Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in the House Briefing Room, a coalition of organizations and individuals, including lawmakers, economists, academics, ministers, First Things of Greater Richmond and The Family Foundation, will hold a news conference on a new initiative on poverty and families. Among the individuals participating are Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr. and Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico).
Last month, Governor Tim Kaine created the Poverty Reduction Task Force commission (see Richmond Times-Dispatch) to look into the causes of poverty in Virginia. Sounds altruistic except that he seemed to speak not as governor but as Democrat National Committee chairman, and immediately blamed House Republicans for every ill from The Great Plague on.
That might be expected no matter who is governor or no matter how many extra jobs he has. However, incredibly missing was an acknowledgment of how broken families, single-parent households and the lack of mothers and fathers play a disproportionate role in creating poverty and dead-end lives. Put aside any economic, budgetary, tax or regulatory argument, no amount of extra unemployment insurance to part-time workers (as the governor lambasted Republicans for refusing to grant) will do anything to remedy the broken family and illegitimacy.
Yesterday, at the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition meeting, Delegate Janis laid out compelling statistics. For example, in 1970, there were 200 million people living in the United States and there were 25 million two-parent families. Now there are 300 million living here and still there are 25 million two-parent families. In 1970, there were 37 million houses with three bedrooms or more. Today, there are 77 million, even though the number of two-parent families remains the same as in 1970. No wonder there was a housing bubble — single parents have enough challenges without trying to pay for a house much too large on one income. Delegate Janis lays out his entire case in this June 7 Times-Dispatch op-ed.
So, is poverty an economic problem or a family problem? As much as economists and sociologists disagree with themselves, much less each other, a wide assortment will be present tomorrow in person or in citation who agree that strengthening the family must be the basis for any poverty reduction program. As Delegate Janis said, it doesn’t take a village, Hillary, it takes a dad.
This coalition hopes to have a sincere partnership with the governor in shaping meaningful, non-partisan solutions to the related increases of poverty and broken families. Whether he and his commission are up to it may indicate whether Governor Kaine is more interested in lasting solutions for this serious problem or in concocting political blame on his opponents over a difference in a single, fleeting policy issue.