The High Cost of Welfare

It has been fifty years since Lyndon Johnson signed into law the program known as The Great Society. Ten trillion dollars later, the effects have been the very antithesis of his stated aims. This single piece of public policy has destroyed the family, caused a marked increase in illegitimacy, crime, illiteracy and drug abuse and turned traditional America into a culture of fatherlessness.

In 1960, the rate of illegitimacy was 5%. In 20012, it is 80% among inner city Blacks, 25% among Whites and 40% among Hispanics. Over eighty percent of welfare benefits go to unwed mothers. About 90% of the juveniles behind bars have mothers who never married. The figures for school grades and dropout rates are equally dismal.

Children growing up in public housing, exposed to violence and drugs in the absence of a stable two-parent home are essentially condemned to a life of poverty and failure. They have a far greater chance of winding up behind bars, pregnant, on skid row or dead than in a nice home with a family and a good job.

Life is never fair. That’s just reality. Not everyone is born wealthy or beautiful or brilliant. The refusal to accept this reality is the arrogance of liberalism. Their taxpayer-funded political un-reality has been a costly delusion that has resisted repeated revisions in SAT and IQ tests or Head Start and the more than eighty other government programs for the dis-advantaged to make reality more fair.

What is missing in these senseless federal programs is an understanding of the importance of marriage and the role of mothers and fathers in the development of intelligence, morality and social values in infants and young children. The failure to do so has been incalculably costly in terms of wasted human potential and monies.

Maternal stimulation in the first year of life is critical for intellectual and emotional development. Increased maternal interaction stimulates development of the neuronal network in the infant’s brain. A dense network means a greater the capacity to learn. Einstein’s brain had a tremendously dense neuronal network.

Maternal stimulation differs measurably between wed and unwed moms. Unmarried mothers speak about twenty-thousand words to their infants during the first year. Married mothers start talking to their babies during pregnancy and continue for about twenty million words in the same twelve-month period. IQ assessments in the infants at 18 months and again at 36 months demonstrate significant measurable differences.

It is the effects of maternal deprivation that have remained resistant to federal programs like Head Start. Despite trillions of dollars, they have never demonstrated any lasting improvements in achievement or IQ. The insult to the child dates back to earliest infancy. No program can rewrite this neuropsychophysiological reality.

What can be done that might be helpful? Christelyn Karazin suggests resurrecting the shotgun marriage to legitimize children. It’s a good idea. The time-honored practice exists in most cultures. A glance at Vanity Fair or People confirms it is still a time-honored tradition in our very own.

A social worker at a local government clinic implemented a similar program. Not only did the women clients marry, they dropped off the welfare rolls. The program was cancelled when his boss learned about the numbers of clients for whom funding would no longer fatten his coffers. Why not expand such efforts?

The two-parent family is the backbone and strength of any civilized society. Viewed from that perspective, Americans were better off one hundred years ago. Is one answer to what ails our country not enough marriage licenses?

Government policies are misguided and destructive, deliberately so perhaps. They promote illegitimacy. David Mamet notes in The Secret Knowledge that all dictators seek to destroy the family which is then replaced by the State.

Investor’s Business Daily noted in an article thirty years ago that marriage was the solution to poverty. It confers a feeling of wholeness and identity on the couple and their children. Marriage awakens a new sense of responsibility in men. Husbands work to support their families with a new-found zeal. 20% of children in two-parent homes are poor but 80% are in one-parent homes. A marriage license costs twenty-five bucks. Could it really be that simple?

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