The US government leaders have come up with numerous ways of reducing effects of poverty in an attempt to curb continued growth of the number of poor people. The right-wing beliefs are conservative as these leaders assert that the society as a whole benefits when the role of the government is significantly reduced while increasing the importance of civil freedom and rights of each individual. In this context, the right-wing supporters point to government practices such as unemployment benefits and guaranteed social security as a hindrance to eliminating poverty in the society. Therefore, Republican leaders have come up in arms to promote marriages as panacea for poverty. The Democrats, on the other hand, firmly reject this proposal by stressing that marriage is not the grave concern as is the aspect of being poor (Covert, 2014). Despite the benefits to a child growing up in a two parent family, enforcing the same among single parents would not serve the purpose of improving income for the poor.
In the US, efforts by the government to develop solutions for the eradication of poverty have been present for more than five decades now. The most significant is the War on Poverty by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the State of Union address in 1964. This legislation prompted the leaders to develop ways of curbing the national poverty rate. The president’s speech helped the country in establishing high levels of community action programs that would enable the creation of jobs as a means of eradicating poverty. The war on poverty is noted as a continuation to the New Deal established by Frank D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1935. The country experienced significant drop in expenditure on aid to the impoverished citizens. Despite the criticism from the public, this drop in welfare helped in reducing the number of poor people (Covert, 2014). Towards the end of his administration as president of the US in 1988, Ronald Reagan asserted that despite the government declaring war on poverty, it was the latter that won as it was built on lies and deceit.
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Prevalence and Seriousness
The US has experienced significant difficulty in reducing the number of poor people. When the War on Poverty started off, approximately 93% of children were born in a family where the parents are married. This number rapidly declined over the years as in 2010 as only 60% are born in marriage. Following the implementation of the legislation, the US experienced significant decline in poverty in the first decade to its lowest in 1973 at 11.1%. Critics state that the policy had little effect as the steep drop started off five years before its enforcement. In the 21st Century, the number of people living in poverty is quite high despite statistics showing significant drop. Poor Americans above the age of 65 have reduced from 28.5% to 10.1%. Nevertheless, there are over 35 million citizens living impoverished lives which closely resonate to 12% of the total population in 2004 (Covert, 2014). The average rate of poverty has been on a steady rise since the increasing by over one million persons in a year. The recession in 2008 did not help the situation further adding onto the pressures of the country.
Impact on Families
The impact of poverty has been severe to the families. As mentioned earlier, since the Lyndon Johnson administration, the number of children born to intact families drastically dropped over the five decades. Child poverty has barely dropped in this time experiencing a reduction of 1.5% between 1965 and 2015 from 20.7% to 19.2%. Though this drop is better that none at all, it is evident that many more individuals prefer to raise children on their own other than in marriage single mothers and fathers increased from 8% to 23% and 1% to 4% over the same period. As a result, numerous adversities occur including more that 2 million American children living in single-parent families and nearly half of those raised by single mothers impoverished. Furthermore, these children are more likely to discontinue in their education completing fewer years, more likely to be involved in delinquency acts, exhibit behavioral issues, and experience high levels of sexual activity. These occurrences increase the likelihood of continued poverty in the future generations.
Supporters and Critics of the Issue
Key Players Supporting Marriage Promotion
The 43rd President of the US and the pioneer for this solution, George W. Bush, recognized the lack of concern for the traditional values of marriage and family in the government’s policies. As a result, he is depicted as a key player in enforcing the role of strong families as a means of eradicating poverty. The Bush administration primarily focused on providing numerous single-parents with significant motivation to get married and secure a better future for themselves and their children. The policy would incorporate tens of millions of dollars diverted to support its enforcement. The administration sought to inject nearly $1.5 billion to deliver the marriage education, mentoring and training programs for couples particularly those in low-income neighborhoods. The president ensured the bill was passed into law to ensure its continuation even after the end of his administration. This policy however promoted heterosexual marriage hence ignoring the rights of the LGBT members (Pear, & Kirkpatric, 2004).
