White House marriage plan bad approach
There is nothing inherently wrong with providing couples with marriage counseling, but the Bush administration is taking entirely the wrong approach.
What is being planned, if Congress goes along, is a $1.5 million government initiative to promote marriage and counsel low-income couples. It is being called the "healthy marriage initiative" and is part of a reauthorization of the 1996 welfare law.
The thinking behind the plan is that an emphasis on marriage will help bring families out of poverty and reduce the need for public assistance. Single-parent homes are particularly seen as perpetuating poverty.
"Marriage programs do work," said Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary of health and human services for children and families in the Bush administration. "On average, children raised by their own parents in healthy, stable families enjoy better physical and mental health and are less likely to be poor."
Those observations are valid and have been supported by research, but that doesn't mean a new government program is the way to achieve the goal of stronger families.
Although the government's focus is on those in poverty, the reality is that broken marriages and families are not limited to those below the poverty level. They are common in today's society. The government program will do nothing about that.
Marriage is not and should not be a government concern. It is a social and religious institution and that is where problems should be resolved.
Private and religious groups have a long history of working with the poor to better their lives, often without any assistance from the government. In fact, such groups often deliberately reject government aid because of the strings that necessarily come attached to such funding.
Many of these groups already recognize the problems with marriage in our society among all income groups, and have instituted counseling and other types of programs to promote the institution.
This voluntary outreach, supported through voluntary contributions, is the proper approach. The government has no business sticking its nose into issues which are personal and private, like marriage.