As the federal food stamp program balloons at a record rate, and the stigma for receiving it fades, analysts fear that so much more shame-free government cash may erode the institution of marriage to a devastating degree.
Stoking those fears is the report in The New York Times Saturday that the federal official who oversees the program "would like it to grow even faster.”
“There are another 15, 16 million who could benefit,” Under Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Concannon told the Times.
That is in addition to the more than 36 million Americans – one in eight – already taking advantage of the thinly disguised cash welfare program, which President George W. Bush rechristened the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to lessen its stigma.
Nearly half of Americans, and 90 percent of blacks, now receive food stamps at some time before reaching 20, according to an analysis of 30 years of national data that sociologists at Washington University in St. Louis published in early November. Nearly one-quarter of all American children belong to households using food stamps for five or more years during the course of their childhoods, the study also found.
The stigma has faded so much that the term “welfare queen” gained new meaning in Southwestern Ohio this year when a freshly unemployed woman with a Mercedes, $80,000 in the bank, and a $311,000 home without a mortgage caused a firestorm after being discovered getting $500 a month in food stamps, in full adherence to the law.
Analysts are concerned that the food stamp situation will encourage the disintegration of marriage. The Pew Research Center noted last month that “a shrinking share of Americans are married — 52 percent of males ages 15 and older and 48 percent of females ages 15 and older.”
Meanwhile, “The proportion of Americans who are currently married has been diminishing for decades and is lower than it has been in at least half a century.”
Heritage Foundation welfare expert Robert Rector pointed out in a memo to President Obama this year that “welfare programs create disincentives to marriage. . . For many low-income couples, marriage means a reduction in government assistance and an overall decline in the couple’s joint income. Marriage penalties occur in many means-tested programs such as food stamps.”
Similarly, George Gilder's book "Wealth and Poverty," often called the economic bible inspiring the Reagan presidency, warned that, “In the welfare culture money becomes not something earned by men through hard work, but a right conferred on women by the state” — the women being low-income single mothers, single because they found they “could substantially improve their economic lot by leaving work and splitting up.”
Their departed husbands, their “male confidence and authority” and “motivation to face the tedium and frustration of daily labor” taken from them, found themselves “cuckolded by the compassionate state!”
If the Obama administration succeeds in adding 15 million or 16 million more to the increasingly destigmatized federal food stamp program, the already-alarming downward marriage trends could go into total free fall.
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