- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2008

As we ring out 2008, here are some notable events on the family. Bad news first, then some good news.

• Sex scandals crushed several political careers. Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison, a Democrat, resigned his office amid accusations he was harassing his mistress over an abortion investigation. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat who was elected in a landslide because he promised to fight corruption, resigned after he was unmasked as “Client 9” in a prostitution sting. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat, lied for months about his affair but now sits in jail. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards admitted to an affair, but denied having a love child. Florida Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney, who once said “restoring America’s values begins at home,” admitted to “multiple affairs,” but still ran for re-election; he lost to a Republican.

Speaking of Republicans, at least one partook of forbiddenfruit. New York Rep. Vito J. Fossella, who admitted to both adultery and having a love child, had the decency to decline to run for re-election.

Collateral damage in these scandals include six wives, one husband and 23 children, including two born out of wedlock who are unlikely to grow up with their father in the home.

Public leaders might want to take note. Americans are forgiving of premarital sex, but they condemn adultery - 80 percent tell the General Social Survey that extramarital sex is “always wrong.” Breaking one’s marriage vow is still a “third rail” in politics.

• The costs of nonmarital sex and family breakdown equal the bailouts of mortgage-finance giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Unwed childbearing and divorce cost taxpayers $112 billion a year (Institute for American Values), “father absence” costs taxpayers $100 billion a year (National Fatherhood Initiative), teen pregnancy costs $9 billion a year (National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy), and sexually transmitted diseases cost $15 billion a year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Certainly these costs overlap, but the bottom line won’t be too far away from the $200 billion bailout of Freddie and Fannie.

How about some good news?

• Youthful substance abuse continues to decline. Smoking is at its lowest rate for teens, according to the 33-year-old Monitoring the Future survey. Alcohol use is also at historical lows, although there’s still a lot of ground to cover - 72 percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol, as have 58 percent of 10th-graders and 39 percent of eighth-graders. Illicit drug use is also at record lows, compared with the early to mid-1990s. The lesson here is “we cannot become complacent in our efforts to persuade teens not to smoke, drink or abuse illicit substances,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt.

• Families whose loved ones have mental illness should get some insurance relief. In October, President Bush signed H.R. 1424 to restore confidence in sagging credit markets. Tucked inside was a mental health insurance parity provision, which goes into effect in late 2009. “This will mean that group health plans will no longer be able to impose limits on inpatient days or outpatient visits or require higher deductibles or cost sharing for mental illness or addiction treatment that are not also applied to all other medical-surgical coverage,” says the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has long called for this equal treatment.

• The Flintstones had it right. The “oldest molecular genetic evidence of a nuclear family” has been found in Germany, says a Nov. 18 article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A Stone Age grave site, estimated to be 4,600 years old, has a male, female and two children carefully buried facing each other. DNA analysis confirms they were related. “Their unity in death suggests unity in life,” said researchers from Australia’s University of Adelaide.

It gives new meaning to the Geico ad, “So easy a caveman can do it,” don’t you think?

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at [email protected]

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