as a Route to Success? Maybe Not
Actually, it might be if it's a good, stable marriage that
was well-considered before inception. I have serious doubts
about any marriage entered into for economic reasons. As Kim
Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, writes
Today, "The reasons we marry (or don't) aren't based on
income level, and there are many factors involved."
pResident Bush proposes, without much elaboration, that
the way to succeed in life is to get married. How do I put
this? No. This is like reading Consumer Reports before buying
a car. It seems to be a good idea, but most of the cars tested
by CU are heavily optioned under the premise that the options
included on the test cars are the ones consumers want. They
ignore the fact that most car buyers in the real world won't
pay $28,000 for a Toyota Camry when the $19,000 model with
the four-banger is sufficient. Thus, reading a review on the
$28,000 Camry prior to buying the $19,000 model is a useless
exercise at best.
So is it with government-encouraged "shotgun marriages."
In the old days, women got married because it made better
economic sense than working in whatever job a woman could
get. The problem with this was, such women were completely
dependent upon their husbands for their livelihoods. If the
male partner turned out to be an abusive son of a bitch, a
habitual drunkard, or whatever, tough shit.
Conservatives often forget the bad parts about the "good
old days," like the part where life expectancy was about 55
years when Teddy Roosevelt was President, or that the lack
of a minimum wage led to large-scale worker exploitation,
widespread poverty, stunted economic growth, etc., or that
without consumer protection regs, food, drugs, children's
toys, automobiles, baby strollers, etc., were often hazardous
to one's health.
Maggie Gallagher (who writes mostly what I'd call "conservative
feminist" stuff like this for Yahoo! News) suggests that federal money
spent on such things as "welfare, food stamps, health care,
child care, job training, education for single moms and their
kids" constitutes "subsidizing the consequences of family
breakdown." Perhaps she's right - to a point. On the other
hand, I'd love to ask her whether whatever perceived harm
educating single mothers (most of whom did not enter into
such status just to suck on the government teat, I might add)
might inflict on the "Great American Family (TM)" outweighs
the benefit of having women in our society who can fend for
themselves, pay taxes, and raise their children to be productive
Ms. Gallagher, while more polished and better educated than
someone like Ann Coulter, is being less than intellectually
honest in her comparison of bad marriage vs. single motherhood:
"While a stressful marriage can be hard on women, mothers
who are not married are often in a churning romantic maelstrom
that may have negative effects on the mothers' careers as
well as children's well-being." Such statements are meant
to horrify and frighten people, as they understate the ill-effects
of the snake oil they are selling you while blowing those
of the status quo out of proportion, like those TV commercials
for newfangled (and mostly unnecessary) kitchen appliances.
The reality is, marriage guarantees nothing. Sure,
people in good, stable marriages tend to be prosperous because
of the synergy that takes place between a husband and wife
who are dedicated to each other. That last part in
italics is extremely important. A good marriage is like a
good company; two partners can accomplish more for their mutual
benefit than the two individuals could alone. Such dedication
is a personal character trait one brings into a marriage,
not something that naturally derives from matrimony. Thus,
a bad marriage is counterproductive for both participants.
Partners who cannot trust each other, who aren't team players,
who have conflicts of interest, etc., have no business being
in business together. Such a partnership is doomed from the
start to failure; it is foolish to suggest that marriage,
in and of itself, guarantees success in life. It is cruel
to foist it on those who are vulnerable and desperate.
Instead of "toughening" welfare reform, perhaps it is wiser
to look at ways to improve it. As the writer taking up the
conservative viewpoint in USA Today suggests, promoting
marriage would work "only if the government backs up its pro-marriage
talk with actions that end the financial penalties levied
on low-income couples that tie the knot." Poor working couples
are oftentimes ineligible for much-needed assistance for which
the mother alone, were she not married, would be eligible.
That has the effect, not only of discouraging marriage, but
of weakening existing marriages. This continues to be a flaw
in the welfare system, and it should be done away with. This,
more than anything else, would strengthen families more than
any Bush administration propaganda campaign.
Why is a middle of the road recovering Republican who writes
a center-left online newsletter called way Too Much Sense! (TM).