Numerous health and religious institutions have also advocated for marriage promotion. One of the organizations includes the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. and the earliest supporter of marriage promotion. The institution identified the undesirable effects that the erosion of marriage has caused on both children and adults hence a major factor in societal problems. The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), Sothern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family (SBCFF) and White House officials during the Bush administration like Karl Rove had personal interest to ensure the marriage promotion policy (Pear, & Kirkpatric, 2004). The Chairman of the TVC, Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, publicly encouraged the support for the solution in an attempt to oppose legalization of same-sex marriages. Karl Rove on the other hand would keep close contact with the evangelical groups, SBCFF, as a means of pushing for the same policy (Pear, & Kirkpatric, 2004).
Key Players against Marriage Promotion
The policy has faced significant disapproval from numerous political leaders, organizations and research institutions. Following a lengthy study on the practices of the government in providing education and mentorship, some conservative leaders like Ross Douthat identified the need to change focus on poverty eradication to more serious issues like mass incarceration that has caused high levels of working class and colored men to experience difficulty in finding employment (Filipovic, 2014). The shift in focus was, however, conditional as it would require the congressional democrats to enforce stiffer rules on abortion and birth-control. In this regard, marriage would enjoy its previously held high status. The marriage promotion policy showed significant failure in it ineffectiveness to prompt strong families in the country. Incarceration on the other hand, would be a far better focus as it would enable morally upright citizens aspiring to make a living in their community.
Organizations like Center for American Progress along with researchers of economic policies like Maria Shriver have been at the forefront of illuminating the impact of marriage promotion. The report on this conservative remedy affirms the importance of marriage in the society. Nevertheless, it depicts that the numerous cases of women becoming single mothers makes the policy a punishment for those who do not abide. The government is treating many of the single-parents as the intentional perpetrators of their own misery. A detailed poll showed that Americans would prefer a policy that is inclined to support single-parent families and depict ways of improving their living conditions. Approximately 64% of the people surveyed were in agreement with this view. Only 51% supported encouraging two person households and creation of a policy restricting the number of children single parents can have (Filipovic, 2014). In the latter practice, it is well clear that the government would infringe on the freedom rights of its citizens.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Key Players
The Bush administration significantly demonstrated its high level of concern for the health and overall living condition for children born into non-intact families. The administration recognized the rapid decline in two-parent families as a cause for concern in the morals of the society. Through the policy, members of the community would learn numerous practices and ideologies that would help in the improvement of the marriage institution (Goldberg, 2014). The incorporation of evangelical and religious organizations is an important factor to build on the efforts of the government (Shaw, 2017). The various believers significantly understand the importance of enforcing marriage from the religious perspective. This practice gives the community an improved outlook on the benefits particularly in improving the morals and behavior of the child. Research has shown that children living in non-intact families are more likely to experience issues of behavior and involvement in delinquency (Shaw, 2017). As a result, the policy would be able to help in realizing the overall benefit of the community.
The implementation of marriage promotion has its significant limitations particularly in the advocated type of marriage. The conservatives have depicted a clear support for the heterosexual marriages while suppressing the rights accorded to the LGBT members (Goldberg, 2014). The policy clearly shows a lack of confidence in the same-sex marriages particularly after numerous states across the country supported it through its highest court system (Goldberg, 2014). Furthermore, through the continued expenditure of the government on the Healthy Marriage Initiative (HMI), there has been few signs of results showing improvement in child poverty. The Brookings Institution which has had a hand in pushing for the implementation of the policy recognized that the change has not taken place. Since the law was enacted, there have been more children born to unwed parents than in previous years (Shaw, 2017). The conservative organization fails to retract from its mission as it aims to put further funding on promoting the marriage institution.
In the case of opponents of the issue, it is depicted that the shift by numerous conservative leaders is a clear indicator of the poor nature of the policy. The leaders of the right-wing demonstrate that in the words of former President Ronald Reagan, they have kept the spirit of Jefferson by ensuring that the factors that unite them with the left-wing members is far greater than the issues that raise differences. In this regard, the congressional leaders are clearly open to develop significant alternatives for eradicating poverty (Bruenig, 2015). The disapproval of the numerous organizations shows that the society would prefer a policy that supports the recognition of single-parents. The policy creates soothing similar to a government that punishes its citizens for their predicament. In this case, the government should instead focus more on providing single mothers and fathers with an environment that sustains them and helps them cope with the adverse effects of their circumstance (Bruenig, 2015). The numerous issues leading to divorce and single-parenting are a clear indicator that the government should refrain from shoehorning women to put up with the challenges. These concerns include, a bad marriage, domestic violence, fall of decent jobs for working class men, and drug and alcohol abuse.
