September 28, 1995
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Congress is crashing head-on into the devastating problem of
illegitimacy, and balking.
Decades after liberal ideology declared marriage obsolete and
liberal welfare policy discouraged it, America has reaped a bitter
harvest: Millions of children growing up without dads, and moms
struggling through life without much hope for the future.
Congress is now trying to hash out the differences between House
and Senate versions of a comprehensive welfare-reform bill.
Unfortunately, liberals of both parties seem determined to join
with President Clinton and block reforms that could help avert
further social catastrophe. They are on the verge of shooting down
a plan to deny welfare increases to unwed mothers who have more
children while they're on welfare. That means: Taxpayers will
continue to subsidize out-of-wedlock births.
Yet, the numbers are stark and incontrovertible. We are becoming
a nation of fatherless children. And fatherless children grow up to
commit more violent crime, take more illegal drugs and become
statistics in more social pathologies than any other group.
Unmarried mothers gave birth to 80 percent of all black children
born in the inner city in 1994. But the problem goes far beyond the
inner city. In 1965, when a worried young strategist in the Johnson
administration's War on Poverty warned of the end of the black
family, 25 percent of all black births were to unmarried mothers.
Today, nearly 30 percent of all births in America -- regardless of
color -- are to unmarried mothers.
In other words, the country as a whole has now gone further down
the road of family disintegration than the black family had in
1965. Sadly, Sen. Daniel Moynihan, D-N.Y. -- who first warned of
this problem -- is now among the senators blocking genuine welfare
America must stop providing a financial incentive for women on
welfare to have children out of wedlock. The only way to do that is
to cut off additional payments to those who have more babies while
on public assistance, and to deny benefits to girls under 18 who
give birth to illegitimate children.
This is not as heartless as it sounds -- after all, does your
boss give you an automatic raise if you have more children? If you
were contemplating a new addition to the family and your boss said,
sure, we'll give you a raise to take care of it, wouldn't you be
more likely to go ahead?
Meaningful welfare reform also must require mothers to name the
fathers of their children as a condition of receiving welfare
payments -- to make dads pay child support.
The alternative is to just keep whistling in the dark. If
Congress can't muster the courage to take these measures, here's
what's in store for America:
When are liberal politicians in Washington going to get it? The
brand of "compassion" they've been dealing out is killing us. It's
time to do something about it.
J. Feulner, Ph.D. is president of The Heritage
Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research
Return to The Heritage Foundation's Commentarysection.
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
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