March 6 2013
The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin would be a shoo-in to win a Pulitzer Prize for commentary, if he weren’t leaning conservative these days. (I guess working for the New York Post would also be anathema to the folks who decide who gets a Pulitzer!)
Goodwin, who voted for President Obama in 2008, has written some of the best columns being produced in the Age of Obama. Today Goodwin has a must-read column on he latest move from New York’s nanny Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
And I must say—oh, rare to say this!—Bloomberg is onto something this time. Seems hizzoner is engaging in a campaign to curtail teen pregnancy. This is the kind of thing I would once have said should be conducted within the family. But many of the people at whom the campaign is aimed, being several generations into unwed motherhood, don’t have families capable of performing this task.
In a bid to further discourage teen pregnancies, City Hall is plastering a series of provocative ads on subways and bus shelters. With heart-rending shots of distressed children, the posters aim to shock boys and girls into thinking about the consequences of making babies too early in life.
“Dad, you’ll be paying to support me for the next 20 years,” large text says next to one baby boy. A yellow slash serves as a footnote: “Think being a teen parent won’t cost you? NY state law requires a parent to pay child support until a child is 21.”
Another ad features a little girl who says, “Honestly Mom, chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?”
In smaller type, it adds, “90 percent of teen parents don’t marry each other.”
It is a bold program, in message and mere existence. Out-of-wedlock births represent a national epidemic, and the city’s track record is worse. Like clockwork, about 45 percent of live births in the city are born to single mothers each year, against a national rate of 41 percent.
As I wrote in January when I learned the ad campaign was in the works, Bloomberg once rejected my suggestion that he tackle the problem by saying, “You know it’s something we can’t touch,” presumably because of the racial implications. Nationally, 73 percent of black children are born to single mothers.
But the mayor decided he could touch the problem, and deserves praise for leading the way. Perhaps someone pointed out to him that being born out of wedlock is a greater handicap for children than having too many sugary drinks or even smoking.
I used to get furious riding the New York subways because there were lots of ads that sought to normalize using food stamps. So I am delighted to see ads used to do something that might help instead of harm people. Finishing high school and not having a child out of wedlock are two ways to reduce the risk of poverty. They are also two ways to create an environment in which good citizens can be brought up by two parents dedicated to the task of being parents.
Goodwin’s only quibble is that the new campaign focuses on teens who give birth out of wedlock and ignores older mothers in their twenties. The majority of births to unmarried mothers are to women in their twenties.