Independence or in Dependence?
It's been 50 years and 20 trillion dollars since President Lyndon Johnson's famous speech declaring war on poverty. What's the report from the frontlines? The number of poor people hasn't shrunk -- and neither has the government. In fact, quite the opposite. Fighting poverty became an excuse to expand bureaucracy, 92 programs worth. And now, five decades later, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) wants to know what Americans have to show for it.
Certainly not the poverty rate, which is the highest at 15% in a generation. "Federal programs are not only failing to address the problem," Ryan said in today's House Budget hearing. "They are also in some significant respects making it worse." For too long, he explained, "we have measured compassion by how much we spend instead of how many people get out of poverty." Food stamps, Medicare, Social Security, housing assistance, while well intentioned, aren't solving the problem.
Why? Because, as Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) puts it, "We will not grow our economy or put people back to work by expanding entitlements. We will never solve the problems of poverty and inequality through bigger government." It's time to consider the one social program we know works: the family. Every year, the U.S. spends about $800 billion on anti-poverty programs. That's enough to write every low-income family inAmerica$59,500 check. But throwing money at the problem isn't solving it, because the real issue isn't financial breakdown -- it's family breakdown.
Conservatives like Rick Santorum understand that reducing poverty is as simple as this: "Work, graduate from high school, and get married before you have children." Do that and your chances of ending up in poverty are about 2%. If all you do is get married, then your odds of living in poverty are about 6%. Instead of sowing more big government liberalism, it's time for Congress to make the connection between America's financial mess and its cultural one. While the Left looks for the answer to poverty in welfare programs, our nation's greatest hope continues to be in the home. What's necessary, social science tells us, is a married mother and father -- an advantage only 45% of this generation enjoy.
But don't take our word for it -- take Harvard University's. In its latest analysis, experts insist that single parenthood is one of the largest obstacles in moving up the income ladder. "The study found the prevalence of single parents to be a much larger factor in determining social mobility than income inequality -- something President Obama and Democrats speak of ad nauseum."
That also helps explain why Americans have thrown $20 trillion at the war on poverty with next to nothing to show for it. Money can't replace marriage as a lasting antidote to the poor's problems. In this instance, we do need government -- a government that won't devalue family or stand in the way of its formation. As Michael Novak once said, "The family is the first, best, and original Department of Health, Education, and Welfare." It's time to focus our attention -- and Congress's -- on stronger families, not bigger government.
Admiral Keeps Religious Liberty Afloat
As one of the highest-ranking members of the Coast Guard, William Lee wasn't known for rocking the boat. But exactly one year ago this week, the committed Christian did exactly that -- delivering one of the most poignant speeches ever given at the National Prayer Breakfast. Admiral Lee, like so many service members, had watched with dismay as his military turned on men and women of faith in its ranks, attacking one of the most time-honored traditions of the Armed Forces: religious liberty.
Knowing it could cost him his career, an emotional Admiral Lee stood at the microphone at last year's prayer service and said that he had 10 minutes of carefully prepared remarks ready but decided to "speak from the heart" instead. He told the story of servicemen searching for reasons to live, and talked about one 24-year-old who had tried to commit suicide and failed. Despite the protocol, Lee said he felt strongly that he should give the young man a Bible. "The lawyers tell me that if I do that, I'm crossing the line," he told the crowd. "I'm so glad I've crossed that line so many times."
To a standing ovation, Admiral Lee promised not to back down from "my right under the Constitution to tell a young man that there is hope." Twelve months (and a half-million views) later, that video has inspired countless troops to stand firm in their faith. While 30 years of service hung in the balance, Admiral Lee refused to back down from his conviction that the people who lay their life on the line for America deserve to enjoy the freedoms they're protecting. At the time, he didn't know what backlash he would face from the Obama Pentagon for speaking so openly about faith. Expecting the wrath of the administration, Admiral Lee asked people to please pray "that we will be able to weather the storm that I am almost certain will come."
A year later, he not only weathered the storm -- he beat it! This week, Admiral Lee celebrated a promotion to Vice Admiral -- USCG (prospective), Atlantic Area Commander -- with the Change of Command scheduled for May. We congratulate Admiral Lee, not just for his distinguished service, but for his courage, which is an inspiration to every American being pressured to compromise on their beliefs. When the enemy senses fear, it pounces. But when the enemy sees backbone like Admiral Lee's, it turns and runs. "Neither a wise man," said General Dwight Eisenhower, "nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him."
If My People, Who Are Called by My Name...
This morning, we were honored to host the Men's Prayer Gathering for the National Day of Prayer Task Force (video below) in advance of the National Day of Prayer tomorrow, May 1. I encouraged the men from Luke 18 with Jesus's admonition that we ought always to pray and never give up. Pastor Steven Khoury of Holy Land Missions in Bethlehem gave a passionate call along with the other speakers.
After a season of prayer for seven areas of influence, including government, Dr. James Dobson closed the meeting. He referred to the senseless murder of the unborn, the relentless march of the homosexual agenda, and the rapid loss of religious liberty and then closed: "I pray that the Lord will open the eyes of His people...I'm talking about a return to righteousness in this country. And that's why we're here. That's why you're here. We're not just here just to pray 'pretty prayers.' We're here to beg the Lord for forgiveness... I believe if we continue as we are, judgment is inevitable. In fact, I've drawn the conclusion that we are in the midst of it... Even so Lord Jesus come quickly... [In the meantime,] Lord give us all the desire to make you smile and may it begin with this National Day of Prayer."
Please find one of the 40,000 National Day of Prayer Events and join in the concert of prayer for America. Again, we ought always to pray and never give up.
** The walking controversy that is Secretary of State John Kerry is getting plenty of backlash for his outrageous comments on Israel. Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison offer their take in a new piece for American Thinker, "President Obama: Take Away Kerry's 'Big Stick.'"
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.