February 8, 2008
"Remedy" for Poverty Grounded in Ideology, Not Facts; Erodes Church/State Separation
BOSTON – This Valentine's Day, an increasing number of low-income women find themselves pushed to the altar - not by their relations or suitors, but by the federal government. A new report by the think tank Political Research Associates and the Women of Color Resource Center documents how the Bush Administration bypassed proven poverty relief programs to promote marriage and the controversial idea that father-led families are the answer to poverty.
Furthermore, the projects promoting marriage among the impoverished erode the separation of Church and State since federal funds are often channeled through church-linked programs.
Pushed to the Altar: The Right Wing Roots of Marriage Promotion by political scientist Jean Hardisty, shows that the Bush Administration's claim that marriage will cure poverty and end fatherlessness "is simply unproven" and puts the price tag for federal marriage and fatherhood promotion programs at more than $200 million a year.
"This redirection of benefits intended for low-income families and those unable to meet their own needs is the equivalent of taking food from the table of the poor,"said Hardisty. Meanwhile, more tangible assistance for low-income families - food stamps, medical care, housing subsidies, job training - all became more difficult to obtain.
Many of these programs were put in place by Wade Horn, the right-wing fatherhood movement activist, who in 2001 was appointed by George W. Bush to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Children and Families division. Funding flows through various programs:
HHS's Charitable Choice Fund, which directs $2 billion (2004) in anti-poverty funds to faith-based programs, has made grants in furtherance of marriage promotion;
The 2005 Deficit Reduction Act allocates $100 million annually for marriage promotion programs and $50 million for fatherhood programs for fiscal years 2006-2010, for a total of $750 million.
HHS's $30 million Compassion Capital Fund for faith-based programs underwrites marriage promotion;
HHS's "Healthy Families Initiatives" targets African American, Native American and Hispanic communities with special programs promoting father- led families.
The executive summary is available online. Full copy of the report is available by calling 617-666-5300.
Jean Hardisty is Senior Scholar at The Wellesley Centers for Women, and President Emerita of Political Research Associates, a Boston- based progressive think tank and publisher of the The Public Eye quarterly.
Work at the Wellesley Centers for Women addresses three major areas: the social and economic status of women and girls and the advancement of their human rights both in the United States and around the globe; the education, care, and development of children and youth; and the emotional well-being of families and individuals. Issues of diversity and equity are central across all the work as are the experiences and perspectives of women from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.