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PUBLIC POLICY 44-456 DR. AGBANGO 29 APRIL 1996
Michael J. Schearer Professor Agbango 44-456 Public Policy 29 April 1996
Never before has such a cultural firestorm erupted over the words of a sitting public official. Conservative talk show host Rush
Limbaugh, speaking of former Vice President Dan Quayle’s family values speech, marked May 11, 1992, as the “formal Declaration of the Culture War” (Limbaugh 91). The substance of Quayle’s speech was much overlooked, with exception to one sentence: Quayle’s
criticism of “a TV show’s glamorization of unwed motherhood” (Limbaugh 91). “It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown - a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman - mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice,’” (386) Quayle said. national debate of This sentence, more than any other, ignited a family values and personal responsibility.
However, the message Quayle tells us is much more important than a single sentence. Quayle said that “I believe the lawless social anarchy which we saw (during the Los Angeles riots) is directly related to the breakdown of family structure, personal responsibility and social order in too many areas of our society” (382). In effect, what the former Vice
President is saying is “the dissolution of intact two-parent families is harmful to large numbers of children ... increasing numbers of singleparent and stepparent families does not strengthen the social fabric, but, rather, dramatically weakens and undermines society”
Quayle’s message is that the breakdown of the
family structure is a direct cause of such “lawless social anarchy.” It will be demonstrated through a presentation of social science research that this family breakdown can be directly contributed to a failed welfare system. Since 1965, the United States has spent more than $5 trillion dollars on welfare (Gingrich 72). Let us begin by considering where that $5 trillion has gotten us. The evidence is abundant, it is
bipartisan, and it sends a very clear picture which will define itself in time. The application of this vast amount of research toward Quayle’s message appears to confirm the former Vice President’s beliefs: Twenty-two percent of children in one-parent families will experience poverty during childhood for seven
years or more, as for children in two-parent
compared with only two percent families. A found 1988 that
survey by the National Center for Health Statistics children in single-parent families are two to three times
as likely as children in two-parent families to have emotional and drop out of high abuse drugs and to be in behavioral problems. They are also more likely to
school, to get pregnant as teenagers, to trouble with the law.
Compared with children in intact families, from disrupted families are at a much higher risk for
physical or sexual abuse ... research shows that many children from in a holding a steady disrupted families have a harder time achieving intimacy relationship, forming a stable marriage, or even job. (Whitehead 47)
Further, “overall child well-being has declined, despite a decrease in the number of children per family, an increase in the educational level of parents, and historically high levels of public spending” (Whitehead 48). Illegitimacy also poses a major problem to the family structure. “The out-of-wedlock birth rate also jumped. It went from five percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 1990 ... with rates of divorce and nonmarital birth so high, family disruption is at its peak” Whitehead 50). If family disruption, beginning primarily in the 1960’s,
is the cause of current social decay, one is compelled to imagine what effect family disruption in today’s society will have on the future. “The Great Society has had the unintended consequence of snaring millions of Americans into the welfare trap. Government
programs designed to give a helping hand to the neediest of Americans have instead bred illegitimacy, crime, illiteracy, and more poverty” (Gillespie 65). The current welfare system, largely a result of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty, actually promotes dependency and breaks apart families through anti-family tax codes and widespread abuse. Former Attorney General William P. Barr, appearing on “This Week with David Brinkley” (April 26, 1992), concluded that: What we are seeing in the inner city [is] essentially the grim harvest the breakdown of the of the Great Society ... because we are seeing family structure, now largely have a
contributed to be welfare policies ... We situation in the inner cities where 64 percent of the
children are illegitimate, and there’s a very small wonder that we when they have 53) Dan Quayle, in his infamous “Murphy Brown” speech, made a valid point that “these problems have, unfortunately, been particularly have trouble instilling values in educating children their home life so disrupted. (Moynihan “How”
acute for Black Americans” (Quayle 383). He shares some revealing statistics on the difference between black poverty in the 1960’s and today: • In 1967, 68% of black families were headed by married couples. In 1991, only 48% of black families were headed by both a husband and wife. • In 1965 the illegitimacy rate among black families was 28%. In
1989, 65% - (almost) two thirds - of all black children were born to never married mothers. • In 1951, 9.2% of black youth between 16-19 were unemployed. In 1965, it was 23%. In 1980, it was 35%. By 1989, the number had declined slightly, but was still 32%. • The leading cause of death among young black males today is homicide (Quayle 383). Social scientist Charles Murray adds, “the 1991 story for blacks is that illegitimacy has now reached 68% of births to black women. In inner cities, this figure is typically in excess of 80%” (“The Coming” A14). Not only does this confirm Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s
1964 theory about the breakdown of the black family (Murray “Does welfare” 17), but it can be applied to the “coming white underclass” that Murray writes about (“The Coming” A14). confirms the reality of this white underclass. Social science now Just as Moynihan
identified the growing black underclass as a result of the 26%
illegitimacy rate in the early 1960’s, Murray points out that the current white illegitimacy rate now measures 22%, while it reaches 30% across racial lines (“The Coming” A14). Murray says “illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time - more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare, or homelessness because it drives everything else” (“The Coming” A14). A case study of 131 children in the San
Francisco area that began in 1971 and continued for over fifteen years provides fascinating insight into Murray’s contention. The study
analyzes the breakdown of the family structure and its effects on children. “Most experts believed that divorce was like a bad cold.
