Wednesday, October 15, 2008


We really could end poverty if we wanted to....Unfortunately, for the past eight years the government's primary strategy for ending poverty has been "marriage promotion." The right wing reiterates the lie that all of our social problems -- including illiteracy, homelessness, substance abuse, violence, infant mortality, chronic illness, crime and, of course, poverty -- are caused by the decline in life long heterosexual marriage. This ideology then lets government off the hook for its policies that maintain tremendous income inequality.

Sociologist Scott Coltrane has documented that the funders of such right wing think tanks as the Heritage Foundation also fund organizations that push marriage as the solution to poverty, such as the Institute for American Values. The Alternatives to Marriage Project has published "Let Them East Wedding Rings," a fine place to start in critiquing "marriage promotion" as the solution to poverty.

For a real solution, try last year's release from the Center for American Progress, "From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half." The report makes 12 basic recommendations. Marriage is not on its list of poverty-reducing strategies. And read Blame Welfare, Ignore Poverty and Inequality, co-authored by leading anti-poverty law professor Joel Handler. The book criticizes those who demonize single mothers while ignoring the institutionalized economic and social structures that cause poverty and inequality. Marriage is also not on Handler's list of proposals for ending poverty.

Can we go from books and reports to action? Mark Greenberg, policy director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, was the Executive Director of the Center for American Progress Task Force on Poverty. I say President Obama should make him Secretary of HHS.

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