up Murdered

We know that Welfare has destroyed black families and is well on its way to destroying white families. Before former President Johnson’s Great Society, about 26% of both white and black children were born out of wedlock. Today that figure has doubled for whites and tripled for blacks. Welfare reform was a start, but it has hardly made a dent in this devastation of American society. What is needed is for AFDC to be made into an emergency aid program that can only be drawn on for a short time every few years.

We’ll never get anywhere if we keep throwing money at symptoms while the underlying problems are kept off the table.

Newark triple-murder reveals need for fathers

August 14, 2007, Carey Roberts,

"Enough is enough," thundered Newark mayor Cory Booker at Saturday's funeral of Dashon Harvey. The weekend before Dashon, age 20, and two of his friends had been forced to kneel against a wall at a nearby school playground and shot in the head, execution-style.

Dashon had been a student at Delaware State University, eventually hoping to become a social worker.

City Journal commentator Steven Malanga reveals the social pathology that lies behind those murders: "An astonishing 60 percent of the city's kids are growing up without fathers ... Studies have also found that about 70 percent of the long-term prisoners in our jails, those who have committed the most violent crimes, grew up without fathers." []

Just hours before Mayor Booker was venting his outrage, Robert Pedersen, divorced father of two, was preparing to depart on a 700-mile bicycle trek from Lansing, Michigan to Washington, DC. His objective: to share his story at an August 18 rally in honor of Family Preservation Day. []

As Pedersen was set to leave on his journey, he lamented, "I was not able to say goodnight to my children last night because the phone was never picked up despite a total of 4 calls. All I wanted to do was to hear their voice before having to leave on such a long and intense journey."

Kids yearn for the love and discipline of their fathers, and dads long to be with their children. So where on the road to a kinder, gentler society did things begin to go a-kilter?

The wellspring of the problem can be traced to the advent of no-fault divorce, relaxed sexual mores that gave rise to out-of-wedlock births, and the legacy of Great Society programs that diminished father's roles.

And a recent report by political scientist Stephen Baskerville reveals powerful incentives have now become rooted in the system. [] These inducements stymie reform and place families at risk.

The problem starts at the top with the Office for Child Support Enforcement, the federal bureaucracy that awards grants to states that propel the gears of their child support enforcement machinery.

Remember we're talking about a squeezing-blood-out-of-a-turnip problem — few low-income dads have the skills or job opportunities to make their child support payments. So revoking their fishing licenses and throwing them in jail becomes an exercise in social do-gooding that is more symbol than substance.

If our child support collection effort was working, the revenues collected from obligated parents should exceed the program's expenses. But they don't. According to a 2003 report from the House Ways and Means Committee, taxpayers actually lost $2.7 billion in 2002.

The OCSE sweetens the deal by dangling juicy incentives that are tied to the level of child support dollars collected. For example in 2002, child support programs brought $640 million to California and $228 million to Ohio.

It's those incentives that have made the system so destructive to families.

If fathers are awarded 50% custody of their children, they owe little or nothing in child support. If no child support dollars are channeling through the system, then the federal money dries up. This creates an inducement for states to keep children away from their fathers as much as possible.

The system has become so corrupted that bureaucrats brazenly speak out in its defense. Last year North Dakota citizens were debating a bill to promote shared parenting.

Then Department of Human Services head Carol Olson did her Chicken Little routine, claiming — falsely — that the state would lose $71 million in federal payments. Olson was saying in so many words that a father's love counts for less than being able to suckle on the federal teat.

The end result is a dissolution of the family and an unraveling of the social order. Of course that creates the demand for more welfare programs. As former Administration for Children and Families head Secretary Wade Horn explained, "My agency spends $46 billon per year operating 65 different social programs. The need for each is either created or exacerbated by the breakup of families and marriages."

So we're talking about a federal program that costs billions of dollars a year, fails to recover its own expenses, elbows dads out of the picture, subjects single moms to the vagaries of state-enforced neo-paternalism, harms children, and eventually rends the social fabric of our nation.

So as Robert Pedersen peddles into Washington and does a triumphant loop around the DC mall, the question remains, Will federal lawmakers take heed of the senseless tragedy of Dashon Harvey and his grieving parents?


City Without Fathers
Behind Newark’s epidemic violence are its thousands of fatherless children.

Steven Malanga, 9 August 2007, City Journal

The horrific, execution-style killing of three teens in Newark last weekend has sparked widespread outrage and promises of reform from politicians, religious leaders, and community activists, who are pledging a renewed campaign against the violence that plagues New Jersey’s largest city. But much of the reaction, though well-intentioned, misses the point. Behind Newark’s persistent violence and deep social dysfunction is a profound cultural shift that has left many of the city’s children growing up outside the two-parent family—and in particular, growing up without fathers. Decades of research tell us that such children are far likelier to fail in school and work and to fall into violence than those raised in two-parent families. In Newark, we are seeing what happens to a community when the traditional family comes close to disappearing.

According to 2005 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 32 percent of Newark children are being raised by their parents in a two-adult household. The rest are distributed among families led by grandparents, foster parents, and single parents—mostly mothers. An astonishing 60 percent of the city’s kids are growing up without fathers. It isn’t that traditional families are breaking up; they aren’t even getting started. The city has one of the highest out-of-wedlock birthrates in the country, with about 65 percent of its children born to unmarried women. And 70 percent of those births are to women who are already poor, meaning that their kids are born directly into poverty.

The economic consequences of these numbers are unsettling, since single parenthood is a road to lasting poverty in America today. In Newark, single parents head 83 percent of all families living below the poverty line. If you are a child born into a single-parent family in Newark, your chances of winding up in poverty are better than one in five, but if you are born into a two-parent family, those chances drop to just one in twelve.

And the social consequences are even more disturbing. Research conducted in the 1990s found that a child born out of wedlock was three times more likely to drop out of school than the average child, and far more likely to wind up on welfare as an adult. Studies have also found that about 70 percent of the long-term prisoners in our jails, those who have committed the most violent crimes, grew up without fathers.

The starkness of these statistics makes it astonishing that our politicians and policy makers ignore the subject of single parenthood, as if it were outside the realm of civic discourse. And our religious leaders, who once preached against such behavior, now also largely avoid the issue, even as they call for prayer vigils and organize stop-the-violence campaigns in Newark. Often, in this void, the only information that our teens and young adults get on the subject of marriage, children, and family life comes through media reports about the lifestyles of our celebrity entertainers and athletes, who have increasingly shunned matrimony and traditional families. Once, such news might have been considered scandalous; today, it is reported matter-of-factly, as if these pop icons’ lives were the norm.

Faced with such a profound shift in attitudes, even well-designed, well-intentioned government programs that have worked elsewhere may have only limited success in a community like Newark. The city’s dynamic new mayor, Cory Booker, has moved quickly to import successful ideas and programs, including rigorous quality-of-life policing from New York City. Booker is advocating sensible changes to fix the city’s troubled school system, which graduates a shockingly low number of students, and he’s looking at job training programs to get fathers involved, at least economically, in their children’s lives.

But Booker has also shown frustration at the slow pace of change in Newark, and earlier this week he observed that the city’s problems didn’t start yesterday and won’t be solved tomorrow. Given that some 3,750 kids are born every year into fatherless Newark families, Booker’s prediction may be depressingly correct.


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