There was a phase of acute discomfort, and then a short recovery phase. According to conventional wisdom, kids would be back on their feet in no time ...” (Whitehead 64) However, Judith Wallerstein’s study and resulting book, Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a
Decade After Divorce (1989), found that: Five years after divorce more than a third of the children experienced moderate or severe depression. At ten years a significant number be of the now
young men and women appeared to and underachieving. At fifteen years many of adults were struggling to establish strong love
relationships of their own ... a full 42 percent of these men and
women from middle class families appeared to have ended their had left college before two-year or the four-year level. educations without attempting college or achieving a degree at either the (Whitehead 64, 75)
Wallerstein’s study clearly shows evidence that links family disruption (divorce, illegitimacy) with societal problems down the road. Another study that yields thought-provoking insight was Barton’s study, an interesting
conducted by researcher Paul Barton in 1992. America’s Smallest School: The Family, shows
proportion of two-parent families by state to academic proficiency. North Dakota scores highest academically on the math-proficiency tests, and is ranked second in the nation in the percentage of twoparent families. On the other hand, the District of Columbia ranks
second to last on the math test and lowest in the nation in its percentage of two-parent families (Moynihan “Defining” 15). Barton’s study provides more evidence which links family disruption to societal breakdown, and in this case, poor academic standards. Social science is clearly defining the role of family disruption in society: illegitimacy and divorce and their adverse affects on children promote social breakdown, and consequently, can cause deviant behavior. U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) proffers a
fascinating thesis on society’s willingness to accept such social
“ ... over the past generation ... the amount of deviant
behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can afford to recognize at that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the normal level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard” (Moynihan 13). What Moynihan is saying is that we are getting used to more and more increasingly deviant behavior. deviancy down. In his words, we are defining
We let the L.A. riots happen because we are The breakdown of the
becoming accustomed to society as such.
family structure, beginning primarily in the early 1960’s, is the leading cause of deviant behavior in today’s society. Becoming accustomed to this behavior only perpetuates the current social breakdown and threatens to “damage the social ecology” (Whitehead 84). Barbara Dafoe Whitehead concludes that: We assume that most people in America will be able to work, care themselves, and independence and initiative in their for themselves and their families, think for inculcate the same traits of We The
depend on families to teach people to do these things.
erosion of the two-parent family undermines the capacity of families to impart this knowledge; children of long-term welfare-dependent single parents are far more likely
than others to be dependent on the children in disrupted families have a
forging bonds of trust with others and giving and getting help across the generations. (84; Emphasis added) Further, social scientists and experts tend to agree about the root causes of social instability. Karl Zinsmeister of the American
Enterprise Institute adds that “ ... when families disintegrate, children often end up with intellectual, physical, and emotional scars that persist for life ... We talk about the drug crisis, the education crisis, and the problem of teen pregnancy and juvenile crime. But all these ills trace back predominately to one source: broken families” (Bennett “Leading” 45). President Lyndon Johnson, speaking at Howard
University in 1965, said “the family is the cornerstone of society ... and when the family collapses ... the community itself is crippled” (Bennett 45). Interestingly enough, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead asks us to consider that “... we may contribute to the problem by pursuing policies that actually increase family instability and breakup” (Bennett 49). While President Johnson’s intentions were good, it now appears as if the policies he pursued with the Great Society and War on Poverty programs actually contribute to instability and breakup, as Whitehead contends.
Father Jerry Hill, who runs a homeless shelter in Dallas, explained to former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander the frustration in dealing with the current welfare system: I am telling you, every punk on the street that’s on crack or had an argument The addict comes in, wants to see depressed and they are this and that. So anything else wants to draw Social Security. I with two caseworkers this week. the psychiatrist, they the are
psychiatrist writes down, ‘Yes, they are disabled as a result of being addicted,’ and they can get on SSI (Supplemental Security can kiss them good[Disability] Insurance). When that happens, I bye because they lose all
motivation. They get four hundred and month, and once they get on that they have
forty-six dollars a
absolutely no desire to do anything for the rest of their lives. What 44; Emphasis we are doing is supplementing drug use. (Alexander added)
The “disabled as a result of being addicted” excuse is not limited to Chicago. Newt Gingrich writes that SSI “has allowed ... forty
disabled alcoholics to have their government checks registered directly at a Denver liquor store” (74). This is blatant abuse of a
disgraced and failed welfare system. Sister Connie Driscoll of the St. Martin de Porres shelter on Chicago’s South Side concurs. “... Do you
know how stupid the government is? ... if they find out you’re on drugs ... instead of getting $260 a month you can get $536 a month to spend on drugs, because they consider that a disability ... A lack of responsibility is the issue” (Eggers 229). Riverside County welfare official Larry Townsend confirms the failure of welfare programs: We are making rules under AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent normal society ... and in governments, make these Children) which are separate from the rules of Many do-gooders, in think-tanks dual rules a and then
later find in dismay and surprise that they have dysfunctional society. (Eggers 219)
William D. Eggers and John O’Leary, in their book Revolution at the Roots, explain how welfare burdens, rather than helps, Americans. Consequently, abuse is not only widespread, but makes headlines in all the wrong ways. In 1994, “police raided a Chicago apartment
looking for drugs. Instead, they found 19 children living in inhuman conditions” (221). If that wasn’t enough, “fifteen of the children were seven years old or younger. In addition to finding rat droppings,
rotting food, and cockroaches, police reported a child sharing a bone with a dog. [Cook County Welfare officials found that] the children’s six mothers ... were collecting $65,952 in cash and food stamps annually” (Eggers 221).
Possibly the most prominent President of the 20th-century said that “continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit” (Eggers 222). Must be Ronald Reagan, right? No, that was none other than Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1935 State of the Union address. Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins testified that: [I]t is my conviction, and one of the strongest convictions I hold, a direct relief that the Federal government should never return to program. It is degrading to the
individual; it destroys morale and in no increase in wealth to the community; it
self-respect; it results tends to
destroy the ability of the individual to perform useful work in the future and it tends to establish a permanent body of dependents. (Kaus 238) The social science research is frighteningly conclusive. As
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has demonstrated, illegitimacy leads to greater poverty, a longer stay below the poverty line, emotional and behavioral problems, higher drop-out rates, greater numbers of premarital and nonmarital pregnancies, drug abuse and crime, as well as higher risks of physical and/or sexual abuse. Judith Wallerstein’s study provides insight into the effect of illegitimacy and divorce on children. It has been shown that the children, across fifteen years of
development, displayed significant signs of depression, emotional problems and difficulties in establishing relationships of their own. Richard Hernnstein and Charles Murray, in their latest work, The Bell Curve, establish that “marriage is a fundamental building block of social life and society itself” (Hernnstein 168). Finally, Paul Barton’s study shows the direct link between family disruption and academic performance. Father Jerry Hill and welfare official Larry Townsend have explained their frustration with the current welfare system. Cook
County (Ill.) child welfare officials aren’t surprised with the results, either. We have also explained President Johnson’s strong conviction that the family is the cornerstone of society and its collapse burdens society. President Roosevelt envisioned the welfare state as an workbased, opportunity society, not a failed system of dependency. He
specifically spoke out against direct relief programs, which constitute much of the current welfare system. Probably the most telling figures come from Charles Murray’s groundbreaking work Losing Ground, figures that Murray calls the “poverty/spending paradox” (Murray “Losing” 57). Murray states that “... most people seem to envision a plot in which dramatic improvement (in decreasing poverty rates) did not really get started until the programs of the Great Society took effect” (“Losing” 57). But by comparing federal cash expenditures and poverty rates paint a
