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Linder Statement: Hearing on Responsible Fatherhood Programs

June 17, 2010

Fathers play an enormous role in their children’s lives, every day of the year.  Yet an increasing number of fathers are absent from their families, contributing to school dropout, poverty, crime, and other ills, as we will hear today.

To counteract those trends, 1996 reforms let States spend welfare funds on “healthy marriage” and “responsible fatherhood” programs; and 2006 amendments provided specific funding to test such programs.

We appreciate the efforts of so many here today and across the country who work to promote responsible fatherhood.  I suspect they would all agree that, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “the best possible social program is a job.”  Without real jobs, no program spending will ever be enough.

Rewind to early 2009.  The Administration promised its trillion-dollar stimulus plan would create 3.7 million jobs, and yield an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent and falling by now.  Instead, we lost nearly 3 million private sector jobs, and unemployment remains stuck near 10 percent.  The difference amounts to 6 million jobs that were promised, but simply don’t exist. 

For men, the pain has been especially acute.   

Stimulus Promised More Jobs for Men, but Delivered Fewer

Source: Ways and Means staff calculations using Department of Labor data (February 2009 – May 2010) and projections from “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

As this slide shows, the Administration pledged its stimulus would create 2.1 million jobs for men – 58 percent of the 3.7 million promised jobs.  Instead, stimulus was followed by the elimination of 1.4 million jobs formerly held by men; and that number would be worse without temporary Census jobs.  Overall, men lost one and a half times more jobs than women following stimulus, and unemployment is now 10.5 percent for men, versus 8.8 percent for women.  That unprecedented gap has led some to dub this the “mancession.”

That’s the big picture. 

The employment prospects of the younger men who are the focus of fatherhood programs are even worse.  The unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year old males is now 20 percent, just off the recent all time high.  For the first time ever, less than half of all young men work today.  Some are in school; but as prior hearings noted, too many are “disconnected” from work, school, and even family.  Even when they reach 25 to 34, only 80 percent are working – another record low. 

The bottom line is we face an historic crisis of joblessness among young men and fathers.  There are not enough jobs for those who want to work, and millions lack the skills to hold the jobs that are available.   

The reasons why include decades-long trends like the breakdown of families and the failings of public education.  Those issues extend well beyond today’s hearing.  But more immediate causes include the failure of stimulus to create promised jobs, despite adding $1 trillion in debt that young people especially must shoulder.  

If there is any good news, it may be that some of our Democrat colleagues are beginning to doubt the magic of their stimulus elixir.  Over the weekend, Majority Leader Hoyer said he was willing to cut stimulus to pay for other spending.  While that’s not enough, that admission is the first step to really restoring the health of our private sector workforce, which is needed to create real jobs.  Until we do that, the good people joining us today will be swimming against an increasingly swift current of job destruction, which has hit men especially hard.  No amount of program spending will be able to overcome that awful underlying trend.

I look forward to today’s testimony.