President George Bush spent the early part of this week traveling on a ” family values” tour in which he solicited support for provisions in the welfare reform bill – including the promotion of marriage and support for religious programs purported to help welfare recipients and people with lower incomes. In Wisconsin, President Bush appealed to hundreds of African Americans at the Holy Redeemer Institution Church of God in Christ, by insisting that religious groups receive fair consideration for federal grants.
“The federal government should not ask: “Does your organization believe in God?’ That’s not the question they ought to ask. They ought to ask: “Does your program work? Are you saving lives? Are you making a difference in people’s lives?'” Organizations that have a religious name or religious icons on the wall like a cross or start of David should be welcomed partners in providing for the poor,” he said according to the New York Times.
Bush refuses to ask the same questions when it comes to another component of his welfare reform package involving the promotion of marriage. The welfare bill approved last week by the Senate Finance Committee includes a $22 million provision to promote marriage. The Feminist Majority joins the National Organization for Women and other women’s organizations in opposing this provision because it could lead women into abusive marriages. As many as 60 percent of women receiving welfare have been victims of domestic violence compared to 22 percent in the general population, according to NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (NOW LDEF).
As NOW President Kim Gandy said: “The purpose of welfare is to help the poorest people move out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. To make “finding a man’ the Administration-approved ticket out of poverty is not just an insulting throwback, it’s terrible public policy.” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority adds: “The government would do better if it would promote programs to reduce domestic violence and increase living wages” The only way out of poverty is through increasing incomes. The difference between poor and rich is money.”
The Feminist Majority joins numerous organizations in urging Bush to focus resources in the welfare bill on childcare, education, and critical work supports. Two different versions of the welfare bill have been approved by both the House and Senate – a final version must be agreed upon in conference before the bill will go before President Bush for his signature.