Tahlequah Daily Press


December 4, 2013

Marriage initiative may be a waste of money

TAHLEQUAH — Despite dumping more than $70 million in federal funds into a program designed to reduce Oklahoma’s high divorce rate, the results are discouraging.

This information was revealed through a recent report by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization that focuses on public-policy issues. The first half of this illuminating story appears elsewhere in today’s edition of the Press, and the rest will be published Thursday.

The data should be an eye-opener for anyone who believes throwing money at a problem will make it go away.

The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, launched by Gov. Frank Keating in 1999, was based on the premise that cutting down on divorces would also curtail poverty. Many who would normally look askance at government spending jumped on the bandwagon – especially people of faith, who believe marriage is the fabric that holds societies together.

Unfortunately, statistics don’t bear out the hopeful projections. Since 2000, poverty rates have risen from 13 percent to more than 17 percent. Oklahoma in 2012 had the third-highest divorce rate of any state in the nation, at 13.5 percent. Cohabitation and single-parent families are on the rise here, and across the country. Yet when it comes to per capita federal spending on “promoting healthy relationships and marriage,” Oklahoma is at the very top of the heap.

Despite the program’s dismal showing thus far, many Republican leaders at the statehouse still strongly support it. Others in both parties, however, wonder if they should continue funneling taxpayer dollars into such programs. More than a few lift an eyebrow at the program’s inception, saying it benefited cronies of Keating more than struggling families.

At first, initiative leaders had the ambitious objective of slashing divorce rates by a third within a decade, but by 2002, they had given up on that lofty goal. It’s difficult to quantify any positive effect, but that doesn’t mean advocates won’t keep trying. House Speaker T.W. Shannon introduced a bill last legislative session that would use “discretionary welfare funds”  to pay for public-service announcements to promote marriage. It seems reasonable to ask how, in this age of media over-saturation and constant bombardment with conflicting messages, a series of TV blurbs will work where intensive counseling sessions have failed.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., hit the nail on the head when he said this recently: “While these grants are well-intentioned, they oftentimes fail to reach measurable goals and instead send precious tax dollars to well-connected companies that thrive off of government contracts. The best way for the federal government to promote marriage is to respect the institution and the rights of parents to care for their children.”

Many Okies may dissent with Coburn’s precise definition of “marriage,” and perhaps even more so when the topic is how to properly care for children. But one thing everyone should agree on: It doesn’t make sense to waste millions of dollars on programs that aren’t successful, especially when reducing poverty is ostensibly central to the plan.

We need to decide which comes first, failed marriages or poverty. When folks can’t put food on the table, it’s hard to think about anything else.

Text Only
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    The words “God” and “governor” may share the same first two letters, but the two are hardly interchangeable.
    But let’s assume Gov. Mary Fallin really isn’t deluded enough to place her powers on the level of a deity. What rationale would a woman who has championed smaller government and local control use to explain her hypocrisy in banning individual Oklahoma cities from raising minimum wages in their jurisdictions?

    April 18, 2014

  • Community cleanups a good way to ensure our collective success

    This is our community – and it’s no better than what we make it. Let’s make it look great.

    April 16, 2014

  • Attack at school in Pennsylvania: Mental illness root of problem

    Washington’s crusade against guns was dealt a severe blow on Wednesday. No, it wasn’t the Supreme Court curtailment of the Second Amendment right of all Americans to own firearms. It wasn’t an executive order handed down by the administration. It was the brutal assault by a high school student in Pennsylvania against his fellow students – with a knife.

    April 14, 2014

  • People with faulty zippers should be booted from office

    We may forgive, but we shouldn’t forget, because there’s serious work to do in Washington. That work will never be accomplished as long as flawed zippers - literally or figurately – are a pervasive problem.

    April 11, 2014

  • Do your part to fight animal and child abuse

    It’s hard to change the habits of an abuser, especially when mitigating factors – such as alcohol or drugs – are involved. And these patterns tend to repeat themselves in successive generations. But all of us can take one small step to help eradicate this epidemic, and that is to report it when we see it.

    April 9, 2014

  • NSA head lies to Congress, and seems to get away with it

    Is there an obvious pattern of criminality within these governmental agencies? If so, why isn’t the Judicial Department investigating?

    April 7, 2014

  • Pass for rich kiddie rapist proves that justice isn’t blind

    Someone in Wilmington, Del., needs to keep an eye on Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden for the next few months, because she might improve her standard of living due to a sudden influx of cash.
    There’s no other way to explain why Jurden would have sentenced an ultra-wealthy heir to the du Pont fortune to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter. It’s an outrageous miscarriage of justice that once again proves when it comes to the U.S. justice system, the elite get a pass almost every time.

    April 4, 2014

  • Maybe it’s not $3.2B, but state should still account for tribal cash

    In an editorial published last week, the Daily Press said that through tribal compacts, the state of Oklahoma received about $3.2 billion in annual revenue, partly attributable to the 117 casinos (or 118, in some reports) run by 33 tribes in the state. The information we accessed for that piece was confusing, and had a typo or two, which may have led us to overstate – to a considerable degree – how much money the tribes actually give the state.

    April 2, 2014

  • Tribal compacts should mean state has money to perform its functions

    Oklahoma should be rolling in the dough. The statistics bear that out. Thirty-three American Indian tribes operate 117 casinos in this state. Thanks to “compacts,” these tribes have been sharing the wealth with the state of Oklahoma. And thanks to the casinos, that wealth is substantial.

    March 28, 2014

  • It’s time to turn in your candidate announcements

    If you are running for a political office for which Cherokee County voters can cast ballots, it’s time to turn in your announcement. We’ve already run a few, and expect several more. The primary elections are Tuesday, June 24, with the registration period to vote in this election closing Thursday, May 30.

    March 24, 2014


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
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