Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Uncle Sam Wants You – To Say “I Do.”

The Republicans have always said they’re the party of “limited government.” By that they supposedly meant they were in favor of less government intrustion and fiscal discipline, and they’ve accused the Democrats of being intrusive – they call Democrats “The Nanny Party” – and big taxers/spenders. They’ve run very successful campaigns by selling themselves as the party that epitomizes the old adage, “The government that governs the least, governs the best.”

Well, in the last twenty years we’ve seen record deficits, record spending, and amazing amount of invasion into the private lives of American citizens through gag orders to doctors about what they could and couldn’t tell patients, interference in states’ rights over medical treatment and criminal prosecution, even attempts to regulate private consensual sexual activity between adults. To anyone basing this news on the Republicans’ adage, they would think that we have had Democrats in the charge of the entire government since 1984. Guess what.

But wait – it gets better. Now the Bush Administration wants to spend $1.5 billion to promote marriage.

Administration officials say they are planning an extensive election-year initiative to promote marriage, especially among low-income couples, and they are weighing whether President Bush should promote the plan next week in his State of the Union address.

For months, administration officials have worked with conservative groups on the proposal, which would provide at least $1.5 billion for training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain “healthy marriages.”

The officials said they believed that the measure was especially timely because they were facing pressure from conservatives eager to see the federal government defend traditional marriage, after a decision by the highest court in Massachusetts. The court ruled in November that gay couples had a right to marry under the state’s Constitution.

Leaving aside the blatant pandering – nay, sucking up – to the Religious Reich, spending this amount of money to “promote marriage” is a breathtaking intrusion of Big Government into the lives of citizens. It’s almost Marxist / Moonie in its scope; the government spending tax dollars to pay counselors to make sure that couples get off to a good start, and by the way, if it’s a shotgun marriage, we can’t tell you that you do have the right to choose. The new symbol of the Republican Party should be Mary Poppins.

I am all for marriage – for everyone who wants to get married, regardless of gender. But come on…state-sponsored Marriage Encounter? And $1.5 billion?

Bush will no doubt receive high praise for his “initiative,” especially from the right wing, and I suspect a few Democrats will climb on board lest they be tarred as the anti-marriage free-love hippy party. But it’s crap. It’s pandering at its worst and it’s a sly way to sneak in the Federal Marriage Amendment under the cover of “healthy marriages.”

One thing, though. If it works, one of the side effects could be millions of happy low-income marriages. Well, there goes The Jerry Springer Show. Hmm. Maybe there’s merit to this idea after all.