Deamonte’s death was a “shocking wake-up call” that prompted a “flurry of legislation” to correct what everyone called “the failures of our health care system.” Harry Goodman, a health official, told a newspaper reporter, “We got everything we asked for.” Indeed, the Maryland legislature appropriated another $7 million in state funds to be matched by federal funds.
Tragic cases like Deamonte’s cause heartbreak, but pouring more money into federal bureaucratic programs doesn’t solve situations like this. Federal systems can only do so much. It makes us feel better to spend more, but does it work? Why do we continue to think that increasing the federal bureaucracy will take care of problems?
This failure of publicly funded health care occurred despite recent increases in federal Medicaid spending — an increase of $146 billion from 2000 to 2007 — proving that merely spending more dollars will not solve the problem. The whole approach to services must be reformed in order to achieve better coordination and responsive service for the nation’s poor. Nor will monetary increases, even in the billions of dollars, help if fraudulent spending at both the state and federal levels is not addressed.
Those who vote for increased Medicaid funding are, as Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) said, “…well-intentioned. But their plans would expand a failed government culture that has neglected the poor Americans it is supposed to serve. Throwing more taxpayer money at a structurally flawed program is not an audacious hope. It is a false one.”
We are already spending a fortune, and still children like Deamonte continue to fall victim to the overwhelming problems facing never-married mothers.
Often such mothers have multiple children and no father (or fathers) around. In the dozens of stories about Deamonte, there is no mention of a father. Most unmarried mothers who try to make it on their own do so typically with inadequate education and resources; in too many cases they lack a support system to provide backup help in times of crisis. These moms need all the support and encouragement that our welfare system was designed to provide, and, though many try valiantly to make the cumbersome system work, it too often fails. At the same time, we need to increase awareness among young girls and women of the overwhelming difficulties and almost insurmountable problems inherent in single motherhood.
Deamonte represents the millions of children in this land of plenty who lack the most important key to a child’s well-being, a married mom-and-dad family.
For those children, we desperately need to restore the cultural expectation that marriage precedes having children and that fathering a child obligates a man to marry the mother of his child so that he is there to provide the help that both the mother and the child need — not just for health and survival, but also to thrive in all dimensions of the good life promised by a democratic society. At Christmas time, the tragedy of neglected and needy children is especially troubling and heartbreaking. Marty Robbins was right: Christmas is for kids, and their foremost need is for a married mom and dad who are there to celebrate with them.
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