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U.S. News Archive
October 18 - October 24, 1999
This page contains news for
the period Monday, October 18, 1999 through Sunday, October 24, 1999.
<< October 1999 >>
Friday, October 22, 1999
poverty program focuses on economics and child care, not marital status or family
According to a story published today by MSNBC, presidential
contender Bill Bradley unveiled his child poverty program yesterday, one day after Al Gore
did the same. Gore's plan heavily focused on divorced or unmarried fathers. Bradley's plan
did not emphasize family structure or marital status, placing the spotlight instead on
livable wages and on child care programs.
"I am issuing a simple challenge today," Bradley said in a speech in
Brooklyn, N.Y. "Let us eliminate child poverty as we know it in America by the end of
the next decade and let us begin by raising 3 million children out of poverty by the end
of the next presidential term."
Bradley said, "If we can achieve the kind of prosperity we have... if we can
muster the will and create the technology to put a man on the moon in a decade, then
surely, by all that we hold dear as Americans, we can eliminate child poverty as we know
"Being poor," Bradley said in his speech, "means that the most
elementary components of the good life in America a vacation with the kids, an
evening out, a comfortable home are but distant and unreachable dreams.... Worst of
all, it means hopelessness for the children children who are born into a poverty
they did not choose or deserve," he said.
Bradley's campaign supplied reporters with a briefing paper which says " a
childs economic well-being is the responsibility of both mothers and fathers."
The Bradley proposal calls for child support payments to go directly to mothers who
are on welfare. Under the current system, states that collect child support payments from
a father keep some of the money to reimburse the taxpayer for the cost of the welfare
benefits that go to the mother.
Bradley's child poverty plan proposes to :
- Increase the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.15 per hour over two years, and
to index future increases to average median income. This, he said, would mean an extra
$2,600 a year for two parents working at the minimum wage.
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is an income subsidy to low-wage workers.
The EITC is currently available to workers who earn less than $10,030, or less than
$30,095 if they have children. Bradley would allow workers to earn more money and still
qualify for the EITC benefit.
- Create a program called Teach to Reach, to put 60,000 new teachers annually in
low-income public schools.
- Increase funding for the federal program that subsidizes child care for poor
families. The program now helps provide day care for 1.4 million children; Bradley would
boost this number by 30 percent.
- Increase funding for the Head Start program for pre-schoolers -- currently $4.7
billion a year -- to $13.4 billion a year over four years.
Bradleys campaign estimated the annual cost of his proposals to be $9.8
billion, which would be covered by estimated federal budget surpluses in the next several
Thursday, October 21, 1999
rates seem deeply rooted in American society
An article published today in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
concludes that a "contest" created by Congress a few years ago to drive down
out-of-wedlock births is not working very well. Unwed parenting remains virtually the same
this year as in previous years on a national basis, despite the federal government giving
"prize" money to the top five states each year who have the largest decrease in
Three years ago, Congress created a novel contest intended to motivate every state
to fight births to unmarried parents. The prize was $100 million, to be shared by the five
states that reduced their out-of-wedlock birth rates the most without increasing
This experiment in social engineering was part of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, a
landmark law that aimed not only to put more poor people to work but also to restore
"traditional family values," particularly marriage.
The outcome is not impressive. All 50 states eagerly competed, but their
out-of-wedlock birth rates, announced last month by federal officials, suggest that the
problem of unwed motherhood has become deeply rooted in American society.
Overall, the out-of-wedlock birth rate did not budge between 1994-95 and 1995-96.
About one in three babies -- 32.4 percent -- was born to an unwed mother.
Only 12 states showed even minuscule reductions. Among them was Pennsylvania, with
a decline of 0.2 percent. New Jersey ranked 14th, with 0.4 percent increase in
The five winning jurisdictions -- Alabama, California, the District of Columbia,
Michigan, and Massachusetts -- each received $20 million, but in Alabama and Michigan,
out-of-wedlock birth rates remained slightly worse than the national average.
The District of Columbia, where two of every three babies are born to unwed women,
has the worst record in the nation.
The article questions whether offering more money through the contest is an
effective incentive, given that welfare reform has enabled many states to amass large pots
of unspent money by reducing their welfare rolls. It gives California as an example, where
several hundred million dollars of welfare funding remains unspent.
The article also asks whether some programs are more effective than others in
reducing out-of-wedlock births. Liberals have traditionally stressed sex education and
access to contraception, while conservatives have stressed preaching sexual abstinence
until marriage. (The article notes that welfare law also has set aside $50 million
annually for "abstinence'' education.)
