Jewish World Review Nov. 23, 1999 /14 Kislev, 5760
Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
Fathers count, as the women of the National Organization for Women learned earlier this
month. They got the proof by act of Congress, or at least part of Congress.
"Fathers Count'' passed the House by a vote of 328-93. It aims to help fathers become
responsible parents with grants for several initiatives. It's pro-marriage. It bolsters two parent
families in poverty by providing incentives for fathers to support their children and become
more attentive parents. Fathers can join groups where they'll learn both vocational and
"parenting'' skills. Faith-based organizations, often the only institutions left in poor
neighborhoods, can receive grants to run programs for training dads.
Fathers Count is essentially a companion piece to welfare reform, which encourages a mother
to be a better parent and to learn how to support herself rather than depend on the
Fathers Count does the same thing for fathers. In addition to providing the money, it will be
more aggressive in collecting delinquent student loans and expands the $3 billion
Welfare-to-Work program to include absent fathers.
Only 42 Republicans, 50 Democrats and 1 independent opposed it. Some conservatives see
it as another government spending program even though it won't use new tax dollars; they say
such initiatives should be local not federal, and they're unimpressed that it draws heavily on
local agencies. Opponents on the left don't like church participation and they say it promotes
marriage before poor fathers are ready for the responsibility, even though these boys have
already sired a child. Both Marian Wright Edelman, the head of the very liberal Children's
Defense Fund and the very conservative House Whip Tom Delay support Father Counts.
The opposition comes from NOW, and if you need any further evidence that NOW is
swimming out of the mainstream, you can find it in the NOW opposition to Father Counts.
Martha Davis, legal director of the NOW Legal Defense Fund, argues that the law is
discriminatory and pits mothers against fathers in a struggle for government resources.
"Congress should enact legislation for helping both fathers and mothers,'' she said in a letter
to the Chicago Tribune. "But to put the needs of men ahead of parents, whatever their
gender, is wrong-headed.''
"As nearly a I can tell, NOW is aggressively opposing this bill because its leadership believes
(it) would increase domestic violence,'' says Rep. Nancy Johnson, Connecticut Republican,
"... and because NOW believes some fathers' rights groups and right-wing religious
organizations might get money under the bill.''
NOW wants the money to go only to women. "The argument that all single mothers should
receive services before any fathers receive services is a telling insight into NOW's view about
gender equity,'' says Johnson.
For NOW, gender equity means men-need-not-apply. What's really troubling NOW, it
seems to me, is that the bill is pro-marriage, philosophically and financially and supports
Many fathers of the underclass are absent from the home because for years women couldn't
get welfare payments if there was a man around the house. Big Daddy, the government, was
jealous and vengeful. Big Daddy didn't want competition from any man, even when that man
was the father of the welfare mother's children. Talk about negative incentives for marriage.
As the radical feminists of NOW became increasingly dominated by man-haters, NOW
decided that it wasn't so terrific to have a man around the house, anyway. Women could take
out their own garbage. Career women could afford the radical feminist philosophy. But the
have-not women suffered mightily. So did their children. This insight is elementary today. The
numbers of fatherless children have tripled in 40 years, from 5 million to 17 million.
The fate of Fathers Count now moves to the Senate, where a similar bill has been introduced
by Sen. Pete Dominici of New Mexico, a Republican, and Evan Bayh of Indiana, a
Democrat. Fathers Count is no panacea, but if we believe that fathers really do count, it's a
baby step in the right
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10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
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10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
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09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
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©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate