By now, most people who follow the news have met 'Julia,' a cartoon figure introduced by the Obama Administration to explain how women benefit from the generosity of many government initiatives. From Head Start to Race to the Top programs in the schools, from deferred student loans and free medical care, Julia seems to need financial help in all realms of her life. Surely, many people benefit greatly by such assistance, but there are troubling aspects of Julia’s education and entry into the work force that require some attention.
The references to various pieces of legislation in Julia’s story line gloss over some key facts. Already, women make up between 57-70 per cent of college students, and a solid 59 percent of graduate students. Unfortunately, it seems that early in life boys and girls are increasingly pitted against one another in zero-sum games, and whatever is boosting women into success in the workplace is at the same time undermining the well-being of men. Ultimately, gender-based entitlement programs fail to foster the complementarity on which a healthy society depends, and instead hostility often accrues.
Furthermore, to insist on favorable outcomes for women—even when women often choose to balance careers with family—means that businesses must play a numbers game that speaks to gender trends more than their own fiscal strength, with lawsuits and other forms of harassment an inevitable part of the landscape. That often undermines collegiality in the workplace, and stress about numbers can make collaboration tense. No one benefits in quota-driven atmospheres.
Although eventually Julia finds a good job, it still falls to her fellow citizens to supply her with contraceptives—which assumes three things. First of all, her sexual activity runs contrary to what Catholics condone, since only natural means of spacing pregnancy is allowed within marriage. Secondly, since there was no marriage mentioned (the cartoon sequence is deliberately vague) we must assume that she is also engaging in extramarital intimacy—this, too, is contrary to Catholic morals. Thirdly, though, the problem surpasses the question of individual morality. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan notes, “This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program... This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all.”
The trampling of religious liberty not withstanding, next “Julia decides to have a child.” Again, the nebulous setting fails to explain what her marital status might be—whether single, married, cohabitating or otherwise. This carries forward an underlying theme of Julia’s life, that family is undefined and not responsible for helping her make choices—or pay for them. Her choices are our charges, and the taxpayers must foot the bill. As many have noted wryly, this is not charity but extortion in the guise of charity.
Lest anyone be left wondering about the outcome, Julia bears a son, who is also the beneficiary of government largesse. Despite his mother’s education, job security, and choices made with the help of government programs, these grants did nothing to make her independent—indeed, rather than strengthening families and forging strong citizens, subsequent generations seem only more inclined to cleave to the state for its well-being. And if that state is amoral (at best) or immoral (as many fear) then that will leave little room for those who hope to live with a clear conscience. Rather, we will all be forced to finance ongoing contention between men and women, between religious liberty and draconian state mandates, and between Christian values and the crushing of natural law. Julia looks happy enough—but cartoons are easily manipulated. It’s real life families who will pay the price.
[The Anchor, 5.18.12]