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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  >>

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Friday, October 22, 1999

Bradley's child poverty program focuses on economics and child care, not marital status or family structure

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 it."

"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 child’s 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.

Bradley’s 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 years.


Thursday, October 21, 1999

Unmarried birth 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 unmarried births.

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 abortions.

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 out-of-wedlock births.

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 programs.

Gore has 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 teenagers.

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?

Always okay

Sometimes okay

Always wrong


4/98 TOTAL 17 27 53 3
Girls 19 30 47 4
Boys 14 25 58 3
3-15 14 28 55 3
16-17 21 26 50 4
10/99 TOTAL 16 25 54 5
Girls 20 27 49 4
Boys 13 23 59 6
13-15 14 25 55 5
16-17 18 24 54 4


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 speech.

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 29.9 percent.

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 abstinence campaign

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 matching funds.

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 themselves."

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.


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