2015 | Week of February 16 – #1085
Bob to Sue during Valentine’s week, 2015: “We’ve been going together for several years now. I moved in with you last year, and we even have 2 children together. I think we should get married. Let’s set a date and tie the knot! I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you!”
Sue to Bob: “Well, uh, I’m glad you love me—and everything you’ve said is true about us being together, even living together and having kids, but I’m not sure you really understand what that means. Right now I get help from the government—actually, lots of help from the government—help with housing, food, utilities, child care, health insurance, tax credits—and more—and I don’t want to work more than I’m working, you know? I’m already away from the kids quite a bit each week. Frankly, I’m pretty sure we can’t afford to get married because according to what I understand, if I marry you, I’ll lose a lot of money. Maybe we better just keep things like they are, ya know? I love you but I don’t wanna lose everything by getting married.”
Now, that’s a fictitious conversation; but I can just about guarantee you that it pretty well replicates very real conversations that take place all across this state each and every week.
Last year, Wisconsin Family Council released a publication entitled Wisconsin’s Cultural Indicators, 2014 Edition. In that document, we have a 30-page section entitled, “Family Structure.” Using data from state and federal agencies, we show in black and white and full-color that the state, compliments of us as taxpayers, pays women not to marry the father of their children. Put another way, we give low-income women in particular no incentive to marry and every incentive to not marry the father of their children. Making it even worse, married people with children are actually penalized in some ways for being married.
Now, this reality is in spite of the very clear evidence that shows that the very best environment for children is to be in the homes of their married dads and moms, with avoiding poverty being one of the good things that happens. Unfortunately, the evidence all too clearly shows that the large majority of single-mother homes live in poverty—right here in Wisconsin.
What’s our answer to this plight? Generally, the answer has been to find more ways for “we the people” to give these folks more money and entitlements through additional government-funded, that is taxpayer-funded, programs—or increase the amount of money available in existing programs—programs that keep sending the message that marrying the father of one’s children is not a financially good move. We’ve created multiple generations now of government-dependent citizens.
This problem isn’t getting better and likely won’t anytime soon. Right now, today, nearly 40% of the babies born in Wisconsin are born to single moms. In Milwaukee, that number jumps to 80%. These facts mean more and more women are going to be tapping into the taxpayer-funded benefits offered them by federal and state government.
The financial aspect of this is ridiculously bad and there’s a breaking point somewhere; but the financial is not the worst part. The worst part is what growing up without a dad in the picture does to children. Not only does it nearly guarantee poverty, it puts these kids at risk for physical and sexual abuse, bad health, poor school attendance and performance, criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse, and more. Tragically, this lifestyle of government dependence tends to be handed down and replicated from one generation to another.
We’ve been using welfare to address poverty for years. What it’s given us is more of the same. More babies born to single moms, more moms thinking government dependency is better for them than marriage, more single-family homes in poverty, more kids struggling to overcome the odds.
Obviously, the answer isn’t more money and programs. The truth is we have to start creating incentives for people to marry. At a minimum, we can’t penalize marriage and we have to stop paying people to not marry. What we currently have is a recipe for disaster—especially for the children in single-parent homes. Public policy must change. We can’t afford more of the same—in dollars and cents and certainly in human lives. We must change Sue’s response to Bob’s marriage proposal from a reluctant, “If I marry you, I’ll lose a lot of money. Maybe we better just keep things like they are,” to an exuberant, “Yes, Bob, of course I’ll marry you!”
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”