The article focuses on a mix of approaches that has been used by various states.
The lesson from California -- by far the most successful state, which cut its
unwed-birth rate almost 6 percent -- may be that concerted, sustained efforts pay off and
that contraception must be part of those efforts. After more than six years of investment,
California will spend $9.5 million this year on a teen-pregnancy-prevention media
campaign, $2.8 million on programs to foster male responsibility, $120 million on
community initiatives, including abstinence education, and $150 million on family planning
plans for unmarried fathers
A story published today by MSNBC discussed proposals for
unmarried fathers made by presidential candidate Al Gore yesterday.
Gore unveiled his ideas in a speech yesterday, declaring that "promoting
responsible fatherhood is the critical next phase of welfare reform and one of the most
important things we can do to reduce child poverty."
Gore focused on the role of men who father children and then divorce the mother or
abandon her, often leaving her with only one income.
In a speech at the Congress Heights United Methodist Church in Washington, Gore set
forth a series of proposals, including that the federal government:
- Provide grants to community and religious organizations to help couples prepare for
and strengthen their marriages.
- Put pressure on state governments to enact laws requiring divorced parents, mainly
fathers, who do not have custody of their children to pay child support.
- Help unemployed fathers, so called "deadbroke dads," find jobs in order to
pay child support.
- Raise the standard income tax deduction for married couples by $1,400 and increase
the amount of income a married couple can earn, up to $29,000, and still receive the full
Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a federal subsidy for low-income workers.
- Pressure credit card companies to deny new credit cards to parents who owe a
substantial amount of child support.
Gore also said, if elected president, he would personally challenge unmarried men
to admit that they had fathered children, to establish paternity and to take steps to
share their income with the mothers of their children.
Gore's rival, Bill Bradley, will offer his own proposals to deal with child poverty
today in a speech at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Wednesday, October 20, 1999
Slight majority of teens believe same-sex
relationships are always wrong
The following are excerpts from survey results presented in the New
York Times, October 20, 1999.
The New York Times/CBS News poll of 1,083 teenagers, conducted Oct. 10-14, had a
sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The sub-sample of girls was 506, the sub-sample of boys was 532, the sub-sample of
ages 13 to 15 was 658 and the sub-sample of ages 16 to 17 was 377. The sub-samples have a
higher margin of error. All trends are from national New York Times/CBS News polls of
Other New York Times/CBS News polls of teenagers were conducted May 26-June 1, 1994
and April 2-7, 1998.
34. Do you think sexual relations between
people of the same sex are always okay, okay some of the time, or do you think gay or
lesbian relations are always wrong?
Tuesday, October 19, 1999
Federal appeals court to
reconsider ruling on renting to unmarried couples
An Associated Press story released today reports that the nation's
largest federal appeals court has agreed to reconsider a ruling that allows landlords to
refuse to rent to unmarried couples for religious reasons. The summary below contains
excerpts from that story along with additional facts from AASP's own files. The case
is Thomas vs. Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, 97-35220.
A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 last
January that enforcement of local and state housing laws against marital status
discrimination would violate the federal Constitution by infringing on the religious
freedom of two Anchorage, Alaska, landlords.
But the full appeals court said Tuesday that a majority of its 21
active judges had voted to set aside the January ruling and refer the case to an 11-judge
panel for a new hearing. A date for the hearing has not yet been scheduled.
The state of Alaska and the city of Anchorage had asked for the
rehearing, with supporting briefs filed by attorneys general in six of the circuit's eight
other states: California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Hawaii.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, an unmarried man, took the
lead in enlisting the support of the other attorneys general, although his request for
support was rejected by the state's top lawyer in Arizona and Idaho. Los Angeles City
Attorney James Hahn also petitioned the court for a rehearing because of the potential
impact on unmarried renters in that city.
The January ruling was the first by any federal appeals court on the
issue of whether property owners' religious beliefs can exempt them from housing
discrimination laws. The court's conclusion would apply equally to laws that forbid
housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In separate but related cases, the Supreme Courts of Alaska and
California have upheld their state discrimination laws against challenges by religious
landlords. But if the federal appeals court sides with the landlords, federal judges
throughout the circuit would bar enforcement of state laws against any property owner
whose sincere religious belief forbade renting to unmarried couples. The California
case was Smith vs. Fair Employment and Housing Commission. The Alaska case was
Swanner vs. Anchorage Equal Rights Commission.
Los Angeles attorney Thomas F. Coleman, now executive director of
AASP, represented a tenant who won the California victory. He also provided advice and
counsel to the attorney for the City of Anchorage who won the Alaska case.
