PRA Press Releases

New Report Shows Bush Administration Promotes Marriage, Rather than Proven Anti-Poverty Programs, to Raise Low-Income Families Out of Poverty

“Remedy” for Poverty Grounded in Ideology, Not Facts; Further Erodes Separation of Church and State 

BOSTON – A new report by the think tank Political Research Associates and the Women of Color Resource Center charges the George W. Bush Administration with politicizing and weakening federal anti-poverty polices by promoting conservative family values over proven poverty relief programs.  According to the report, Pushed to the Altar: the Right Wing Roots of Marriage Promotion, the Bush administration made the controversial idea that father-led families are the answer to poverty its official policy. Furthermore, the projects promoting marriage among the impoverished further erode the separation of church and state since funds are often channeled to church-linked programs.

The report’s author, political scientist Jean Hardisty, shows the Administration’s assertion that marriage will cure poverty and end fatherlessness “is simply unproven” and estimates the price tag for federal marriage and fatherhood promotion programs at more than $200 million a year. Details include:

  • The Administration’s Charitable Choice Fund, which in 2004 had a budget of $2 billion, has made grants in furtherance of marriage promotion;
  • The 2005 Deficit Reduction Act allocated $100 million annually for marriage promotion programs and $50 million for fatherhood programs for fiscal years 2006–2010, for a total of $750 million. Grants for the entire five years were awarded in 2006.
  • Some of the $30 million Compassion Capital Fund for faith-based programs (administered by the Department of Health and Human Services) underwrites marriage promotion;
  • HHS’ “Healthy Families Initiatives” targets African American, Native American and Hispanic communities with special programs promoting father-led families.

Says Hardisty, “This redirection of benefits intended for low-income families and those unable to meet their own needs is the equivalent of taking food from the table of the poor.”  Meanwhile, more tangible assistance for low-income families – food stamps, medical care, housing subsidies, job training – all became more difficult to obtain. 

Many of these programs were put in place by Wade Horn, the conservative fatherhood movement activist, who in 2001 was appointed by George W. Bush to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Children and Families division.

Dr. Hardisty is a Senior Scholar at The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and President Emerita of Political Research Associates, a Boston-based progressive think tank and publisher of the The Public Eye quarterly.

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