Written by Katherine Bradley and Chuck Donovan - Heritage.org
Last April, The Heritage Foundation released a WebMemo titled "The Dirty Dozen: 12 New Policies That Undermine Civil Society." Seven months later, many of these policies being advocated by Congress and the President have moved closer to becoming law.
In addition, several new issues have emerged that deserve illumination. Taken as a whole, these policies serve to undermine traditional families, devalue life and human dignity, and weaken civil society in American life.
Government-sponsored welfare programs do little to actually help move families from a position of dependence to self-sufficiency. Of the 72 existing welfare programs, only one--Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)--has been reformed to help move 2.6 million families off welfare and into real jobs. Congress should reform the other 71 programs along the lines of TANF and help people move toward self-sufficiency.
Legislation like ENDA is a major precursor to legalizing same-sex marriage, as the history of the issue in several states shows. According to a recent Heritage Foundation paper, no state that has approved same-sex marriage has done so without first adopting ENDA-like legislation. In Vermont, Massachusetts, and five other states, courts have used the non-discrimination law as part of their reasoning to strike down traditional marriage.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. The Senate health care bill was amended by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to restore $50 million in abstinence-based education funding. Reports show that abstinent teens are more likely to achieve academically, less likely to be depressed or suicidal, less likely to subsequently live in poverty, and less likely to bear children out of wedlock. Further, a Zogby Poll found that 96 percent of parents said they want teenagers to be taught that abstinence is best.
This is grossly unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars considering that more than 83 percent of all four-year-olds are currently enrolled in some form of early education or care program. In addition, research and audit reports have found that two states that had instituted universal preschool (Oklahoma and Georgia) showed little to no improvement in test scores.
Eroding Civil Society in the District of Columbia
While the Senate bill approved in committee maintains this ban, the House-passed appropriations bill would eliminate it and give D.C. the ability to legalize medical marijuana using taxpayer money.
Federal taxpayer dollars would be better spent on programs that help move addicts away from addiction and toward recovery rather than sustaining serious drug addiction.
Health Care Reform in the Wrong Direction
For example, about 8 million federal employees now receive their health care through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. There are over 250 different health insurance carriers in FEHB, all of whom are prohibited from paying for elective abortions in these plans because they receive subsidies from the government.
The policy would allow states under Medicaid to disregard the family income of an applicant for family planning services. A child would be eligible for services under this section regardless of the family's income level, without notification of the parents. Further, the proposal would remove from current law the ability of states to offer coverage that excludes family planning services.
The ever-expanding reach of the federal government goes too far when it attempts to enter the homes of vulnerable families and teach them how to parent.
Small Pieces, Big Impact
With a flurry of activity surrounding the agenda coming from the White House and Congress, it is easy to overlook the smaller pieces of legislation that would have a big impact on American families and society.
Taken as a whole, the people and communities these policies claim to assist would rely less on strong neighborhood, faith-based, and private networks for support and more on costly and highly regulated federal projects, weakening the same virtues of civil society they purport to nurture.
Katherine Bradley is Visiting Fellow and Charles A. Donovan is Senior Research Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.
Jennifer A. Marshall, Katherine Bradley, "The Dirty Dozen: 12 New Policies That Undermine Civil Society," Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2389, April 9, 2009, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/wm2389.cfm.
Robert Rector, Katherine Bradley, Rachel Sheffield, "Obama to Spend $10.3 Trillion on Welfare: Uncovering the Full Cost of Means-Tested Welfare or Aid to the Poor," Heritage Foundation Special Report No. SR-67, September 16, 2009, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/sr0067.cfm.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, H.R. 3017, at http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d111:1:./temp/%7Ebd3Q9h:@@@L&summ2=m&%7C/bss/111search.html (November 9, 2009).
Thomas M. Messner, "ENDA and the Path to Same-Sex Marriage," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No.2317, September 18, 2009 at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Religion/bg2317.cfm.
FY 2010 Budget of the U.S. Government, Appendix, p. 490, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2010/assets/appendix.pdf (November 6, 2009).
Robert Rector and Kirk A. Johnson, "Teenage Sexual Abstinence and Academic Achievement," Heritage Foundation paper presented at the Ninth Annual Abstinence Clearinghouse Conference, August 2005, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Abstinence/whitepaper10272005-1.cfm.
 Robert Rector, Melissa Pardue, and Shannan Martin, "What Do Parents Want Taught in Sex Education Programs?" Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1722, January 28, 2004, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Abstinence/bg1722.cfm.
Kristin Denton Flanagan and Cameron McPhee, "The Children Born in 2001 at Kindergarten Entry: First Findings from the Kindergarten Data Collections of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B)," Institute of Education Sciences, October 2009, at http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubSearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2010005 (November 3, 2009).
U.S. Department of Education, "Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts after Three Years," March 2009, at http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20094050/pdf/20094051.pdf (April 7, 2009).
Lindsey Burke, "Stealth Agenda in Health Care Bill: Early Childhood Home Visitation," The Foundry, July 17, 2009, at http://blog.heritage.org