Wade Horn resigned
as Assistant Secretary of Children and Families
at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services yesterday, and effective this weekend. I wrote about Horn in "Hand That Feeds" onTalk2Action
a few weeks ago. Horn is a go-to guy for the Religious Right but he always seemed to get a free pass from the media. I focused a recent grant his department gave for $1 million to an organization that he founded, the National Fatherhood Initiative.
There were other questionable grants by Horn -- giving money to reporters to write articles, funding a group on whose board he had been seated. He oversaw the failed abstinence program, and set up "Responsible Fatherhood," which sounded identical to the right-wing pet project he previously ran. On the rare occasions when explanations were sought, they sounded absurd but never attracted much attention.
In "Blowing the Whistle on Wade Horn," the Revealer wrote:
Why is Wade Horn invisible to the press? Is it because the media is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy? Is it because reporters hate women and queers? Not likely. Rather, it has more to do with a decades-long decline in press coverage of the federal government's middle managers, who oftentimes have more influence over our everyday lives than the boldface names. Such stories don't sell papers, but they do serve the public interest.
Hewing to the "traditional families" line, in which men run families and women submit to their men, Horn's policies were as objectionable as his cozy manipulation of funds. He set up programs to hand over billions of dollars to churches and right wing organizations under vague programs of marriage counseling and failed policies such as abstinence education. He effectively operated from inside the government as a banker to fund religious right policy.
In the last month, others also began to take a second look at Horn. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, wrote Right Wing "Father"land in a regular column,
Opposing everything NOW stands for (from abortion rights to economic justice), Horn founded The National Organization of Fathers, and openly stated his belief that "the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church." He even advocated that federal benefits, such as Head Start and subsidized housing, should only be available to children of married couples, not single parents. So of course the Bush administration put him in charge of all the welfare and public assistance programs that primarily serve those very same single mothers he so detests. And did he find a way to derail the funding away from single moms? You bet he did.
As Planned Parenthood Federation of America noted of Horn on his resignation:
"Horn's political appointment was a classic case of the Bush administration prizing ideology over public health."
Horn's installation of right-wing policies inside the government and bestowing them generously with funds, while starving alternatives, was being to roil.
An Associated Press article noted:
Others viewed Horn's work more skeptically. Horn oversaw a dramatic increase in funding for abstinence education, which now exceeds $200 million a year. Some groups would prefer that the administration fund comprehensive sex education programs, which would include abstinence as part of the curriculum.
"Because (the abstinence funding) is so contrary to public health, our hope is the next assistant secretary there can have a firmer footing on what the evidence says," said William Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.
Horn had stonewalled successfully for years. A legal action filed with the HHS Civil Rights division by Legal Momentum, pushed some buttons. It alleged sex discrimination in 34 or 100 programs funded under the "Responsible Fatherhood" initative, and cited the funding that went directly to Horn's old program as running as high as $5 million.
HHS has stymied repeated efforts by the women's rights groups to learn more about how these programs managed to secure federal funding. The Department has delayed releasing copies of the funding applications for the programs - which describe in detail how the funds will be used - in spite of repeated requests from Legal Momentum. The only publicly available information comes from very brief summaries on the Department's website.
One of the discriminatory grants has drawn allegations of cronyism from the women's advocates: $5 million awarded to the National Fatherhood Initiative, an organization previously directed by Wade Horn, the federal official in charge of the program under which the grant was made. HHS has not responded to a letter of complaint about this grant. Horn has previously been criticized for arguing that single parent families, most of whom are headed by women, should receive vital social services only if funding remains after all married families have been served.
With Democrats in control of Congress, Horm may be leaving government, but hopefully he will be required to head back to the Hill to answer more questions. And opening up the Bush "faith-based" granting policies to public review is more necessary than ever.
It's not just Wade Horn -- that's where the media really needs to devote its attention.
Wade Leaps | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)
Wade Leaps | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)