In the January ruling, the three-judge appeals court panel said the
state and city discrimination laws unconstitutionally forced the landlords to choose
between their businesses and their religious beliefs. The court also said prohibiting
landlords from asking about a prospective tenant's marital status violates freedom of
States can impose such restrictions on businesses for compelling
reasons, such as preventing discrimination based on race or sex, said the opinion by Judge
Diarmuid O'Scannlain. But he said discrimination on the basis of marital status isn't
banned by the Constitution, federal law or the laws of many states, and no compelling
interest has been shown for its elimination.
Monday, October 18, 1999
Poverty rate for single
parent households much higher for Hispanics
A press release issued today by Agencia EFE reports
new findings on poverty levels in the United States based on Census Bureau data for 1998.
The data showed that among all types of households considered, Hispanics had a higher
poverty rate than the national average.
Under the current standard, for a family of four is considered below
the poverty line if its annual income is less than 16,600 dollars.
Based on this standard, the poverty rate for Hispanic individuals in
1998 was 25.6 percent. Among Hispanic families, it was 22.7 percent, compared to 10
percent among all family units regardless of race or ethnicity.
The Census Bureau found a difference between married households and
single-parent households. Among Hispanics, the poverty rate for families headed by a
married couple was 15.7 percent, compared to the national average of 5.3 percent. In
families where the heads of household were not married or in which only one parent was in
charge, the Hispanic poverty rate was 43.7 percent, compared to the national average of
Single parents will benefit
from change in New Jersey's income tax laws
An article published today in the Philadelphia
Inquirer reports that about 150,000 lower-income people will benefit from tax law changes
that New Jersey will phase in beginning next year.
A bill was signed yesterday eliminating state income taxes for
thousands of lower-income residents, including the elderly and the working poor.
The new law raises the income filing threshold for all taxpayers
$7,500 to $10,000, resulting in annual savings of up to $126. In the course of a
three-year phase-in period, the benefit will be even greater for married couples filing
joint returns and for single parents who file as the head of a household, with potential
savings of more than $200.
Next year, those people will owe state income taxes only if they
earn more than $15,000. The threshold climbs to $20,000 in 2001, thereby eliminating the
so-called marriage penalty - a situation in which a married couple pays more taxes than an
unmarried couple living together.
Under prior law, married couples had to pay state
income tax if their combined income was more than $7,500 annually, while the filing
threshold for an unmarried couple living together was $7,500 each.
Congress ready to double spending on
An article published by Nando
Times today describes how Congress is poised to double federal spending on programs that
advocate sexual abstinence until marriage.
The House Appropriations Committee has added an extra $50 million to
next year's budget for the Department of Health and Human Service's Adolescent and Family
Life program, which makes grants to states for local programs tell teenagers to abstain
from sex until marriage. That brings total funding for the program to $68 million.
A separate sexual-abstinence program with a similar mission aimed at
unmarried adults receives another $50 million a year in federal funds, as well as state
Both programs require grant recipients to teach that "a
mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected
standard of human sexual activity," that "sexual activity outside of marriage is
likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects," and that "abstinence
from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually
transmitted disease, and other associated health problems."
The bill prohibits grant recipients from discussing condoms and
contraception as part of the program, except to stress failure rates.
Most traditional sex-education courses given to high school students
urge sexual abstinence while also providing detailed information on how condoms and
contraceptives can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
But sex-education programs that urge total chastity and ignore
contraception are becoming an increasingly important part of the public-policy agenda of
the religious right. Conservatives claim that providing teens and adults with condoms and
contraceptive information encourages, rather than discourages, sexual activity.
Critics of the abstinence education say the programs waste money
because they are ineffective and, worse yet, they deprive sexually active teens of
potentially life-saving information.
"It's nuts," said Judith DeSarno, president of the
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. "I don't think they
(abstinence-education supporters) are living in the real world. In the real world,
sexuality is part of life."
An abstinence-only message is often appropriate for younger teens,
DeSarno said, particularly young girls who need to be taught "obstinacy skills."
But not older teens, she said.
"We know from the numbers that starting about 15 and going up
the majority of teens are sexually active," DeSarno said. "I think it's a moral
imperative that we make certain that they know the risks and how to protect
Nearly 700 new abstinence-until-marriage programs have been created
in the past two years with federal funds and state matching monies. The National
Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., which distributes abstinence-related
products ranging from t-shirts to coffee mugs to school curriculum, counts more than 1,000
abstinence-education programs currently active.
George W. Bush, a Republican presidential candidate, been
emphasizing support for abstinence-until-marriage programs in his campaign.