Bush's Marriage and Fatherhood Provisions

May 9, 2006

In the federal budget passed for 2006, Bush stuck in $150 million a year in grants to promote healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood.  The larger goals that they are shooting for are to prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families (same-sexers need not apply, of course!)

My main question is this: is the promotion of marriage and responsible fatherhood the best way to prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encourage the formation and maintenance of nuclear families? I have my doubts.

I lack imagination when it comes to conceiving of an ad campaign that would make a marriage-phobic guy want to tie the knot. And the single moms I know? I can’t conceive of an ad campaign, mentor program, or budgeting class that would make their baby-daddies rethink their rejection of family life.

Perhaps there are Jedi mind tricks that could convince the legions of deadbeat dads to rejoin responsible family life.

The “fatherhood funds” can be used for:

Development of a national media campaign to promote responsible fatherhood and establishment of a clearinghouse to assist states and communities in their efforts to promote and support marriage and responsible fatherhood; these tasks are to be undertaken by a nationally recognized nonprofit fatherhood promotion organization.

I smell PromiseKeepers. Do you smell PromiseKeepers? They are, after all, encouraging religious organizations to apply for these grants.

Regardless, I know that many, if not most, people enter into marriage and parenthood with few skills and ridiculously high expectations, a terrible combination. And financial troubles and inexperience can make a family implode. Many of the possible grant uses such as job training and financial management classes are activies that would benefit a lot of people.

But at the end of the day, a good job market, no-nonsense sex ed, and widely available and affordable birth control will accomplish the stated goals more reliably than marriage and fatherhood promotion and training. In the absence of those bedrock conditions, counseling and Bush’s other approaches are seriously compromised.