- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 29, 2000

Even for a man who obviously enjoys hearing himself talk, President Clinton outdid himself Thursday night. For a seemingly endless 89 minutes, he used his final State of the Union to discuss his good intentions for this country. The bad news is that little of Mr. Clinton's program of infinite, open-ended "investments" would achieve his goal of eliminating poverty and spreading America's growing wealth to every community, family and child. The good news is that his agenda stands virtually no chance of being enacted this year.

"Tonight I propose …," the president said time and again, generally before he unveiled a new domestic initiative or a record-shattering expansion of an existing program. In a nod to the opinion polls that guide Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign, Mr. Clinton rode the education horse especially hard. He asked Congress to "double our investment" in after-school and summer-school programs. Calling for the expenditure of an additional $1 billion this year on the Head Start pre-school program, whose long-term benefits, according to numerous studies, have been nonexistent, the president bragged that it would represent "the largest increase in the program's history."

Throwing good money after bad, of course, never worries him. After all, he seems unaffected by the fact that taxpayers have already increased spending by more than $2,000 per public school student, or 42 percent, in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1980 without achieving any remotely comparable improvement in learning.

Under the misbegotten notion that it is in Washington's power to "bring prosperity to every American community," Mr. Clinton seemed determined to achieve his goal by spending endless streams of taxpayers' money. But it wasn't just "every American community" whose prosperity Mr. Clinton was prepared to guarantee. Under Washington's guidance and leadership, Mr. Clinton also vowed, "Every family will be able to succeed at home and at work and no child will be raised in poverty." And then he set about outlining an awesome increase in the role of government to achieve those noble ends as if it were in government's power to do so.

Who does the president think are the people most qualified to guide the nation toward these goals? None other than Mr. Gore, whose election to the presidency Mr. Clinton would view as vindication of his own record, and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who happens to be running for the U.S. Senate. In a surreal moment, Mr. Clinton looked in the direction of his wife, whom he has repeatedly humiliated with one sex scandal after another, and unashamedly declared: "I am especially grateful to the person who has led our efforts from the beginning and who has worked tirelessly for children and families for 30 years now: my wife, Hillary."

In resolving that "no child will be raised in poverty," neither the president nor his wife comes close to getting it. "From each according to his ability to each according to his needs" was tried last century. It didn't work. For all their noble-sounding rhetoric about children, families and the alleviation of poverty, the president and the first lady refuse to acknowledge the overriding factor contributing to child poverty. It is not a stingy nation that has already spent more than $6 trillion on the War on Poverty. It is out-of-wedlock births.

Illegitimacy has been soaring, largely in response to the perverted incentives provided by the War on Poverty. Today, seven out of 10 black children are born to single mothers, a rate that has nearly doubled since 1970. In recent years, the Hispanic community has experienced the same growth rate in illegitimacy that has devastated much of the black community despite the general prosperity that prevails across America. Today, more than 40 percent of Hispanic births are to unmarried women, an increase of nearly 40 percent since 1985. During the same period, the white illegitimacy rate has skyrocketed from less than 15 percent to more than 25 percent.

It remains to be seen whether welfare reform will reverse these trends. However, the failure to acknowledge these disturbing trends and the belief that government programs can eliminate their long-term consequences constitute a recipe for disaster one that will take far longer to remedy than it took Mr. Clinton to propose Thursday night.

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