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Opinion & Essays - June, 1994 Issue #28 

What the Pro-Family Movement Wants from Congress
by: Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL) 

(Excerpts from an article contained in POLICY REVIEW, Spring 1994, Issue #68, p. 29?33). 

"Instead of acknowledging the role of the traditional family in sustaining a democratic order, Congress continues at best to ignore, and at worst to undermine, that role in everything from education and health to aging and crime. In addition, Congress has placed new financial pressures on the family." 


"The first piece is pro-family economic policy. That's not because money is the most important element in family life, but because government's appetite for the family's cash has been a crucial factor in creating its current plight. Most of us have heard the numbers. If today's personal exemption accounted for the same proportion of family income as it did in 1948, it would be about $8,000, not $2,350." "That means government has moved from sheltering families to crushing them." "Consider the cultural ripple effects of a dramatic increase in the personal exemption. For example, how many moderate-income families might, for the first time, be able to choose their children's schools? How many households would reconsider the necessity of having two earners? How many would pursue home schooling? How many parents, whether moms or dads, would find more time to spend with the kids and less to spend on the job?" "...cutting the capital gains tax and indexing it to inflation. That would be a tremendous boost to business investment and job creation, and millions of good new jobs are essential to the restoration of family prosperity in this country.... should propose a zero-rate for households with modest incomes and for small, family-owned businesses." "Another small but important economic corrective will be to repeal the regulations of the Department of Labor (DOL) that have the effect of forbidding employers from paying what used to be called a 'family wage.' In other words, paying more to a family breadwinner, in recognition of the fact that he or she has responsibilities a single worker is less likely to have. This used to be a common-place practice, in the days when children were looked upon as assets to the community rather than as liabilities." "Another way to restore the family wage is to reduce a worker's FICA tax if he or she has minor dependents.... With most workers paying more in FICA taxes than in income taxes, a family-based FICA would be another subtle, political means of promoting more stable families." 


...the pro-family movement can convince Congress to support parental vouchers, instead of grants to school districts, to distribute federal education funds." "...Congress should work with the states to launch pilot projects for altogether removing federal authority from schooling. Let's see what several states can do with their schools without any federal intervention apart from enforcement of civil rights laws." "Only consumer rights in education can correct the problems...." "First Congress should remove decision-making responsibility regarding welfare beginning with Aid to Families with Dependent Children from Washington.... control of public assistance must go back where it belongs, to the state and local level. Only there can prudent judgments be made, on a household-by-household basis, about what might help families reach the mainstream of American life.... If some states botch the job, their taxpayers can take corrective action. That will be a great improvement over the status quo, in which voters can't even ascertain who is responsible for the welfare mess...." "Once welfare is back in the hands of the public, it will be easier to require under-age moms to live with their parents as a condition of eligibility. That's already a popular idea. I would go farther and maximize the role of religious institutions in distributing assistance.... That does not mean requiring church attendance; so long as no doctrinal preferences are made as to which institutions can participate, there should be no constitutional objections. It does mean increasing exposure to constructive influences on the part of those who most need it. 


"A deep cultural transformation is needed in the way our society views the family.... But even here, Congress has a responsibility to help undo some of the damage inflicted on the family through a long series of governmental decisions." "One step would be to reaffirm our public allegiance to the profound importance of the marriage commitment.... Now it is time to reassert the community's interest, both economic and social, in fostering two-parent households." "I am not proposing federal legislation, but rather the drafting of a model law that state legislatures could use as a starting point for their own initiatives.... And it should reflect the British legal bias that bestows possession of property upon whichever parent wins custody of the children." "Another contentious issue for a pro-family Congress will be the legal status of non-marital living arrangements, whether heterosexual or homosexual, in federal programs ranging from health and retirement benefits to the IRS code.... Congress must, for federal purposes, affirm the traditional family created by ties of blood, marriage, or adoption. In a more negative sense, Congress must ensure that no activities of the federal government give legitimacy to lifestyles inimical to the family." "Certainly, one of the clearest lessons of the 20th century is that the strength of government and the strength of the family often have been countervailing forces, as if the two are perched on opposite ends of a seesaw. Where the power of the state has expanded, the power of the family has correspondingly receded." "In the century ahead, the best safeguard of personal autonomy and personal responsibility will not be the isolated individual, but the self-directed family." 

Copyright 1994, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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