A Couple That Is Meant to Last; Welfare Reform Should Be Paired to Marriage counseling.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 20, 2002 | Go to article overview
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A Couple That Is Meant to Last; Welfare Reform Should Be Paired to Marriage counseling.(OPED)


Byline: Deborah Simmons, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes so-and-so with a baby carriage. Or so the little ditty goes. These days, though, love often has nothing to do with marriage, baby carriages are sometimes financed courtesy of the government and, in far too many instances, Daddy is nowhere to be found.

Those are the new facts of American life. Values and traditions are tossed to the wind. "Sex and the City" and gender-oriented TV commercials have become the cultural standards on which we base singlehood. It's OK to toss a beer in boyfriend's face, so long as it's not a Heineken.

Still, while it's all fiction, the PC police are again at war. This time the National Organization for Women and the Institute for Women's Policy Research are circling the Bush administration's welfare-reform legislation and its marriage-counseling proposal, which offer hope for America's families.

As Cheryl Wetzstein reported Monday, couples and caseworkers like the idea that the 1996 welfare-reform law allows states to use welfare dollars to promote marriage. One Arizona couple, Darrin and Valerie Chandler, described themselves as stubborn and didn't expect to gain anything from the classes. They called the class a "total blessing," and said, slowly but surely, working together they are pulling themselves out of debt. Randy and Jennifer Vaughn's on-again, off-again marriage was sheer frustration. Now, after the marriage seminars, they are "getting onto the same page."

Marriage isn't for everyone, and it's certainly a give-and-take commitment. And it would be naive to think that a few classes could turn around a truly horrible marriage stung by, say violence or substance abuse. But third parties can help.

Indeed, when it comes to aiding the poor, third parties (the government and its endless stream of subsidies) are already deeply involved in their day-to-day lives. That's why suggesting that single parents on welfare consider marriage counseling is an obvious extension of the welfare-reform reauthorization legislation.

Women's libbers, of course, disagree. NOW supports the Senate version of the welfare-reauthorization bill for several reasons, mostly because of its funding stipulations - including benefits for illegal immigrants and decreased funds for abstinence-only programs. The Institute for Women's Policy Research, meantime, takes a high-brow approach, arguing that Washington's welfare-policy wonks couldn't possibly understand the complexities of love and marriage among the poor.

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