completely different picture. “The reality is that the improvement was stopping, not starting, during that time” (“Losing” 57). Should one be compelled to disagree with the mountain of evidence, sociologist David Popenoe asserts that: Social science research is almost never conclusive. There are unturned. Yet in scientist, I know of few other weight of evidence is so decisively on issue: on the whole, for children, two-parent families are preferable to single-parent and stepfamilies. (Whitehead 82) It must be concluded, therefore, that today’s welfare system is a complete and utter failure. It cannot be amended or changed, it must be scrapped and replaced with the kind of work-based opportunity society that President Roosevelt envisioned and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich writes about. Gingrich boldly declares that: the greatest moral imperative we face is replacing the welfare state day that we allow the are condemning the poor - and with an opportunity society. For every always methodological difficulties and stones left three decades of work as a social
bodies of data in which the one side of the
current conditions to continue, we particularly poor as
children - to being deprived of their basic rights
Americans. The welfare state reduces the poor from citizens to clients. (71) Charles Murray agrees, and underscores the importance of real change. “... the moral imperative to do something to correct the
situation of poor people and especially the minority poor is at least as powerful now as when Lyndon Johnson took office” (“Losing” 219). What we need to do is move away from a system of long-term dependency and disincentives and toward a pro-work, pro-family opportunity society. Real and meaningful welfare reform involves
reform of not just cash payments and food stamps, but other major changes, “which need to be undertaken simultaneously” (Gingrich 73). Among those areas which need our undivided attention are education and the tax system. Education reform, on a broad scale, involves school choice, home schooling, charter schools, and voucher programs. Charles
Murray says that “a voucher system is the single most powerful method available to us to improve the education of the poor and disadvantaged” (“Losing” 224). Democrat state representative Polly Williams, a former welfare mother, and Republican Tommy Thompson, are demonstrating how vouchers allow low-income parents a choice to allow their children to attend William private Weld schools has (Gingrich parents 83). the
opportunity to choose what schools their children will attend. Charter
schools, run by private businesses and community leaders, have given schools the chance to break the “education monopoly” (“Questions” 3, Gingrich 83). A second integral component of welfare reform involves a major overall of the current tax code. Too often, the current structure
actually encourages the breakup of families (the “marriage penalty,” Gillespie 87). Overhaul of the tax code would begin with a completely new system, probably either a national sales (consumption) tax or a flat tax. Either of these new tax codes will write the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) out of business, replacing thousands of rules and regulations with a simple tax form. Taxes would be distributed more fairly, in fact most low-income families would be completely free of a federal tax burden. Among the most important reforms, of course, come within the bureaucratic mess we call the welfare system. Food stamp fraud is widespread, as Sister Connie Driscoll confirms: “I can’t go over to
63rd Street (on Chicago’s South Side) without being hounded by someone offering to buy food stamps at half price” (Eggers 229). She found over 100 stores who were willing to covert stamps for cash, which can be used to buy anything. Fraud in food stamps runs into the millions of dollars, and it is not limited to the inner city. A recent interview revealed that a well-known grocery store in a middle-class neighborhood in suburban Reading, Pa. (only one mile from this
author’s residence), was recently implicated in a multi-thousand dollar food stamp scam (Benfer). Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) is abused by drug addicts and alcoholics, who use federal tax dollars to supplement their habits. These programs destroy the moral fabric Without serious reform, the
upon which our nation was founded.
system will continue to perpetuate long-term dependency. Other pro-family reforms are finally being introduced. Some
states are considering changes in divorce laws to institute a “children first” principle. Under these proposals, the children’s best interest New Jersey’s recent welfare
would be the judge’s main concern.
reform has eliminated extended cash payments to mothers on AFDC when they have additional children. Finally, child support programs are being implemented to assure payments when deadbeat parents don’t pay up (Whitehead 70-1). Dr. Marvin Olasky writes about the seven marks of compassion, the secrets to successful charity programs of a century ago: Affiliation, Bonding, Categorization, Discernment, Employment,
Freedom, God (101).