However, in the disapproval of the marriage promotion policy, the organizations and individuals alike demonstrate numerous limitations in arguments. Since the ancient civilizations, marriage was depicted as a religious institution through which individuals would help in the development of a morally upright community (Lowrey, 2014). The growing number of divorces and children born to unwed parents is a clear case of the rot in the society. The opposition have also shown lack of concern for the negative effects of single-parenthood on the issue. The presentation of adverse effects to the child not only economically but also in the health and behavioral issues are serious cases of concern in the modern society. These problems that arise in the single-parent families should be addressed for significant benefit to the child (Shaw, 2017).
In the recently completed Obama administration, the focus was to primarily promote better income for the working class population. The government continued to effectively enforce the Bush policy but to a lesser extent. Since the use of more than a billion dollars on the program does not show potential success, alternative techniques have been developed for the benefit of the society. Increasing the minimum wage has been a primary driving force for the eradication of poverty. The administration increased the number of individuals earning above the minimum wage bracket. The government has also ensured developed health programs that enable low-income families to effectively afford care and treatment through the Affordable Care Act. This law ensures the all poor members are able to achieve good health even in cases of lacking income.
The laws developed following the enforcement of marriage promotion depict a case of improved case of poverty in the society. The Obama administration developed federal laws that demanded the increase in minimum wage in relation to the growing cost of living in the US. In this regard, low-income individuals are able to afford more items that improve their living standards. The incorporation of social safety nets continues to take effect in this administration as families among other low-income persons are able to reap the benefits of the government’s involvement. The Affordable Care Act for instance helps low-income families to receive primary medical care while they attempt to find alternative jobs. The practice enables more persons to live a healthy life and effectively engage in lengthy working to improve their economic situation.
The issue of poverty may continue to worsen in the near future if the current and future governments do not develop a broad view of solution. In this regard, the government should develop a panacea that not only focuses on marriage but instead attempts to solve issues that force the population to seek divorces. The number of people who experience cases of bad marriages continues to rise forcing many of them to opt for marriages. Single-parenting has prompted the modern society to believe that marriage is a poor institution in the society. Women in particular who are experiencing equality in the labor market are becoming more independent and do not believe in depending on their spouses.
The promotion of marriage fails to address issues that are the root problem for the society’s occurrences. In this regard, the government should develop programs that enable both men and women are appropriately equipped to get married. The American dream that was long thought as the possibility of every citizen’s ability to achieve success seems to be a lie. The federal government should make changes to create a more positive perception by the citizens.
Bruenig, M. (2015 Dec 4) Promoting Marriage Has Failed and Is Unnecessary to Cut Poverty . PolicyShop, Retrieved from http://www.demos.org/blog/12/4/15/promoting-marriage-has-failed-and-unnecessary-cut-poverty
Covert, B. (2014, Feb 11) Nearly A Billion Dollars Spent On Marriage Promotion Programs Have Achieved Next To Nothing . Think Progress, Retrieved from https://thinkprogress.org/nearly-a-billion-dollars-spent-on-marriage-promotion-programs-have-achieved-next-to-nothing-e675f0d9b67#.5vrgccuy7
Filipovic, J. (2014, Jan 24) Nice try Republicans, but marriage isn't the solution to poverty . The Guardian, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/30/marriage-is-not-the-solution-to-poverty
Goldberg, M. (2014, Jan 15) Why Marriage Won’t Solve Poverty . The Nation, Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/why-marriage-wont-solve-poverty/
Lowrey, A. (2014, Feb 4) Can Marriage Cure Poverty ? The New York Times, Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/magazine/can-marriage-cure-poverty.html?_r=0
Pear, R. & Kirkpatric, D. D. (2004, Jan 14) Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive For Promotion of Marriage . The New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/14/us/bush-plans-1.5-billion-drive-for-promotion-of-marriage.html
Shaw, R. (2017, Jan 20) Could marriage be the answer to child poverty, or just part of the answer? Aleteia, Retrieved from http://aleteia.org/2017/01/20/could-marriage-be-the-answer-to-child-poverty/#sthash.IcPpHyLw.dpuf