In today's debate in the Minnesota House of Representatives, firebrand Representative and insurance agent Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) introduced amendments--and controversy--into the fractious debate over HF5, a bill to create a state-run health care exchange.
Fresh from his controversial statements last week about marriage equality and the nature of same-sex attraction, Gruenhagen dove in with a claim that "welfare" programs were responsible for out-of-wedlock births among "minorities"--and so the health care exchange might further erode traditional marriage:
When a country undermines traditional marriage, it cannot print up enough money to take care of all the problems that happen in our society. And we need to look no further than our welfare program and the black families in this country. Prior to the great society programs of the 60s the out of wedlock birth among black families was approximately, or was under 20 percent. Today that in the inner city, the out of wedlock birth for black families is over 80 percent. And one of the primary reasons for that is that we have developed government programs that will pick up the tab for having children out of wedlock. The result is we exploit our women, we create a bad situation for our children, especially minorities and we tell men that they can impregnate as many women as they want and the government will pick up the tab. I think we need to stop that philosophy not expand it as the ah.. with the credit in the health insurance exchange. Thank you. Representative….
That was too much for House Health and Human Services Policy Committee Chair, Representative Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester):
Thank you madam speaker. I think we're pretty far afield here from the bill and even from the amendment with some of the comments that have been made. But I think it's just really important to at least correct the record in one respect. First of all, in Minnesota right now when people are on our MInnesota Family Investment Program, what a lot of people like to call welfare, and they have an additional child, they don't get any more money. They don't get more money. And what they do get is very, very low. So we have a welfare program that does not incentivise anybody to be on welfare. No rational person would want to be on welfare with what they get here and they certainly not incentivised to have any additional children.
Here's the video:
This isn't the first time Gruenhagen has bemoaned the connection that he believes links two-parent families.
In 2010, the Sibley County Republican Party posted a pdf (now removed) of an early version of Health Care in Crisis: Is Government the Solution or the Problem?, a book Gruenhagen would publish with Alethos Press in 2010. In the earlier version, Gruenhagen wrote:
. . .Consider our government run welfare system. After spending approximately $6.5 trillion to eliminate poverty, the poverty rate in this country is the same or worse than when the government declared war on poverty over 40 years ago. Government run welfare programs are little more than a government subsidized prostitution program paying extra money to women who have children out of wedlock. This has contributed to over a 70% out of wedlock birth rate for Americans with an African heritage. Also, welfare provides financial support to able bodied men instead of incentives for an honest days work. . . .(page 6)
In the kindle version of the 2012 book, Gruenhagen has moderated his language:
Government run welfare programs are like a subsidized surrogacy system that provides financial rewards to women who give birth to children out of wedlock. This creates even more dependency on government. Today, more than 70 percent of births to African-American women are out of wedlock. Dr. Alan Keyes, in Masters of the Dream, showed that even during slavery, less than 17 percent of babies were born to single women whose men may not have been married to them (in the sense of civil law) but were with them at birth. In 1965, as the welfare war commenced, Keyes showed that 17 percent of African-American babies were born out of wedlock. Federal welfare programs destroyed the African-American family.
Government welfare programs provide financial support to able-bodied men instead of strong incentives for an honest day’s work. . . .(Chapter 6)
The notion that "welfare" might harm African-American families was popularized by the late U.S. Senator and Kennedy administration official Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but there's no consensus about causal relationships between out-of-wedlock births, race, and income. Indeed, some authorities suggest that lack of economic opportunity itself leads to lower marriage rates.
Photo: Glenn Gruenhagen campaigning in 2010.
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