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CULTURE DIGEST: U.S. birth rate dropped by 2 percent in 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Birth rates in the United States fell nearly 2 percent in 2008, marking the first decline since the start of the decade, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics.

There were 4.2 million births last year, down about 68,000 from 2007, the report said, noting that more babies were born in 2007 than in any other year in the nation’s history.

In a separate study, the Guttmacher Institute, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood, surveyed about 950 women between the ages of 18 and 34 whose household incomes were less than $75,000 and found that more than four in 10 said the economy was affecting their decisions about having children.

Fifty-two percent of those women said their financial situation had worsened in the past year and consequently the women in the survey were postponing childbearing, deciding to have fewer children or opting for medical sterilization to prevent future pregnancies, Guttmacher said in September.

Seventy-seven percent of the women agreed with the statement, “With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to have a baby right now.” Others said they fear the consequences of pregnancy in an unstable job market.

But Steve Watters, director of marriage and parenting preparation at Focus on the Family, said even though the economic environment is challenging, couples can still embrace the hope of children.

“Couples found a way to care for their children back in the days of the Great Depression — including Dr. James Dobson’s parents,” Watters said, according to CitizenLink. “This generation might have to make sacrifices, but it’s by no means impossible to provide the kind of nurturing environment children need.

“It’s my hope that Christian couples will be reminded in this time of economic insecurity that God is still trustworthy as a provider and that babies are still one of His best sources of hope,” Watters said.

1 TAX DOLLAR IN 7 GOES TO WELFARE — In 2008, total government spending on means-tested welfare or aid to the poor amounted to $714 billion, or around $16,800 per poor person in the United States, according to a report by The Heritage Foundation.

Researchers said welfare spending was 13 times greater in 2008, after adjusting for inflation, than it was when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1964.

“Prior to the current recession, one dollar in seven in total federal, state and local government spending went to means-tested welfare,” the report said.

Means-tested welfare, which includes food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, provides benefits to poor and lower-income persons. Such assistance now is the third most expensive government function, ranking only below care for the elderly through Social Security and Medicare and government expenditures on education.

The Heritage Foundation said President Obama will increase annual federal welfare spending by one-third, from $522 billion to $697 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the increase is two and a half times greater than any previous increase in federal welfare spending in U.S. history, the report said.

“Under President Obama, government will spend more on welfare in a single year than President George W. Bush spent on the war in Iraq during his entire presidency,” The Heritage Foundation said.

The cost of the Iraq war through the end of the Bush administration was around $622 billion, whereas annual federal and state means-tested welfare spending is on track to reach $888 billion in 2010. Federal welfare spending alone, researchers noted, will equal $697 billion next year.

PCUSA GIVES GRANTS TO ACORN — An investigative report by The Presbyterian Layman has revealed that the controversial Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -– ACORN — has received multiple grants from Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) agencies.

A 2008 grants and projects listing from the Presbyterian Hunger Program shows a $7,500 grant to ACORN’s Patterson, N.J., office for public policy change affecting minority and immigrant communities.

The same list included a grant of $10,000 to the New Orleans ACORN office to ensure that survivors of Hurricane Katrina “have a voice in the rebuilding and recovery process.”

PCUSA also lists two ACORN grants in 2008 through its Self Development of People fund, The Layman said. One was a $35,000 grant to an ACORN office in Connecticut “to address the issue of security” and another was to ACORN in Rhode Island for “utility company accountability issues.”

A news release by the Institute on Religion and Democracy noted Sept. 24: “The General Assembly Mission Council of the PCUSA has often allied itself with ACORN, joining lobbying efforts against the Federal Housing Reform Act, opposing funding for the No Child Left Behind program and lobbying President Bill Clinton for a variety of social issues.”

Congress recently voted to cease all federal funding for ACORN following allegations of voter fraud and openness to underage prostitution.

“As ACORN implodes amid scandal, it will be interesting to learn whether other church agencies funded the activist group,” Mark Tooley, IRD’s president, said. “Many Presbyterians would be aghast to know that some of their collection plate money was underwriting ACORN. As Presbyterians cut overseas missionaries from their rolls, how scandalous they still had funds for ACORN.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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