When will legislators get involved in main problem?

Published 12:00am Friday, December 30, 2011

When Baby New Year arrives in the coming days, chances are he or she will be born out of wedlock.

It is a sad fact that whoever the baby may be — boy or girl, white or black — it will probably be born in a family where the parents are not married.

In recent weeks, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has said this is one of the biggest issues facing our state. It is also one of the issues legislators were unwilling to tackle in his eight years in office.

In his two terms, Barbour has had many successes. He spoke to the Associated Press this week about those achievements.

However, the most revealing part of the interview was when he was asked what problem he would like to fix with the snap of his finger, Barbour responded with a discussion on the state’s illegitimacy rate.

“The biggest structural problem is illegitimacy. Nothing else comes close,” Barbour said.

By the governor’s numbers, 55 percent of children born in Mississippi last year were born out of wedlock. In Washington County the number hit 79 percent.

“Seventy nine percent is a tough burden to carry,” Barbour said.

Yet, it is a load legislators are willing to carry Barbour admitted.

Almost every corner of government is affected by this “structural” problem — the education, health care, housing and criminal justice systems among them. Even as the problems worsen, legislators refuse to address it.

“Hopefully there will become an appetite in the Legislature to find ways, acceptable ways, to address the problem effectively,” Barbour said. “But, I found no appetite in the Legislature, even from legislators who privately would tell you it is a terrible problem.”

When they do talk about it, many say it is a problem that is better addressed in the church, not in the halls of government. It is a family problem, some say.

Maybe, but such idealism betrays the pragmatic facts. As the illegitimacy rate climbs, the number of people filling the pews declines. Churches have had many years to address this issue, yet the problem seems to be getting worse, not better. Either the churches aren’t preaching the message or the people aren’t listening.

Seventy nine percent is no longer a family problem. It is a systemic problem that needs attention. With those kind of numbers illegitimacy is more the norm than the anomaly — a dangerous thing in the world of politics. Still, Barbour admitted something needs to be done.

“What we’re doing now is not working,” Barbour said. “It’s just very hard to have the kind of workforce you want, to have the kind of schools you want, to have the kind of tax base you want.”

As Barbour pointed out, a child born out of wedlock is six times more likely to be raised in poverty than a child in a family with a mother and father. The problems multiply from there.

Of course there is a difference between identifying a problem and having the fortitude and the will to do something about it.

If the legislature does not have the will to create policies that discourage illegitimacy and the churches are failing to reach those most affected by the issue, then the problems will more than likely worsen.

The only question is how bad does it have to get before we decide to act?


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com or 601-445-3540.





  • Anonymous

    Hallelujah….finally an article which at least mentions the problem.  This problem will be our downfall (worldwide)….those that can least afford children have the most. 

  • Anonymous

    Dead on accurate. Illigitimate birth directly correlates to the plethera of government social welfare programs. The complete breakdown in family structure provides opportunity for the “gets mines” cancer to continue to leach off taxpayers. No morals, no family structure leads to rampant crime. Its a vicious cycle. Unfortunately, it is one that is applauded and expected within the “community”. Pitiful.

    When is enough ENOUGH???

  • Anonymous

    “If the legislature does not have the will to create policies that discourage illegitimacy…”

    You have it backwards, Ben.  They need to do away with policies and legislation that encourage it.  Of course, what the state cuts, FedGov will be more than happy to step in and make up for at the federal level.

    “The only question is how bad does it have to get before we decide to act?”

    We can’t legislate morality,  values and personal responsibility.  There was a time when people were embarrassed and ashamed to have a kid out of wedlock.  Now it is celebrated.  There is no conceivable law that can fix that.  The more that people look to government as the mother and father of this nation, the more we as a society lose our morals and values. 

    We are being used by these people.  They know our tax dollars and a plethora of enabling government programs are there for them and they take full and complete advantage of that.  To use a “True Blood” analogy, we are the humans who let the vampires feed on us out of our own desires.  Those real-life desires are to help, to protect the children, to buy political power and to feel a sense of self righteousness for thinking we are “doing something”.  In the end, we are still being sucked dry.

  • Anonymous

    They’re not going to do anything that would cause them not to get re-elected.  They will say or do anything to win that seat again.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    What amazes me about people is that they know what to do that is right or wrong and don’t take care of business to eliminate the problem!! My projections is to arrest the dead beat parents and put them in a facility as Concordia parish has where they have to work by raiseing their own foods and keep busy working. At least by them in the big house they can’t have more kids. This problems need to be worked out by their churches and here another thing for a useless march(parade) for they aren’t hitting on nothing~!!!

  • Anonymous

    Build a “dormitory” in Washington DC and require that elected officials live in it and remodel their pay scale to the “average” working citizen and tie their retirement to 401K levels, plus make them use the same health care system the general public uses.  That should get the message across that unless they improve the standard of living for average Americans, their standard of living isn’t “Golden” any longer.  No wonder they don’t want to lose those jobmmon   s!  Those gilted idiots would then return to being lawyers, doctors, and other high end professions rather than the elite trying to legislate the masses when they don’t understand the real issues.  Make room for the commoners who understand the flaws in our system (tax payers) to create legislation.

  • Anonymous

    That’s how it used to be back in America’s early days.  Being a Representative or Senator was largely grueling and thankless with legislators being away from their families for months on end, living in communal housing (much like the dorms you speak of), leaving their farms and businesses to eldest sons or trusted employees, etc.  Back then after a couple of terms, or less, they were more than ready to go back to being private citizens.

    Now, we have some self-anointed “elite” class of professional politicians whose sole purpose seems to be living large on the back of the taxpayer.

  • Anonymous

    Yep, we call that “the fix”, and the fix is in.  It has become all about funneling tax dollars and taking a bit off the top at numerous points along the way.

  • Anonymous

    I’m also going to add that Congress-critters should get ZERO government retirement.  Since most are filthy rich when they leave Congress, if not before they enter Congress, the taxpayer should have no financial liability with regard to these people’s retirements.  I don’t begrudge them getting rich as long as it wasn’t at the expense of the taxpayer but I do begrudge the fact that people who can’t even afford to retire are paying for millionaire and billionaire politicians’ retirements.  Five years “service” and they get 80% retirement.  That is just ludicrous.

    Anything that encourages them to stay in Congress their entire adult lives should be done away with.  We need strict term limits and in the very worst way.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone interested in getting together someplace to discusswhat we as citizens can do about the current political climate in Natchez-Adams County???We could network here using this ND as a Forum and then perhaps set up a time and place. It would be good to have a free exchange of ideas and could help start a taxpayer citizen movement to ensure that OUR voice is heard by our elected officials and potential candidates.