Federal File: Poverty effort nixed; Incongruity

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An interagency group created by the Bush Administration last year to suggest new ways to combat poverty apparently came up with some ambitious proposals, including support of school-based family-planning clinics and a new block grant aimed at aiding poor children.

The President's Domestic Policy Council considered the proposals in June and made a decision--to do nothing.

Two Administration officials involved with the interagency task force confirmed a news report that White House officials and the Cabinet-level council deemed the proposals too expensive, too controversial, or both.

The New York Times reported that confidential White House documents said the school-based-clinic proposal might reduce teen pregnancy and single-parent families, but was rejected because of its cost, potential "political problems" with groups opposed to birth control, and the possibility that the plan would be viewed as "encouraging promiscuity."

The documents reportedly said a major "investment in children" was shelved because it would be expensive and "not likely to show an immediate reward."

Officials confirmed that the Administration also considered supplementing child-support payments, funneling more federal aid under existing programs to poverty areas, and helping create community groups to fight crime and upgrade housing and schools.

The Education Department was represented on the task force by Betsy Brand, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education.

At the National Council of La Raza's annual conference last month, Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan delivered a luncheon speech in which he explored the links between health and education, and noted that Hispanics and other minorities suffer disproportionately from health problems.

Asserting that cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and a lack of exercise "shorten life," Mr. Sullivan, a physician, encouraged his audience to take responsibility for preserving their health.

As he spoke, members of that audience quaffed beer that had been provided by one sponsor of the luncheon, the Miller Brewing Company. The other sponsor was Phillip Morris Companies Inc., a cigarette maker.

The day before, Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos spoke beneath a Budweiser banner and Anheuser-Busch Inc. supplied the beverages.

Adolph Coors Brewing Company hosted the conference's opening reception.

--jm & ps

Vol. 09, Issue 40

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