“If we understand how these seven were
applied, we will at least be able to ask the right questions about our recent wrong turn,” Olasky writes (101). Affiliation meant reestablishing broken bonds of family, church, and community. Dr. Olasky explains that:
The prime goal of relief ... was not material distribution but ‘affiliation ... the reabsorption in ordinary industrial and social life of those who for some
reason have snapped the threads that bound members of the community.’ (102)
them to the other
The mark of bonding involved volunteers, “who in essence became new family members” (103). Categorization was a principle that
charities understood to mean that everyone was not treated equally. Some were more worthy of relief than others, and those who truly needed help were the ones who received it. Discernment was
exhibited by individuals and charitable organizations who realized early that “some among the poor ‘preferred their condition and even tried to take advantage of it’” (107). Abuse of relief is not confined to modern-day welfare. It was alive in the 19th-century. However,
preventing fraud was much more important then than it appears to be now. Charities Review, reminiscent of modern-day welfare to work programs, explained that “Labor is the life of society, and the beggar who will not work is a social cannibal feeding on that life” (Glenn 67). That was the basis of the principle of employment, which meant work for all able-bodied head of households. Freedom is defined by Olasky as “the opportunity to work and worship without governmental restriction ... it was clear to most that government subsidy could not
provide the kind of freedom that was important” (111). Finally, Olasky writes that “... the seventh seal on the social covenant of the late nineteenth century was the relationship of God to all these things” (112). The application of Olasky’s seven marks of compassion, as principles for meaningful reform today, is necessary to establish a prowork, pro-family opportunity society. Along with compassion, we need to work with William J. Bennett’s virtues in mind: self-discipline,
responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, and faith (“Book” 9). Our current welfare system traps families and individuals into a system that breeds dependency and illegitimacy. Welfare reform isn’t about eliminating assistance, it’s about changing the way we administer relief so that families stay together and individuals learn the value of hard work and the virtue of individual responsibility. When we have decided that these values are more important than a government handout, only then will real reform take place. The words of a popular song echo the concerns of many Americans: “When
Uncle Sam dips in your pocket, for most things you don’t mind. But when your dollar goes to all of those standing in a welfare line, rejoice you have a choice, if you’re concerned about the destination of this great nation” (Brooks). While it may be stereotypical, the words
express a legitimate concern. We are pouring trillions of dollars into a failed system, and it’s about time something is done about it. By working with Bennett’s virtues and Olasky’s marks of compassion, and together with a broad and comprehensive welfare reform plan that covers education and tax reform, we can move toward that opportunity society. For too long we have allowed our
children to grow up in the failed welfare state of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. It is time, in the words of President Bill Clinton, to “end welfare as we know it.” It must be completely scrapped and replaced by a pro-work, pro-family opportunity society. Only then will Americans have a real chance.
Works Cited Alexander, Lamar. We Know What To Do: A Political Maverick Talks with America. New York: Morrow, 1995. Benfer, Chris. Telephone interview. 22 April 1996. Bennett, William J. The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.
---. The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators: Facts and Figures on the State of American Society. New York: Touchstone, 1994.
Brooks, Garth. “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association.” The Hits. Eggers, William D. and John O’Leary. Revolution at the Roots: New
Making our Government Smaller, Better and Closer to Home. York: The Free Press, 1995. Contract With America:
Gillespie, Ed, and Bob Schellhas, eds. Bold Plan by Republicans to
Rep. Newt Gingrich, Rep. Dick Armey and the House Change the Nation. New York: Times Books, 1994.
Gingrich, Newt. To Renew America. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. Glenn, John. “Cooperation Against Beggary” The Charities Review I December 891: p. 67. Hernnstein, Richard J. and Charles Murray. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York: The Free Press, 1994. Kaus, Mickey. The End of Equality. New York: Basic Books, 1992. Limbaugh, Rush. See, I Told You So. New York: Pocket Books, 1993.
Moynihan, Daniel Patrick. “Defining Deviancy Down.” Current September 1993: p. 15. ---. “How the Great Society ‘destroyed the American The Public Interest Spring 1992: p. 53-64. Murray, Charles. “The Coming White Underclass.” The Wall Street Journal 29 October 1993: p. A14. ---. “Does welfare bring more babies?” The Public Interest Spring 1994: p. 1730. family.’”
---. Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. New York: Basic Books, 1984.
Olasky, Marvin. The Tragedy of American Compassion. Washington, DC: Regnery, 1992.
Quayle, Dan. Standing Firm. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. “Questions & Answers on School Choice.” Massachusetts Department of Education. Online. 2 April 1996.
Whitehead, Barbara Dafoe. “Dan Quayle Was Right.” The Atlantic Monthly April 1993: p. 47-84.
Other Works of Interest “Babies making babies.” The Economist 11 December 1993: p. 27-8. “Basics? What basics?” The Economist 13 November 1993: p. 69. “Carlin, David R., Jr. “Quayle Says It Right But Does It Wrong.” Commonweal 17 July 1992: p. 12.
Coughlin, Ellen K. “Experts Add Their Voices to Welfare-Reform Debate.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 3 August 1994: A7-8.
Kinsley, Michael. “Happy families.” The New Republic 15 June 1992: p. 6. ---. “No, Quayle Was Wrong.” Time 23 May 1994: p. 78. Pollitt, Katha. “Why I Hate ‘Family Values’ (Let Me Count the Ways).” The Nation 20-27 July 1992: p. 88-94.
Smith, Lee. “The New Wave of Illegitimacy.” Fortune 18 April 1994: p. 81-94.